updated 9/2/2008 5:43:37 PM ET 2008-09-02T21:43:37

Guests: Chris Matthews, Diana Olick, Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd, Pat Buchanan, Darragh Murphy, Susan Molinari, Michelle Bernard, Del Walters, John Harris, Steve McMahon, Todd Harris

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  John McCain makes his pick.  Will it click?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Leading off tonight, what a day in politics.  One day after Barack Obama made what is being called one of the greatest convention speeches in history, John McCain changed the conversation with one of the most surprising VP choices in history, Sarah Palin, the largely unknown first-term governor of Alaska.  McCain introduced Palin at a rally today in Dayton, Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America.  But it turns out the women of America aren‘t finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  By choosing Palin, McCain did two things.  He thrilled his Christian right Republican base and he ensured that this election of 2008 will either give us the first African-American president or the first woman vice president.  What a year.  We‘ll take a look at the risky, bold and provocative choice John McCain made from all the angles.

One apparent reason that McCain chose Palin was to appeal to those Hillary Clinton voters who are still cool to Obama, including the so-called PUMAs, Party Unity My—well, you know.  Will they go for McCain now, or will they feel they‘re being manipulated by the enemy?

And about that convention bounce.  We‘ll have to wait a few days or so to see for sure whether there was significant movement in the polls, but 40,000 (SIC) people watched the show last night.  That‘s got to tell you something.  But Barack Obama certainly gave his supporters everything they could have asked for with his stirring speech in Denver, a speech watched, as I said, by precisely 38 million people, more than the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament and judgment to serve as the next commander-in-chief, that‘s a debate I‘m ready to have!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) question that judgment question comes very much to the head with the choice John McCain made overnight to select the first-term, only second-year governor of Alaska to be his running mate.  It was moments like that, in fact, many believe, that Democrats wanted the media to be talking about today.  And it was moments like that speech last night that led John McCain, many believe, to make his bold VP pick today to change the subject.

But did Obama accomplish what he needed to do at the convention last night?  Did he get something big—something rolling, something that‘s going be really big on election day?

Plus, a day to have the HARDBALL insiders—what a day for that—one Democrat, one Republican debating tonight here on one of the most remarkable weeks in American political history.

Also, one of the great things about political convention are those memorable one-liners.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  That‘s the America that George Bush has left us.  And that‘s the America we‘ll continue to get if George—excuse me—if John McCain is elected president of the United States of America.  Freudian slip.  Freudian slip.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what makes Joe Biden great.  You just never know when he‘s going to say some—whether he‘s really thinking something.  You usually know what it is because he says it.  We‘ll go over the best Denver zingers in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight.

But first, McCain‘s selection—what a wow—of Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate for vice president.  Let‘s bring in NBC News political director Chuck Todd, NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.

Well, you‘re all still out there.  I‘m going to go ladies first because this is so much, perhaps—perhaps—based upon a gender decision.  But what do you think, Andrea?  Are the people you talked to saying this is to get the Hillary voter?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Absolutely.  And I‘m already hearing from people, some who do not share Sarah Palin‘s views on ideology, but moms in particular, who really find her personal story appealing.  They say, How cool, how exciting.  So if the McCain campaign can use Sarah Palin -- and it is a big “if”—to cut across ideological lines and trump that with gender, this could be a breakthrough nomination.

Now, it is a high-risk, high-payoff kind of nomination because she‘s got no real national experience.  She has to go into a debate against Joe Biden.  But Joe Biden could overplay his hand.  The expectations game are completely in her favor.  If she even survives a debate with Joe Biden, she could be off and cruising.  And she could help with Hillary Clinton voters in the suburbs of some of the big cities, in battleground states.  I mean, this could be a game-changer.

That said, the fact that John McCain only met her once—when we get this tick-tock just now that—from the McCains—they didn‘t even know each other.  This was not a carefully vetted personal decision.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

MITCHELL:  This was a very calculated strategic decision to try to change the whole game.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, let me go to Chuck Todd on this.  Is it niche marketing here?  In other words, you‘re taking a person who doesn‘t really conform to the profile of the voter you‘re trying to win over, the woman voter, the working woman, very committed (INAUDIBLE)  This candidate for vice president now has apparently no real interest in the Iraq war.  She said she hasn‘t given it much thought, which certainly separates her from a lot of Democratic women who are vastly against the war.  She would outlaw abortion in every circumstance, including cases where a woman had been raped or there was incest involved, certainly a radical view at odds to, so it seems to me, my experiences with those suburban women that Andrea just mentioned.

