updated 8/22/2008 12:05:11 PM ET 2008-08-22T16:05:11

Guests: Andrea Mitchell, John Harwood, Diane Mantouvalos, Bonnie Erbe, Richard Wolffe, Lynn Sweet, Lois Romano, Maria Teresa Petersen, Jill Zuckman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  I‘ve got a secret.  Barack says he‘s made his pick.  He‘s just not saying.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Leading off tonight, veepstakes.  Barack Obama reportedly has decided on a running mate.  But there‘s one thing he isn‘t doing, telling us who it is.  Who knew Obama was a modern-day Alfred Hitchcock?  It turns out the Democratic nominee is a master of suspense.  We‘ll let you know everything we know in just a moment.

Also: All about Hillary.  The most interesting thing in our NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll were the Hillary Clinton voters who aren‘t ready to go for Barack Obama.  This group made up 11 percent of our survey and could very well be the make-or-break voters in this election.  And who‘s the one person who could win them over for Obama?  Here she is today in Palm Beach, Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m doing everything I can to campaign for Senator Obama.  I think it‘s fair to say that I have done more, as Senator Rich (ph) said, in a relatively short period of time on behalf of my opponent than probably anybody else has.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Can Hillary do what it takes to persuade her partisans to vote for Obama?  Will she do it?

Also: If you think Obama hasn‘t been hitting back at John McCain hard enough, you‘re not alone.  Look at some of the headlines we saw just this morning—“Obama in need of a game changer,” “Where‘s Obama‘s passion?”  “It‘s up to Obama to erase the doubt.”

Yesterday, John McCain couldn‘t remember how many houses he owns.  Let me repeat that.  John McCain could not remember how many houses he owns.  This is exactly the kind of remark Democrats feel Obama should be pounding McCain on.  Well, today the Obama campaign did jump all over that story with an ad running nationally on cable.  But many Democrats are asking why Obama hasn‘t been more aggressive up until now and whether this is a sign that he‘s finally ready to punch back.

And when someone says it‘s not about money, it‘s usually about money.  And when a candidate says he‘s not questioning his opponent‘s patriotism, he‘s usually questioning his opponent‘s patriotism.  So when John McCain says Barack Obama would be willing to lose a war in order to win an election, can we believe him when he says he‘s merely been questioning Obama‘s judgment?  We‘ll look even deeper into that in the “Politics Fix.”

Plus: If Hillary Clinton‘s supporters are thinking about staging a noisy protest at the Democratic convention next week, the Obama people are ready.  We‘ll let you know what they‘re preparing in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

Before we get to what Obama said about his running mate pick, with so many polls coming out in the last few days, we thought we‘d take a look at the Pollster.com analysis of all the polls right now.  It shows Obama leading John McCain nationally by just 1.4 points -- 1.4 points.  That‘s the closest the race has been since the spring.  Plus, when those two lines cross, then we‘ll hear the clang of history.

Let‘s bring in NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell and CNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent, John Harwood, who also writes for “The New York Times.”  Andrea, here we are.  Is this guy Alfred Hitchcock or what, the master of suspense.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  It‘s the dog that hasn‘t barked.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, he says, I‘ve picked him, but I ain‘t selling (SIC).  You know, in the bad old days of politics, like yesterday, we would call that rolling disclosure, a politician who knows something but won‘t tell us until it meets his convenience.

MITCHELL:  Building the excitement.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  OK.  That‘s a nice way of putting it.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC, “NEW YORK TIMES”:  I think Andrea knows.  We‘ve just got to make her tell us right now.

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL:  And if I have to bet, what you‘re seeing around the Biden household today...

MATTHEWS:  The paparazzi.

MITCHELL:  ... the mother arriving, the brother arriving...

MATTHEWS:  What about this airplane arriving, the special plane in the hangar that nobody knows what it is?

MITCHELL:  You don‘t know.  That could be some corporate jet from somebody else completely unrelated.  We haven‘t connected that.  But you‘ve seen all of the family, the gathering of the clan, of the Biden clan, and the uncharacteristic silence from Joe Biden...

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL:  ... who‘s gone to Tbilisi and back.  You know, there were bagels.  There was ice for the stakeout crews.  But now there‘s nothing.  There is the silence, so...

MATTHEWS:  The dog that hasn‘t barked.  Remember that Sherlock Holmes, the dog that hasn‘t barked?

MITCHELL:  But around the Evan Bayh household, silence.  No activity.

MATTHEWS:  And that ain‘t golden.  That ain‘t golden.

MITCHELL:  There‘s no activity.  It doesn‘t seem to me that that would be the pick.  Of course, Tim Kaine, who is the most compatible, the closest one of the three finalists—I believe to be the three finalists—out with the candidate himself today.  But I think that when you hear what Barack Obama is saying is the credential—a fighter, someone who will fight, will talk back to me, talk back to me in the White House.

MATTHEWS:  Would that be a description of Evan Bayh?  Probably not.

MITCHELL:  No.  Someone who is independent, who will have a robust conversation inside the White house, someone who will fight for working class people—I still think that that is Joe Biden.

MATTHEWS:  The man from Scranton.

MITCHELL:  The man from Scranton.

HARWOOD:  It‘s interesting, though, because the reporter he made those comments to, Karen Tumulty of “Time” magazine, concluded that he was talking about Evan Bayh, or somebody else that we‘re not talking about.  I agree with Andrea.  All the buzz that I‘m hearing points me toward thinking it‘s Joe Biden.  But there are so many flares.  The dogs that are barking are usually phony dogs.  I got an e-mail from a member of Congress...

MATTHEWS:  Phony dog?  There‘s a new concept!