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Well, look, I see this pick as a decision by the McCain campaign to basically say, Look, we cannot win on experience alone.  Every time there‘s an election, a change election, and it‘s change versus experience, change wins, and I think they came to that conclusion.

Look, I had been told a couple of weeks ago that you can tell what McCain thinks about his chances by the type of running mate he names.  If it was Romney or Pawlenty, that means he thinks it‘s about third and four and he just—you know, he can just bull his way over the finish line with a very safe pick.  If he thinks it‘s third and eleven and he has to get in the shotgun (ph), he‘s got to throw the ball down the field, then he‘s going to do something out of the box.

Naming a woman was always sort of the a dream scenario of a lot of people...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

TODD:  ... inside the McCain campaign because of the Hillary thing.  But I‘ll tell you, they‘ve abandoned experience, and that‘s OK because McCain had not been able to recapture his maverick change image.  This is giving them an opportunity to re-launch.

Look, he may not win over a lot of new supporters over the next couple days, but it‘s making them take a second look, and that‘s what he needed.  He needed a second look.  He needed a fresh look.  Look, the campaign staff is fired up.  They‘re enthusiastic.  This is the first time they‘ve ever felt like—you know, excited about going to work.  You know, there was this feeling that, God, Obama‘s campaign has all the excitement.  They do these big events.  Our campaign is not exciting.  We may have a chance to win, but it‘s not exciting.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  I got off the phone with these guys.  They‘re fired up.  Now, I think some of it‘s for show, but I think some of it‘s for real because they think, you know, Hey—we always ask—Chris, you‘re like this, I‘m like this.  We always these guys to do something different, to do something out of the box.  And in the last 48 hours, we saw the Democratic nominee do something out of the box, go to a football stadium, make a big event even bigger, and we just saw the Republican campaign decide to do something out of the box.

Frankly, it‘s both campaigns operating at a high level for what they‘re good at.  For Obama, it‘s about making big events.  For McCain, it‘s about playing with the news cycle and surprising, doing these nice surgical strikes when it comes to the media.

Look, it may be a disaster at the end of the day, but McCain thought they had a ceiling going on in the trajectory they were headed.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Pat, was she one of the people wielding the pitchforks in your brigade back in ‘92?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  She was a brigader in 1996, as was her husband, Chris.  They were at a fundraiser for me.  She‘s a terrific gal.  She‘s a rebel reformer.  She helped overthrow that corrupt gang—excuse me—that‘s still in power up there in Alaska.  She threw out in a primary Murkowski, the governor...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  ... for putting his daughter into the Senate.  She‘s been tough on the senator up there.  This is a real fiery conservative who‘s a real true believer, a feminist for life.  Not only are the evangelical Christians going to be excited, the pro-lifers, the gun people.  She‘s a life-long NRA member.  And she‘s got tremendous pizzazz.  She‘s the queen of Wasilla (ph), for heaven‘s sakes, number two up for beauty queen.  A lot of people in this country and women and men just are going to look at her and wish the gal well because she‘s suddenly in this battle.

But Chris, the importance of this is this gal can go to all the base places that McCain feels are secure and liberate him to go into those moderate suburbs and places like that where he thinks it‘s going to be decided if his base is brought home.  That is going to be her function.  He could not have made a better choice.  It is exciting.

You and I saw that speech last night.  I mean—I mean, it was just tremendous.  And if I were a Republican, I would have been disheartened going to my convention.  If they had chosen a good man, a nice guy...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BUCHANAN:  ... like Governor Pawlenty, we wouldn‘t even be talking about it today.  Now we‘ve got everybody talking about this.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  And Joe Biden‘s got to watch himself because this is not only a bright girl and an intelligent gal, but I mean, the bar is set for her so low, if she goes in there...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

BUCHANAN:  -- and just, you know, she stands up, that‘s all they‘ve got to do.

MATTHEWS:  I think the state of the art term for a woman of 44 is woman, not girl or gal.  But let me just point out this question—to you, directly to you, Pat Buchanan.  After you gave that fire and brimstone speech about cross dressing and taking back this country block by block in ‘92 in Houston, and many people said you had talked a lot of people out of the Republican Party, this person liked it.  This person liked what you said.  They agreed with you about gays.  They agreed with you about our cities.  They agreed with you about everything.  After the worst of Pat Buchanan, this governor of Alaska was with you in the brigades with a pitchfork.  Won‘t some people in the suburbs of the North find her a little bit different culturally?

BUCHANAN:  Well, culturally, she is a conservative traditionalist, for life, but she is also a feminist.  She‘s also—she‘s got five kids.  The last one, Chris, has Down syndrome.  And she‘s raising the family at the same time she‘s a governor.  For heaven‘s sakes, I mean, can‘t you have a traditional woman who is also a—you know, a beauty queen and is a governor?  What is the matter?  I mean, you want one or the other?  She is both.

I mean, look, there‘s no doubt I‘m an enthusiastic—let me tell you something.  The night of my speech to that convention, George Bush gained 10 points on Clinton.  It was the best night not only of the convention but of this entire election.  There‘s no doubt when the Democrats came after him and pounded them, they all ran away from it and they said...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

BUCHANAN:  ... he was a real loser.

MATTHEWS:  OK...

BUCHANAN:  Bush lost...

MITCHELL:  Chris?

BUCHANAN:  ... that race himself because of the economy.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Pat, I love to hear you.  You‘re right out there at the ramparts.

Let me go back to Andrea.  Andrea, you‘ve covered this vice president.  You know him.  We have a vice president who‘s committed almost viscerally to the war in Iraq.  Here‘s a candidate to replace him in the Republican Party who said this—and I‘m always nervous about context, but this is what we have here.  “I‘ve been so focused on state government, I haven‘t really focused much on the war in Iraq.”  I mean, there she is running to replace a guy with 60 staff people involved with foreign policy and intel collection in a very hawkish setting.  How can she be a credible successor to—well, I‘m asking, open question.  She‘s certainly no neocon.  She‘s nothing of the kind.  She‘s not even interested.

MITCHELL:  Leave the question open because foreign policy is not why she was chosen.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  And you can argue politically, tactically, you don‘t want to replace Dick Cheney with another Dick Cheney.  That‘s not what the Republican Party wants right now.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  You‘ve got John McCain.  John McCain‘s your foreign policy guru.  Look, there are a couple of pluses and minuses here.  She‘s got five children.  Pat is absolutely right, she will appeal to the soccer moms and the hockey moms, as she describes herself.  She‘s got a lot of color.  People are going to talk—people who don‘t know Alaska, don‘t know that part of the world.  I know a little bit about it through some of my family up there.  She eats mooseburgers.  This is exciting to a lot of people.  Everyone up there eats mooseburgers.  That‘s the meal, that‘s the food, that‘s the meat that you get that you shoot...

TODD:  A lot of moose.

MITCHELL:  ... that you bring home...

TODD:  Too many moose.

MITCHELL:  There‘s a lot of moose.  There are a lot of caribou.

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  ... going to be a lot of color.  This is going to be interesting.  This is going to be a good personal story.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it‘s certainly...

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  Also the affecting story...

MATTHEWS:  I love the politics of this!  But I just want to—I‘ve got to go over to Chuck for a second.  Go ahead, Andrea.  I‘m sorry.  Go ahead.

MITCHELL:  Let me just finish on some of the gender issues.  She is also a bit of a libertarian.  She‘s not completely consistent on those social conservative issues.  I got a Log Cabin e-mail from the Log Cabin Republicans saying her first veto was to protect gay rights for partners.  So we need to dig a little bit deeper into this.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  I think this is an interesting choice, a risky choice.  But the biggest thing is that she has no personal relationship with the man she‘s running with.

TODD:  The biggest down side, Chris, is that this could look like a gimmick, you know, because John McCain only met her twice, doesn‘t know her.  This goes against everything we think we know about John McCain, that he likes to surround himself with people that he‘s comfortable with, that are loyal to him, and all of a sudden, this is a political calculation and it‘s gimmicky.  And it could—the gimmick could wear out.

But I‘ll tell you, I believe vice presidents matter on three days. 

The most important day is day one.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  And she has given McCain a very good day one.  That‘s our—your—that‘s—you only have two more days that you have to be any good.  The debate day...

MATTHEWS:  Let me—let me...

TODD:  -- is the next one, and her expectations are low, and maybe she‘ll carry Alaska.  Those are three...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Chris?  Chris?