(LAUGHTER)

HARWOOD:  I got an e-mail last night from a very prominent member of Congress, who said, Wow, I‘m so surprised.  I thought it was going to be Bayh or Biden.  Kaine really shocks me.  He‘d gotten one of these bogus e-mails and believed it because the cone of silence has been so effective, people are convinced...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What are the bogus e-mails saying?

HARWOOD:  They‘re saying it‘s Tim Kaine.

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  Oh, there was another one that said that it was Hillary Clinton this morning.  Everyone went crazy over that.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re all wondering what the king is thinking tonight.  Here‘s what he‘s saying, Obama today about his VP selection, which he‘s apparently already made.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  Have you made up your mind?

(CROSSTALK)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You are not going to get anything out of me on the vice presidential.  Nothing!  Nothing!

QUESTION:  You made up your mind.  We‘re just wondering if that‘s what you told her.

OBAMA:  I did say that I‘ve made the selection, and that‘s all you‘re going to get.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Talk about an all-American general store.  What is that, Jimmy Stewart‘s father‘s store?  What kind of place is that he was just in?

HARWOOD:  I don‘t think Jimmy Stewart wore those baby blue ties, though, do you?

MATTHEWS:  No, maybe not.  But I thought that was a very wholesome background to be fending questions.

MITCHELL:  (INAUDIBLE) at a farmers‘ market, then he went to a NASCAR car construction factory.  I mean, he has been playing the blue collar game in the last 48 hours.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s talk about Joe Biden, since he seems to be top

of the picking listing here.  It seems to me that he does have that.  He‘s

Catholic.  He went to—he didn‘t go to Ivy League schools.  He went to

regular schools.  He went to Syracuse law, right?  He went—did he go to

where‘d he go undergrad?  Delaware—University of Delaware, state university.  So he went to a private Catholic school for high school.  He‘s a churchgoer.  He‘s a good family guy.  He gets home every night, all these 30-some years as a senator to his two boys who survived that terrible car tragedy that he lost his wife and daughter in.

MITCHELL:  He‘s got a son in the National Guard who in the attorney general of the United States who is leaving for Iraq.  He‘s being deployed.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s a JAG.

MITCHELL:  Yes, and he‘s going to Iraq.  He‘s doing his service.  I mean, the personal narrative of this guy, who was elected to the Senate as the youngest guy elected to the Senate, and then before he is sworn in, his wife is killed in a car crash that severely injures the two boys and kills their infant daughter.  And then he is sworn in to the United States Senate in the hospital room with his boys.  I mean, you know, the personal drama and the trauma and the fact that he has gone home every single night all these years...

MATTHEWS:  Are you channeling Barbara Walters right now?  This is

really good!  I mean, seriously!  You‘re getting a really good bio here of

this guy.  I‘m not teasing you.  It seems to me there‘s some other factoid

I read his book last week.  I mean, if I‘m doing my homework, I got to read the guy‘s entire biography, which he wrote.

MITCHELL:  And you do your homework.

MATTHEWS:  And I did the whole thing.  And what jumped out at me is not a lot of stuff we know about, where he quoted Neil Kinnock and did that wrong—he got in big trouble for that.  But here‘s a guy in the 1960s who said, I was not a ‘60s radical.  I wore a sports jacket during the ‘60s, as he put it.  But here‘s a guy in the neighborhood who had the job of being a lifeguard, a white guy at an all-black swimming pool as his summer job.

Now, people today, young kids today, will say, So what?  But if your my generation or older, you say, That‘s an interesting experience for a young guy, to be in that kind of entirely African-American environment for a whole summer.  And there were fisticuffs.  There were knife threats.  It was a tough neighborhood, in some regard.  There were kids there that he had fights with or threats from, a real American experience for this guy.  And I was taken with it personally.

HARWOOD:  No question about it.  And there‘s a reason why in 1988, when he first ran for president, he was seen as the hot young candidate, somebody who, because of the personal narrative that you guys were talking about, had the potential to be a sensational candidate.  Now, he flamed out over Neil Kinnock, over the...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

HARWOOD:  ... law school...

MATTHEWS:  Remind us of that Neil Kinnock story because it will be in paragraph eight, I think, if he gets this thing.

HARWOOD:  Well, he had a very prominent politician in the United Kingdom who was coming up and talking about how he‘s the first member of his family to go to college.  His biography had some similarities to Joe Biden‘s.  And Joe Biden had seen this speech and his advisers had seen the speech, and Joe Biden had a riff in his own stump speech in ‘88 which was very close to this.  A tape of that was leaked by the...

MATTHEWS:  John Sasso.

HARWOOD:  ... by the Michael Dukakis campaign, John Sasso, to both “The New York Times” and “The Des Moines Register,” and it became a big whodunnit mystery because, initially, they denied it.  And the newspapers didn‘t disclose who leaked it.  And Joe Biden‘s campaign eventually unraveled after that point.

MATTHEWS:  What was it called, that video?  The attack video.

HARWOOD:  The attack video.

MATTHEWS:  It was given that name by Maureen Dowd of “The New York Times” when she was running regular feature pieces.

MITCHELL:  And that‘s—when you think now of attack videos, how far we‘ve come.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  This is so tough!

MITCHELL:  I mean, today we have this huge controversy over what...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We are getting to that about who has the house that‘s tainted, who doesn‘t know how many houses they own...

MITCHELL:  How many houses...

HARWOOD:  Chris, today the Dukakis campaign would have a press conference and three conference calls to talk about the attack video.  They wouldn‘t—they wouldn‘t be bashful.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I used to say in my old political days, I would have served popcorn and shown that video because it was a rich way to hit your opponent.  Here he is, borrowing a biography of a British—a socialist no less.  He doesn‘t know who he is.  But we‘re all behind that—I mean, that‘s behind us.