MATTHEWS:  Let me set this up, first of all.  No, let me raise the question.  Let‘s get away from gender here completely.  Let‘s talk about age.  John McCain has just turned 72.  John McCain will be 77 in his first term as president.  A lot of concern he wouldn‘t really be running for two terms, which is unique, he‘d really be running for one.  And therefore, his running mate would really be kind of like his successor-to-be.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  And you have to wonder whether this is credible.  Is John McCain replaceable, effectively, by the governor of Alaska, should something happen in the first term?  Is this something he can honestly say to the American people, that this person, after a year in office in Juneau, with no foreign policy interest—not just experience, no interest, apparently—can this person be commander-in-chief if something happens?  Andrea?

MITCHELL:  That is going to be the biggest question.  And frankly, the Democrats had a hard time today getting their act together.  The Obama campaign put out a harsh statement.  Then Obama personally had to pull that back and say congratulations to her.  They don‘t know quite how to get at this.  And Joe Biden in the debate has to figure out a way to articulate that, or someone else has to do to in surrogate form.  But he can‘t become a Rick Lazio going over to Hillary Clinton in Buffalo...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  ... with Tim Russert sitting in the middle, invade her space and...

TODD:  Oh, that‘s a big risk here, looking...

MITCHELL:  ... and make her look...

TODD:  -- condescending.

MITCHELL:  ... too condescending and too patronizing.  But you do have to—they have to figure out a way to raise that question.  Is she qualified to step in on a minute‘s notice and be commander-in-chief?

TODD:  Look, the other thing...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  You got a two-part question.  You got a two-part question, Chris.  The first one, there‘s no doubt about it, the question you raise, if something, say, God forbid, happened to President John McCain in February or March, like Ronald Reagan was shot and she had to take over, there‘s that concern on the part, I think, of the American people generally.

As for conservatives and Republicans and others, the idea that Sarah Palin represents the future—they love that.  They‘re crazy about that.  And let me tell you something.  You mentioned right to life.  She will go into all those communities and say, I am pro-life all the way, and my opponent, Biden, is not, and Barack Obama is the most, if you will, pro-choice of abortion candidate who‘s ever run.  They will welcome that battle.

MATTHEWS:  Well, when she comes in and says, I want to outlaw abortion in all circumstances—outlaw it! -- we‘ll see how that goes over in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Thank you Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell, Pat Buchanan.  We‘ll have much more on the pick by John McCain of Alaska governor Palin coming up.

And by the way, also coming up, did the Democrats do what they had to do in Denver?  Are they united now behind Barack Obama?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Tonight—tonight, I say to the people of America, to Democrats and Republicans and independents across this great land:  Enough. 

We are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look just like the last eight. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

OBAMA:  On November 4 -- on November 4, we must stand up and say, eight is enough.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, here we are.  This is the night after the big speech. 

The question is, did they do what they had to do in Denver? 

But did the Democrats and Barack actually finish the job? 

Joining me is Del Walters from EbonyJet.com, and John Harris, editor in chief of “Politico.”

I want John Harris—I haven‘t had you on in a long time.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  John, you know, people like Dan Balz, who is sort of the dean of “The Washington Post” now, your former paper...

JOHN HARRIS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, POLITICO.COM:  Yes, absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  ... wrote a wonderfully cogent statement.  I thought he gave it high marks.  What did you give to the acceptance speech? 

J. HARRIS:  Oh, it obviously thrilled Democrats in the stadium and around the country.  There was a big TV audience for it.  Thirty-eight million people watched. 

Clearly, it excited people who are inclined to vote for Barack Obama and are receptive to his argument that McCain would be four more years of George Bush. 

I don‘t know.  I really want to see polling about who are in the middle whose minds were genuinely not made up until they heard that speech. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  When do you—when will that polling be in, John?  When do you expect that polling...

J. HARRIS:  I think it‘s coming in—we should be seeing it this weekend. 

MATTHEWS:  Weekend.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go now to Del Walters. 

Your feelings, thoughts about—I mean, I thought—I will just interject here.  I thought what he was very good at is taking the best shots delivered against the Democrats, he in particular, over the last several weeks and months, and throw them right back at the other side.  It had that wonderful Reaganesque quality of, “There you go again,” of attacking from a defensive position.  I thought it had great resilience and power. 

DEL WALTERS, “EBONYJET”:  Well, Chris, I rode down on the elevator with Muhammad Ali.

And he told—Lonnie told me through Muhammad Ali that this was something that he felt that he had to be at.  You know, this was more than just a speech by a presidential candidate.  This was history in the making.  And it could be argued that Barack Obama lived up to—to the hype.  He lived up to all of the talk going into this. 

And, on top of that, he proved to those 38 million Americans that were watching out there, that, yes, he was ready to be commander in chief on day one, because, as he walked on to that stage, he looked presidential. 

And, as you saw the audience, you weren‘t looking at an audience that was predominately African-American.  It was white.  It was black.  It was Hispanic.  It was rich.  It was poor.  It was all the people that he was reaching out to.  And it was in Denver, Colorado.

So, did he pass the threshold of commander in chief, presidential? 

You have to give him high marks on it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, just on that point, you have got to—Del, the Democratic Party, whatever you think of the party, is incredibly diverse, ethnically. 

WALTERS:  Well, Chris, I have got to tell you that one of the things that I heard in talking to everybody out here was that they felt emotion. 

They felt that, if Hillary Clinton produced 18 million cracks in a glass ceiling, by Barack Obama walking across that stage, he produced 200 million cracks in glass ceilings for all of those, like myself, whose ancestors came to these shores in slave ships.  You had to really believe that, for the first time, at least in my lifetime, that the United States became the melting pot, as opposed to what some would argue would be a sum of separate, but equal, parts. 

You know, you saw America coming together in one place at one time.  And the fact that it was the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King‘s famous “I Have a Dream” speech only added to the history of a moment. 

BLITZER:  OK.  Let‘s take a look.  I want John to respond to what we see right now.  Here‘s another bit of the speech last night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I get it.  I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office.  I don‘t fit the typical pedigree, and I haven‘t spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring.  What the naysayers don‘t understand is that this election has never been about me.  It‘s about you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  John, your verdict on that? 

J. HARRIS:  Well, look, he did what a lot of Democrats we were talking to out in Democrat said he needed to do, which is, look, don‘t make this just about a cult of personality, a movement, proving that Obama‘s a rock star.  He‘s already amply proved that.  Make it clear that you have got a connection with the people that you need to persuade. 

That‘s why there was a lot more policy in the speech.  That‘s why you had lines, that rhetoric that you just replayed.  A lot of people, the Democrats I talked to, would be very pleased by that speech. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s all take a look right now at the part where we takes on his opponent, John McCain. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I don‘t believe that Senator McCain doesn‘t care what‘s going on in the lives of Americans.  I just think he doesn‘t know. 

(LAUGHTER)

B. OBAMA:  Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under $5 million a year? 

(LAUGHTER)

B. OBAMA:  How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies, but not one penny of tax relief to more than 100 million Americans? 

(BOOING)

B. OBAMA:  It‘s not because John McCain doesn‘t care.  It‘s because John McCain doesn‘t get it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Is that going to work, Del, that this man...

WALTERS:  I think it‘s...

MATTHEWS:  ... in public life all these years, who served his country in war, and been in politics so many years around the country campaigning for country—for president, doesn‘t know what‘s going on in this country?  He‘s basically landing him—the punch on him that he‘s George W. Bush. 

Let‘s be honest what we‘re talking about here.  He‘s saying he‘s George W. Bush, he‘s out of it, he‘s not connected to things like Katrina and what‘s really going on in Iraq.  Can it work? 

WALTERS:  It‘s going to work because—yes, it‘s going to work because, one, I think, a lot of times, we underestimate the anger that is out there in the American public. 

And the one connection that Barack Obama had not yet made was convincing those people that were still on the fence that he was going to fight for them.  I think the other reason that it will work is because of the way he did.

He did the old television thing, which is, you say, now, I maybe I shouldn‘t ask you this question, and then you nail them with the zinger after they say, go ahead.  Every time you hear John McCain—or—excuse me—every time you hear Barack Obama or Joe Biden talk about John McCain, they always preface it by saying, he‘s a war hero, we respect him, but. 

And you know when they get to that word “but,” here comes the zinger.  I thought that he did his attack very tactfully.  I thought he did it very respectfully.  And I think that he connected on body blow after body blow. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

WALTERS:  And, if Muhammad Ali was there, he would say that John McCain was in the rope-a-dope. 

MATTHEWS:  John Harris?