MITCHELL:  There has to be a statute of limitations on this...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How far back will this story of plagiarism go in this story if he gets the nomination for VP?

MITCHELL:  Pretty far back, I think.

MATTHEWS:  Pretty far back?  In the jump or about further down the front page?

HARWOOD:  I think it‘ll go a little bit further back.  Look, it‘s been 20 years.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So can we, as—well, I‘m a commentator.  You‘re straight reporters.  Is the best bet Biden?

MITCHELL:  I think right now, the best bet is Biden.

HARWOOD:  John?

HARWOOD:  The best bet of all the Democrats that I talked to is Joe Biden.  The problem is, we don‘t know how much of their information is coming in waves or ripples out from Obama headquarters.

MATTHEWS:  Is David Broder ready to say it‘s probably Biden?  I‘m waiting.

HARWOOD:  I don‘t know about David.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the gold standard.  You know, will he actually say?  Anyway, the fact that the press is covering this guy as if it‘s a paparazzi thing, the fact that the international gambling that goes on in Ireland, which is the place you can legally do it, is 50-50 now Biden tells me it‘s even money at least for Biden, just going by the Irish betting odds, anyway, and the paparazzi, all the leading indicators.

Anyway, thank you, Andrea Mitchell.  Good luck this weekend.

MITCHELL:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  What a schedule you‘ve got again.  John Harwood, as always.

Coming up: Hillary Clinton supporters still aren‘t fully on board with Obama.  Is that an understatement?  And they could be the difference.  According to the polling, 11 percent of the American voters right now are for Hillary but not for Barack Obama.  Think about it.  That‘s an 11 percent that Barack Obama has got to woo, and his chief wooer is going to have to be Hillary Clinton.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Will some Hillary Clinton voters ever vote for Barack Obama?  Is there anything Obama or Clinton herself can do to bring them aboard the Democratic ticket this fall?  Diane Mantouvalos is a Clinton supporter and founder of Just Say No Deal.  And Bonnie Erbe is, of course, the host of PBS‘s “To the Contrary.”

Let me start with Diane.  You‘re down there in Miami.  What—let‘s take a look at a poll.  I want to show you two polls, which makes the case, I suppose, that there‘s a situation here that has to be dealt with, if you‘re a Democrat.  In the latest NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll we just put out last night, Obama leads McCain by only 3 points, 45 to 42, and it‘s getting narrower.  It was 47- 41.

In a hypothetical match-up that‘s obviously isn‘t going to mean anything, except it means something here, Hillary Clinton is beating McCain among current voters when they vote in these polls by 6 points.  So she has double the lead on McCain that the guy who won the nomination has.

So the question is—and you deduce from that, according to Peter Hart, the pollster for “The Wall Street Journal” and the NBC poll, 11 percent sit out there right now in the American electorate who would vote for Hillary for president right now but won‘t vote for Barack Obama.  Are you one of those, Diane?

DIANE MANTOUVALOS, FOUNDER, JUST SAY NO DEAL:  Indeed, I am one of those voters who will not vote for Barack Obama.  And we‘ve always contended that Hillary Clinton is the far stronger candidate, and that‘s why I think you‘re seeing a situation here where the Obama campaign and their candidate has been unable to close the deal.

MATTHEWS:  Did you—who did you vote for in 2000?

MANTOUVALOS:  Excuse me?  I voted for—I voted for Al Gore, and I voted for—I‘ve always voted Democratic my whole life.

MATTHEWS:  So you voted Democrat, straight Democrat for the presidential line...

MITCHELL:  Yes, the last...

MATTHEWS:  ... but this time, you won‘t vote for Barack Obama?  How is he different than the usual Democratic candidate?

MANTOUVALOS:  Well, just take the last election, for example.  I was a strong supporter of Wesley Clark, and you know, his chances weren‘t very good, but I supported him until the end.  When Wesley Clark didn‘t make it, I fell in line immediately behind John Kerry.  There were never any questions about whether he was fit for command.  I was very enthusiastic to do so.  I think many people have many questions still about Senator Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS:  Give me the word that defines your biggest question about him.  Do you have one?  A key word.  What would it be, if you had to tell a pollster right now?  What‘s your word about him that bothers you most?

MANTOUVALOS:  Inexperienced.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s go right now and talk to...

MANTOUVALOS:  Not experienced—you asked for one word.  That‘s all I can give you is one word.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I hear—I think that‘s the—that is almost the catch-all term, at this point, for a lot of people.  It‘s very common to hear that.

Bonnie Erbe, are you one of those—well, you‘re a journalist.  I‘m not going to ask you exactly where you stand.  But tell me how you would narrate this story right now, that 11 percent of the electorate out there who will vote for Hillary tomorrow morning but won‘t vote for Barack tomorrow morning.

BONNIE ERBE, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”:  Well, these are mainly white voters.   Let‘s face it.  These are pensioners, a lot of them.  These are 40-plus.  Barack Obama—that same NBC poll shows that Barack Obama is winning by a landslide among 18 to 34-year-olds.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

ERBE:  These are...

MATTHEWS:  These are the Jon Stewart vote.

ERBE:  Right.  Exactly.  These are the 40-plus people.  A lot of them are pensioners.  A lot of them, the word I would use would be slick.  When he says hope and change, they hear slick.  They don‘t trust him.  They are afraid, quite frankly, of the fact that he has been named number one most liberal senator in the United States by “The National Journal.”  They see their taxes going up.  Yes, they‘re—he has specified certain types of taxes that he would raise and others that he wouldn‘t on the middle class, but all they hear is increased income taxes, and they don‘t trust him on foreign affairs.

MATTHEWS:  This is a tough one, Diane, because it involves some psychobabble, but maybe you‘ll go along with this, maybe you won‘t.  When you look at Hillary Clinton today—and she spoke down there in Palm Beach this morning, or today.  I saw her—she‘s very tired.  Who isn‘t these days?  I got the sense that she was talking again about “my opponent,” and she uses that term rather automatically now.  Is that a Freudian slip?  Because she agrees that she supports him for the nomination now, but—and in the general election, but when she says “my opponent” again and again, is that a signal to her people, her hold-outs, if you will, that she‘s one of them?

MANTOUVALOS:  Well, Chris, we‘re not taking our cues from Hillary Clinton any longer.  In fact, I have to say I‘ve come full circle with you.  You were the inspiration behind my starting my blog, and many women around this country who were incensed by the sexism in the media.  Whether intentional or unintentional...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  ... it was a fact of this election.  So you know, women like me are really speaking out against what we saw.  And again, that‘s just one element, but that does contribute to the sentiment out there.

As far as what Hillary thinks, I would love to know.  We don‘t know.  We have no contact with the Hillary Clinton campaign.  We are fighting for democracy.  We had a choice to make.  On the eve of Clinton‘s—Senator Clinton‘s suspension speech...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  ... I could have remained demoralized until November, and I chose to engage in democracy.  And that‘s why I‘m sitting here with you right now.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know. 

I have been tough on Mike Dukakis, tough on Al Gore, tough on Bill Clinton, tough on Hillary Clinton, tough—not—not nastily tough on George Bush. 

You know, I guess—well, I will listen to all complaints.  That‘s my job.  In fact, you may be right. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  So, I have to examine my conscience all the time about what I say on this show. 

Let‘s take a look at that 11 percent.  Do you—you said something very powerful there, though, Diane.  You said that, even if Hillary Clinton, who is one of the—probably one of the historic figures in the Democratic Party, along with, say, Hubert Humphrey and Adlai Stevenson—a lot of great people in the Democratic Party never won their—never won their elections, but they remain in sort of the pantheon of great Democrats. 

You‘re saying that, even if she were to give the magic words next—well, she‘s speaking Wednesday—she‘s speaking Tuesday night in Denver—nothing would really work for you? 

MANTOUVALOS:  Well, no, Chris, because so many things happened during this primary season that bothers our voters that come to justsaynodeal.com. 

The fact of the matter is, there were numerous voter irregularities.  We could call it voter fraud.  In fact, in Denver, we‘re airing two movie documentaries that are focused on eyewitness accounts of voters, ordinary Americans, going on camera, risking their livelihood, you know, risking their safety, in some cases, to go on camera to tell the camera what they have seen.

And we‘re going to share that with the American people.  We think it‘s important that this gets out there. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you going to Denver? 

MANTOUVALOS:  I am, indeed. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you going to be a delegate, or how are going to—are you accessed to the floor?  How are you going to get your message out? 

MANTOUVALOS:  The only access I will have on the floor is via the media.  And I‘m already scheduling interviews. 

MATTHEWS:  Great.

Let me ask you, are you going to vote for McCain? 

MANTOUVALOS:  You know, that would be very difficult for me to do. 

I think Senator McCain is a terrific man.  He is a moderate.  I think many of the people, by the way, in our coalition are, in fact, further to the center.  And I think that‘s another issue they have Senator—with Senator Obama, as Bonnie referenced earlier. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Bonnie, you‘re an expert on this. 

MANTOUVALOS:  There is that middle...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It seems to me that the case can be—I‘m sorry, Diane—the case can be made that Barack Obama is the most liberal senator. 

But the case can also be made that John McCain is one of the most conservative, based upon his voting record.  He‘s not really a moderate, is he?  On choice, he‘s 100 percent pro-life.  He‘s 100 percent a hawk.  I mean, what are the issues where he‘s a moderate on? 

ERBE:  Well, you used the word yourself many times.  He‘s a maverick. 

He—he will...

MATTHEWS:  He is that, by nature. 

ERBE:  He doesn‘t—he doesn‘t—it doesn‘t upset him to upset any other coalition of Republicans.  And that‘s why he‘s having the problem with evangelical conservatives that he‘s having right now. 

But I want to get you --  you used the word Hillary Clinton describing Barack Obama, whether subliminally or not, as her opponent today. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, actually, not subaudibly. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  She still calls him “my opponent” today. 

ERBE:  Right, exactly, which was amazing. 

But she has also come out—I don‘t think—getting back to the question what could he do to win her voters, not much.  And I would even argue, based on what Diane just said, not even putting her on the ticket, which is about as long a shot as they come these days. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think...

ERBE:  Yes, I don‘t—I don‘t think that‘s happening...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ERBE:  ... although I will say another cable network tonight was certainly devoting an awful lot of time to it, which—stranger things have happened. 

MATTHEWS:  Tell them to send their—send their bet to Dublin.  You can bet it.  It‘s called Intrade.com, if they want to put their money where their mouth is. 

I have never seen this kind of thing.  I remember, back in the—my era, which was everybody knows everybody 30 years later who was with Gene McCarthy and who was with Bobby Kennedy.  And that was our defining sort of Grand Canyon. 

Then, there was Teddy Kennedy against Jimmy Carter, who I was working for the time. 

Is it your sense, Diane, as you go into this—and you‘re both younger than me—do you think this is going to be an enduring crevasse between different Democrats, those who were with Hillary and those who were with Barack? 

MANTOUVALOS:  Actually, Chris, I do think that‘s what happened.