J. HARRIS:  Totally agree with that.

You mentioned Reagan.  I do think that‘s the right analogy.  Bill Clinton was good at this, too.  Remember, when he was running against Bob Dole: “Look, I like Bob Dole.  I have got nothing bad to say to about Bob Dole.  I just disagree that—with him that milk and cigarette smoking are both the same,” you know, time and time again, rip somebody‘s lungs out while pretending to be nice. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Thank you very much, Del Walters.

Thank you, John Harris.

Have a nice weekend, as long as it lasts.  We‘re off to Saint Paul, most of us. 

Up next: the HARDBALL “Sideshow” and the best one-liners, the lighter notes, I should say, from the Democratic Convention just finished. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO:  Let‘s be honest, America.  John McCain may pay hundreds of dollars for his shoes, but we‘re the ones who will pay for his flip-flops. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, if you like this stuff, keep watching the next couple minutes. 

We‘re back—we‘re going to be back with a bundle of those one-liners from Denver.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.” 

First up, convention remind. 

Here‘s a look back at some of the best attempts at comedy out in Denver. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARDSON:  John McCain may pay hundreds of dollars for his shoes, but we‘re the ones who will pay for his flip-flops. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER (D), MONTANA:  If you drilled everywhere, if you drilled in all of John McCain‘s backyards, even the ones he doesn‘t know he has...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SCHWEITZER:  That single-answer proposition is a dry well. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Talk about being for it before you‘re against it. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

KERRY:  Before he ever debates Barack Obama, John McCain should finish the debate with himself. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  That‘s the America that George Bush has left us.  And that‘s the America we will continue to get if George—excuse me—if John McCain is elected president of the United States of America. 

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN:  Freudian slip.  Freudian slip. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  To my supporters, to my champions, to my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON:  ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s see how the Grand Old Party yucks it up next week at Saint Paul. 

Next:  Take one for the road.  The Democratic National Committee put together a little something for reporters traveling to Saint Paul next week, a survival kit. 

Here‘s a picture of it.  It includes Tylenol, Tums, of course, 100 Grand and Payday candy bars—or, rather, 10 -- along with “Ask me how many houses I own” button. 

Trust me, the one undeniable advantage of John McCain‘s bold pick of Governor Palin is that it stopped people from talking about how many houses John McCain has.

While she made—a game-changer, the announcement of the governor of Alaska, at least she‘s a topic-changer. 

Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”

Just how long has it been since the Republicans have had neither a Bush nor a Dole on their national ticket, as of today?  Thirty-six years.  You have to go back to 1972 for the last time the Republicans didn‘t turn to one—one of these two old political families.  Think of it, 1976, Ford/Dole, then Reagan/Bush, then Reagan/Bush again, then Bush/Quayle, Bush/Quayle, then Dole/Kemp, then Bush/Cheney, then Bush/Cheney. 

Sounds like Bubba in “Forrest Gump” talking about different ways to cook up shrimp.

Thirty-six years since we have had a ticket with no Bush or Dole—tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

When we return, our strategists, one a Republican, one a Democrat, join us to talk about can Governor Palin siphon off enough Hillary supporters to win for McCain?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DIANA OLICK, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Diana Olick with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

The markets closed lower in light trading ahead of the long weekend, the Dow Jones industrial down 171 points, the S&P 500 down 17, and the Nasdaq dropping 44 points, stocks falling on the word from the Commerce Department that personal incomes were down a surprised seven-tenths-of-a-percent in July.

Meanwhile, a big jump in prices pushed inflation to a 17-year high, with consumer spending slowing 0.4 percent. 

Retail gas prices ticked upward today, after more than a month‘s decline.  The national average is now $3.66 a gallon.  That‘s the first increase since prices peaked at $4.11 a gallon in July. 

Gulf Coast oil industries are preparing for the worst from Hurricane Gustav.  Right now, Gustav is a Category 1 hurricane.  Forecasters say it could be a Category 3 by the time it makes landfall in Louisiana early next week. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Can John McCain‘s vice presidential pick, the governor of Alaska,

Governor Palin, bring in disaffected—I love these words we come up with

disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters?  Where—where does that take McCain, and where does it end up with all—or could it hurt him, actually?

Let‘s bring in the strategists. 

It‘s great.  We got two guys to talk about it...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... Todd Harris and Steve McMahon.  This is all about where women are going to go on this thing.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know.  We tried to book some people.  We‘re going to have some women on in a minute.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me tell you, just put a little sense of irony in this, that you guys are the experts on women. 