I think you‘re seeing a huge division in the party.  And I can only take my cues from the e-mails that I get, the phone calls I get on a daily basis, from ordinary Americans, calling us and stating how they feel.  And I‘m just trying to be their voice right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MANTOUVALOS:  I do think the party is almost too large, and I don‘t know that it‘s able to accommodate the various factions and the various cultural elements. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you want Barack to lose the general?  Do you want Barack to lose the general? 

MANTOUVALOS:  I don‘t think in that way, in those terms. I‘m sorry. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, can I ask you the question?

MANTOUVALOS:  I couldn‘t answer it that way. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, can I ask you, would you be sad if he lost? 

(LAUGHTER)

MANTOUVALOS:  I certainly would not be sad if Senator Obama lost the election, no. 

MATTHEWS:  Bonnie? 

ERBE:  If I can jump in just for a second.

The—look at who the last two successful Democratic candidates were for president, Bill Clinton, small state, Southern state governor, moderate, at least before he came into office. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ERBE:  He became more liberal as he was in office.  But—and...

MATTHEWS:  Well, the first two years.  Then he backpedaled.  Let‘s be honest. 

ERBE:  Well...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He signed the—he signed the Welfare Reform Act. 

ERBE:  But he certainly campaigned and fooled a lot of voters into thinking that he was a moderate.  And...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, he did.  And he did stick with affirmative action in principle.  He did some liberal things. 

But go ahead.

ERBE:  And—and Jimmy Carter.  Look at both, Southern white men. 

The country hasn‘t changed that much in the last 12 years. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We haven‘t elected a liberal Northerner since God knows what.  Roosevelt? 

ERBE:  Right. 

And I think a lot of these voters are looking at the Democratic leadership and...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ERBE:  ... saying, what were you thinking?  Does that mean he‘s going to lose?  No, it doesn‘t mean that at all.  It means it will be a tight race. 

MATTHEWS:  And, just to make your point, Jack Kennedy, who everybody remembers as a liberal, he ran as a pretty conservative candidate with a lot of Southern support.

Last thought, Diane—Diane. 

MANTOUVALOS:  Yes?  I lost my audio.  I can‘t hear. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Oh, I‘m sorry.  Well, thank you. 

MANTOUVALOS:  Oh, I lost you.  I lost you for a moment.

MATTHEWS:  Last thought.  What do you think?

MANTOUVALOS:  You‘re back. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re back.  Well...

MANTOUVALOS:  You‘re back. 

MATTHEWS:  Last thought.  Your last thought.  Your last word for tonight. 

MANTOUVALOS:  My last thought would be for—for your pundits to talk about John McCain‘s pick for V.P., because people like myself, people closer to the center, are very curious to see what he does here.  If he goes super far right, he will never get me. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well said. 

Thank you very much, Diane Mantouvalos, very much for joining us from Florida. 

MANTOUVALOS:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Bonnie Erbe, one of the great pros in our business.

Hillary‘s core supporters might not be on board with Barack Obama, but he‘s starting to sound a lot like her out on the campaign trail.  It‘s interesting.  When you fight with somebody in the campaign, after a while, you begin to sound like the one you fought with. 

The “Sideshow” continues—actually, it begins when we come back.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

Hey, when it works, it works.  Here‘s Barack Obama on the campaign trail yesterday echoing—echoing the populist pitch his former rival Hillary Clinton mastered in the primaries. 

Watch now, first Hillary, then Obama. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  I‘m in this race to fight for you.  You know you can count on me....

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

CLINTON:  ... to stand up strong for you every single day in the White House. 

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I will fight for you every single day.  I will wake up in that...

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  ... White House thinking about the people of Martinsville and the people of Henry County and how I can make your life better.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, he was listening to her speeches for sure. 

“The New York Times” picks up today that it was actually Bill Clinton who honed that fighter line back in his 1992 successful campaign for president. 

Next:  Whip it.  Senator Clinton‘s roll call vote in the convention will be a catharsis for some supporters.  For others, it will be a chance to heckle the actual nominee, Barack Obama. 

To nip any embarrassing demonstrations, the Politico Web site reports that Hillary Clinton‘s convention staff is enlisting a 40-member whip team.  That‘s called a whip team.  And what does that do?  Here‘s a description from one of the planners—quote—“If people get down there on the floor of the convention and want to start blowing kazoos and making a scene, we want to make sure we have got people who stand in front of them with Obama signs.”

This is the Clinton team talking.  You can bet the TV cameras, by the way, will be watching for any and all signs of this kind of behavior. 

And, Denver protesters, think twice.  The city‘s “Rocky Mountain News” reports that those arrested during next week‘s convention will be held at a place called the warehouse.  You see it right there.  The sheriff‘s office is planning for 20 people to be held in each of those 18-by-18-foot cells. 

Small solace here:  According to the newspaper out there, officials considering—considered adding a concertina stretch of barbed wire to the top of chain link fences around the cells, but buckled to community concerns. 

By the way, activists are calling the stockades a Colorado version of Gitmo. 

Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

McCain shot down some longstanding speculation in an interview with “The Politico” yesterday. 

Take a listen. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JOHN HARRIS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, POLITICO.COM:  Are you considering at the convention or at some point here during this campaign pledging to only serve one term as president, sir? 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  No. 

HARRIS:  That‘s not going to happen? 

MCCAIN:  I‘m not considering it. 

(END AUDIO CLIP) 

MATTHEWS:  And that was John Harris asking that question. 

McCain is pretty emphatic about that one.  And our new NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll may shed the light on why he‘s so emphatic.  How many voters said they would be more inclined to vote for John McCain if he makes a pledge of only serving one term.  Just 8 percent.  In fact, more people, 10 percent, say they would be less inclined to vote for John McCain if he promised to not run for reelection. 

It‘s a long haul, of course, for nothing for McCain.  Just 8 percent would prefer a one-term McCain.  And that‘s tonight‘s “Big Number.  Eight percent say they would like him to stay one term.  But, again, 10 percent say they would rather not he say that at all. 

Coming up:  Is Barack Obama missing opportunities to hit John McCain?  As the race tightens, what does Obama need to do to maintain his edge, his very small edge? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Milissa Rehberger.  Here‘s what‘s happening. 

Tropical Storm Fay continues to dump heavy rain on Florida for a fourth straight day.  There is major flooding along the state‘s Central Atlantic coast, where more than two feet of rain has fallen in some areas.  Meanwhile, this afternoon, Fay made its third landfall in Florida, coming ashore on the east coast near Flagler Beach.  It is now heading west and is expected to move slowly across Northern Florida. 

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Baghdad today.  She met with Iraqi leaders to talk about a long-awaited agreement on the future of U.S. troops in Iraq, and said a deal is close.  It is expected to contain a time horizon for withdrawing American troops. 

And late word from the McCain campaign that its offices in a Denver suburb and in Manchester, New Hampshire, each received threatening letters containing an unidentified white powder.  Both offices have been evacuated.  Some workers are being checked out, just as a precaution—now back to HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

A barrage of headlines this morning say Obama is not hitting John McCain hard enough. 

And “TIME” magazine‘s Joe Klein wonders, where is Obama‘s passion? 

Joining me is Richard Wolffe, who is with the Obama campaign in Chesapeake, Virginia, right now, and Lynn Sweet of “The Chicago Sun.”

Let‘s start with you, Richard Wolffe.  Tell me about this campaign and the back-and-forth that‘s going on. 

RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK”:  Well, I don‘t know what Joe Klein‘s been listening to, but this is a candidate who‘s much more fired up now than he was before his vacation. 

He‘s punching harder now on a whole range of things, whether it‘s McCain‘s ties to lobbyists, or this home deal, this question about how many homes McCain has.  You know, I think this is a guy who‘s getting pumped up by the convention.  He‘s certainly enjoying the attention about the veep pick. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask, Lynn, how‘s his campaign going?  You think he‘s guilty of not punching? 

LYNN SWEET, “THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES”:  I think he needed to be harder. 

I think that, after the Europe—the Europe trip and the vacation, I thought the campaign was a little off stride, because McCain found a way to get at him with this celebrity hit, and then piled on a rich celebrity at that, once—Obama started counterpunching today.  But then it goes back that McCain gave Obama an opening.  And he went for it. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s watch this, what Lynn is talking about. 

Here, we have one of those weird moments in politics where one candidate says something that sounds goofy.  The other guy jumps on it, thinking he‘s got an easy shot, you know, a gotcha journalist kind of thing.  He can nail the guy. 

And then guess what?  In the surrebuttal, the third go-round, the other guy trumps him.  Watch this.  This is fascinating, back and forth.  If you like how the game is fought these days, this is the fight.  This is an audio of John McCain and a “Politico” reporter on the issue of how many homes do you live in—or own. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

QUESTION:  How many houses do you and Ms. McCain have? 

MCCAIN:  I think I will have my staff get to you.  I will talk to you about that. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN:  It‘s condominiums ownership.  It‘s further.  I will have them get to you. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you hear that, not exactly the usual answer of an American, who is pretty clear that their house is their main asset, and they know exactly which one it is.  And they may own two.  But to have innumerable houses, that‘s interesting. 

So, Obama saw this opening, and he put this ad out on cable television. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR:  Maybe you‘re struggling just to pay the mortgage on your home, but, recently, John McCain said, the fundamentals of our economy are strong.  Hmm. 

Then again, that same day, when asked how many houses he owns, McCain lost track.  He couldn‘t remember. 

Well, it‘s seven, seven houses.  And here‘s one house America can‘t afford to let John McCain move into. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That was the snappy retort, the gotcha in this campaign. 

Now is the surrebuttal, the final—well, at least so far—the final shot.  This comes from McCain.  It‘s a new ad that he‘s just put out called “The Housing Problem.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR:  Barack Obama knows a lot about housing problems.  One of his biggest fund-raisers helped him buy his million-dollar mansion, purchasing part of the property he couldn‘t afford.  From Obama, Rezko got political favors, including $14 million from taxpayers.  Now he‘s a convicted felon facing jail.  That‘s a housing problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there you have it, Richard Wolffe, what‘s called, I think, the attack from a defensive position in politics.  You let the other guy take a shot at you, and then just playing David against Goliath, you come back with a sledge hammer or a spitball. 

WOLFFE:  Yes.  Well, look, it‘s rapid, and it‘s very impressive that both of these campaigns can turn so quickly.  But I think there‘s a difference in simplicity here.  What you‘ve got with the McCain quip about not knowing how many houses he owns is something that really breaks through.  You can imagine this becoming late night fodder.  And by the way, from the campaign‘s perspective, the Obama campaign, they think this ties together a number of things, whether it‘s Phil Gramm‘s comments on the mental recession or the whole idea of being rich if you own more than five million dollars. 

So there‘s a simplicity and a narrative that this sort of congeals together.  The Rezko stuff, Lynn knows very well, is complex.  It takes time to explain.  I‘m not sure if you come to that ad fresh, you would really understand what that Rezko ad is all about. 

MATTHEWS:  Knowing what you know, Lynn, as someone who‘s covered him for so long, including the mini scandal at least, involving how he got to afford that house in the nice neighborhood in the University of Chicago neighborhood with the help of this guy who‘s obviously tainted, Rezko; is he glad now he got into this fisticuff?  Is Barack saying to his staff now, why did you guys have me jump on him on the number of houses he had when I‘ve got a house problem? 

SWEET:  Here‘s why, I think the Rezko card can only be played once or twice.  It is, as Richard said, a very complex story, and it did not work when Hillary Clinton tried to use it.  As you pointed out, it‘s the grocery store moment for former President Bush.  Everyone knows how many homes they own. 

MATTHEWS:  He pointed that out.  Richard Wolffe. 

SWEET:  So that‘s why I think that outweighs bringing up Rezko again.  Certainly, it helps blunt the message, don‘t think it will last.  Unless they think of a way to do it better than Hillary Clinton did. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Richard, tough call here, was that an implicit shot at what some people call a senior moment, when a person can‘t remember what they should remember?  Was that another way they thought they were hurting him by jumping on him? 

WOLFFE:  The framework they‘re using—and you can decide for yourself whether this refers to age—is him being out of touch.  Now, is he out of touch with his own life or out of touch with the American people and the economy as it is today?  The campaign would argue strenuously this is about the economy.  But, you know, what‘s the explanation for someone not knowing how much property they own?  It‘s either his wife was really running things.  Their marriage is such that they don‘t really share these issues with each other.  Or he‘s got too much property.  Or he‘s somehow cut loose from his own life. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not his competence I‘m challenging.  It‘s his what? 

What is the charge? 

SWEET:  It sounds to me like he was also trying to do a legalistic answer because it‘s his wife Cindy owns the properties.  Maybe he was trying to figure out how to answer it.  And one other quick thing on Rezko, Rezko is going to come back in the campaign because his sentencing will come up before the election. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s he facing? 

SWEET:  I‘m not sure how much time it will be. 

MATTHEWS:  But it‘s serious time? 

SWEET:  It‘s serious time.  It‘s serious charges.  So at least there‘s a predicate today by the McCain campaign.  It also shows they‘re not afraid of trying to do it and just try to do it better than Hillary Clinton did. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Richard Wolffe, and thank you Lynn Sweet.  Up next, John McCain questions Barack Obama‘s—he questions his patriotism.  Then says he‘s not really questioning his patriotism, but his judgment.  We‘re going to show you some clips of John McCain getting very close to that very charge, in making that charge.  Is it all believable?  We‘ll get back with the counter-attacks and it all when we come back with HARDBALL and the politics fix.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the politics fix.  Joining me right now is Lois Romano of the “Washington Post,” who wrote a smashing piece today about Jay Schmidt, whose running the John McCain.  If you look at the growth of John McCain the last month, blame it on Steve Schmidt.  He is one tough customer.  This guy plays HARDBALL.  Maria Teresa Petersen of Voto Latino and Jill Zuckman of the “Chicago Tribune.”  We‘ll all be Siskel and Ebert here.  Let‘s take a look at what John McCain said this week at that VFW meeting down in Orlando. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  For my part, with so much in the balance, my friends, it was an easy call.  As I said at the time, I would rather lose an election than lose a war.  Even in retrospect, he would choose the path of retreat and failure for America over the path of success and victory.  Behind all of these claims and positions by Senator Obama lies the ambition to be president. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And then John McCain—well, how would you all describe what you just heard, in terms of the focus?  Maria Teresa, what is John McCain Focusing on with regard to his opponent, Barack Obama, in all those shots? 

MARIA TERESA PETERSEN, VOTO LATINO:  What he‘s trying to do is make

him an unpatriotic un-American.  What Barack should really be doing is

tying it back to the recession.  And saying, look, is it un-American to be

go ahead.

MATTHEWS:  Respond to exactly what we‘re trying to get at here.  What is John McCain saying to his people?  Lois? 

LOIS ROMANO, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  I think he‘s trying to get back to this whole idea that Hillary was hinting about and others have, that he‘s not quite American enough.  The idea—they‘re also saying, well, why were 200,000 people in Germany applauding him?  Why weren‘t they here applauding him?  It‘s all this subtle, kind of, is he really American enough for this job? 

MATTHEWS:  The de-Americanization.  This has been used before against Michael Dukakis. 

ROMANO:  And John Kerry. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you notice, he was French. 

ROMANO:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  It never seems to fail.  Jill Zuckman, what is your thought, looking at that—Go ahead. 

JILL ZUCKMAN, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  I just want to be a little contrarian here.  How do you talk about a war—how do you talk about your opponent‘s position on the war without it being imbued with the patriotism issue?  McCain didn‘t say, I‘m questioning his patriotism.  He‘s questioning his policy.  Obama wanted to bring the troops home when things were very, very bad in Iraq.  And he wants to bring them home now when things are good. 

MATTHEWS:  Fair enough.  Let‘s look at the words.  I‘d rather lose an election than lose a war is John McCain‘s words in juxtaposition to his opponent.  Let‘s watch what McCain said last month.  Same point. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  It seems to me that Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Jill, is that judgment or is that an assault on the guy‘s patriotism? 

ZUCKMAN:  Well, look, McCain equates bringing the troops out no matter what as losing the war.  Now, tying it into the political campaign is a really sharp jab.  And, certainly, there are many, many voters out there who have questions about Obama‘s patriotism.  His own people, his own supporters are sending mailers out all over the country reminding voters that he wears an American flag pin, that he was born in this country, trying to address those issues anyway. 

MATTHEWS:  I guess the question is, when you say to a person you‘d rather lose a war than lose an election. 

ROMANO:  They‘re going after his character.  It‘s not just patriotism. 

They‘re just saying it‘s just raw ambition.  A, he has to much ambition. 

B, he‘s not ready to be president because he doesn‘t have the policy depth.  All of those things.  Everything they‘re doing is geared to showing he might not be ready to be president. 

PETERSEN:  What Obama really needs to do is say, well, is it unpatriotic that we have a recession, and tie him back to Bush.  Is it unpatriotic that we have 40 plus millions Americans that are uninsured.  I think that is bringing back it back to the focus and bringing it back to the economy.  That‘s an opening right there. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t agree.  I think if someone accuses you of being unpatriotic, you have to punch them in mouth, basically, rhetorically.  You can‘t let that stand.  If that stands, you don‘t deserve to be president.  I don‘t care how good you are on housing, if you don‘t love this country, I don‘t want you running the country. 

PETERSEN:  I think what he has to go back and say, look, this is being unpatriotic if we can‘t take care of everyday Americans.  That‘s what McCain is trying to avoid doing. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s continue.  Here‘s Obama making his case.  I‘m sorry. 

Jill, here‘s Obama making his case today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  And then yesterday he tried to say I wasn‘t challenging his patriotism, I was challenging his judgment.  What does it mean when you say that somebody would rather lose a war than win an election?  What are you saying?  Of course, he was challenging my patriotism.  He‘s trying to back track yesterday. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Jill, was he trying to back track? 

ZUCKMAN:  I don‘t think McCain is backtracking off of his criticisms of Obama‘s position on the war.  But I do think that Obama is rhetorically punching McCain in the nose this week.  I mean, he‘s been very, very tough every single day, going after him with just about everything he‘s got. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, well, I said before there‘s, an old political tactic practiced in states like Pennsylvania, where you spend the first half of the campaign destroying the other guy and the second half of the campaign, while he‘s playing defense or she‘s playing defense, let‘s talk about the future of Pennsylvania, while the other guy is holding on to his missing part.  Here‘s John McCain yesterday tempering his remarks about Obama‘s patriotism. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Yesterday, Senator Obama got a little testy on this issue.  He said I‘m questioning his patriotism.  Let me be very clear, I am not questioning his patriotism.  I am questioning his judgment.  I am questioning his judgment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s always great, Lois, when they have to look down to read the cards.  Not that they don‘t all do it.  Here he is saying, I‘m not questioning his patriotism.  It says here in the cards I‘m questioning his judgment.  You know what I‘m really doing. 

ROMANO:  They had to keep McCain on message.  He likes to talk. 

MATTHEWS:  You say the difference between John McCain now and what we‘re seeing this tough—let‘s face it, HARDBALL, going after the guy on whether he is looking out for the country or not, troops, you say it‘s this guy Steve Schmidt, this interesting looking guy with the shaved head.  He‘s a big guy, 215 pounds, six something.  You say it‘s him running the campaign now. 

ROMANO:  Yes, I do think it‘s him.  I think that Steve‘s gift is to keep everybody on message and to be repetitive.  Some of his colleagues in the Bush administration said that he would tell them, no matter what the reporter asked, to say that Kerry was a flip-flopper.  They were asking about the weather, did you hear Kerry was a flip-flopper.  He just believes if you keep repeating the message over and over again, it will sink in.  He has had to kind of convey that to McCain I think. 

MATTHEWS:  Reminds me of Sergeant Markoff in “Beau Geste,” the guy who was kicked out of the Siberian army for cruelty.  We‘ll be right back with the round table with more of the politics fix.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, where you get movie references, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table for more of the politics fix.  I want to ask all the reporters here and advocates in your case, Maria Teresa, what do you make of this number that Peter Hart has delivered to us, the top pollster for the “Wall Street Journal” and NBC, that there are right now in America 11 percent of the voters, roughly one in nine, who stand out there—they‘re not all women.  They‘re three to two women—who will vote for Hillary Clinton, were she the nominate coming up in November, if she were on the ballot, but will not vote for Barack?  I‘m looking at—you start, Maria Teresa.  The question is, is there anything Hillary can say or that Barack can say between now and in the debates that will make those people say, damn it, I‘m a Democrat; I‘m voting for the Democrat? 

PETERSEN:  I think it has to really be Hillary front and center in order for him to attract those votes.  And the problem is, as we were talking before, people still think that she‘s winking at them.  She has to be able to say, no, look, I really mean it.  And she has to start stumping for him in a really serious way. 

MATTHEWS:  Scene at the convention, thousands of people, women and men, labor people cheering her.  It will be like admiration.  It will be so strong.  She will have a bit of a tear.  I‘m not being sarcastic.  She will feel emotion in that room.  All those 18 million voters represented in Denver in that convention hall.  That‘s about her.  How does she turn that back to him to help Barack at that moment when she‘s being adored, basically? 

ROMANO:  She has to do it in her remarks and Bill has to do it.  If they come up shy on that, they‘re going to look really bad and small.  They have to unequivocally endorse Barack.  What I would like to know about your numbers though, do these people say they‘ll vote for McCain, instead? 

MATTHEWS:  They said they won‘t vote for Barack right now. 

ROMANO:  They‘re not saying who they‘ll vote for. 

MATTHEWS:  There‘s Bob Barr and Ralph Nader. 

ROMANO:  That might be good, actually.  But I believe that Barack is pulling some of the Republican vote. 

MATTHEWS:  Jill?  These are Democrats.  I think you‘re right.  There‘s as an offset.

ZUCKMAN:  Chris, a lot of the polls have shown for a while that about 20 to 25 percent of Senator Clinton‘s supporters are saying they‘re going to vote—they won‘t vote for Obama.  They‘ll vote for McCain.  That has dropped down to about 20 percent, 18 to 20 percent now. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much.  Thank you very much, Lois Romano. 

Thank you, Maria Teresa Petersen.  Thank you Jill Zuckman.

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

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