OK.  Hillary Clinton said: “We should all be proud of Governor Sarah Palin‘s historic nomination, and I congratulate her and Senator McCain.  While their policies would take America in the wrong direction, Governor Palin will add an important new voice to the debate.”

Well said.  And, of course, the two candidates, Biden and—and Barack, both called up and congratulated the governor for this wonderful opportunity for her. 

She made a very nice appearance today.  I think it was solid.  The question is, can you take a woman that is so far right on women‘s rights to choose abortion, totally outlaw it all the way, and sell her as a credible product to those suburban and other working women that might vote Republican, rather than Democrat, this time? 

Todd Harris, will it sell?

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I mean, on the issue of abortion, you ask women swing voters, specifically, in surveys, “What‘s the number-one issue to you?” 3 percent right now say abortion.  And, of course, it‘s John McCain‘s position on abortion that is going to drive where the party is.

Having said all...

MATTHEWS:  You can say that all you want, I don‘t believe it. 

HARRIS:  They‘re not trying to win your vote.

MATTHEWS:  You try to organize a Democratic headquarters in any county in America and say your candidate‘s pro-life and you try to get anybody to show up in that room.  It‘s very, very tough. 

HARRIS:  She is pro-life and she is going to be getting Republican activist, who are now very, very energized. 

MATTHEWS:  They‘re already with McCain.

HARRIS:  They were with him.  They were supporting him.  They weren‘t turning out to the degree they needed to. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re with Pat Buchanan.  You‘re with the Pittsburgh crowd.  I‘m still impressed, I‘ve got to tell you.  Pat is an erasable figure and a great colleague to work with.  But I‘m still amazed that a woman of any kind chose to be with Pat after that speech he gave in Houston about cross dressing and taking the cities block by block.  That was a pretty far-right speech.  And for somebody to join up after that and say, this is my cup of tea is pretty strong ideology. 

Steve McMahon, we‘re talking about the governor of Alaska being one of the pitch fork people. 

MCMAHON:  Pat, you know, earlier today after noting that she was, in fact, the pitch fork person, a Buchanan supporter, went on to point out that this is the most risky pick that he‘s ever seen in his life of watching politics.  I agree with that.  When you‘re 72 years old, the person that you put a heartbeat away from the presidency is a very important thing.  If you look at the fact that John McCain last week was winning with independents and now he has chosen to go to the right to rally the base, I just don‘t understand it, particularly at a time when the Republican base, the self-identified number of people who say they‘re Republican, has gone down ten points in the last four years. 

It‘s an interesting strategy, but it‘s one that completely eludes me.  Then, you know, she‘s the reformer and we find out this afternoon that the reformed governor has tried to get her brother-in-law fired from the state police force because he was in a nasty, messy divorce battle with her sister.  That‘s not the kind of reform that I think people are looking for.  It comes out of a state, Alaska, where half of them are in jail, and half of them are headed for jail. 

MATTHEWS:  Half of who‘s in jail?  Oh, the politicians—

MCMAHON:  The politicians in Alaska have a problem with corruption.  No, I‘m sorry, there are a number of politicians who have been caught up in this state corruption scandal.  Senator Stevens, now, is under indictment. 

MATTHEWS:  But not her.  Let‘s be clear. 

(CROSS TALK)  

MATTHEWS:  You didn‘t say it.  I‘ll say it.  She‘s not at all involved in that corruption. 

(CROSS TALK)

MCMAHON:  Chris, I‘m not suggesting that she‘s done anything wrong. 

I‘m simply saying there‘s a pending—hold on.  Hold on.  This is fair.  There‘s a pending state investigation about whether or not her administration intervened to try to have her ex-brother-in-law fired.  That‘s a legitimate factual observation.  She may have done nothing wrong. 

It does, I think, undercut the reform argument a little bit. 

MATTHEWS:  Maybe she thinks he‘s a bad guy. 

(CROSS TALK)

MCMAHON:  You can‘t use your power as a governor to get him fired. 

HARRIS:  It‘s a legislative investigation, which was launched by people.  Look, she went to the capital, to Juneau, and she upset a whole lot of people, because she flipped over that gravy train apple cart that had been stuffing the pockets of the status quo in Alaska for years and years.  She put an end to all that.  She upset a lot of politicians in Juneau, and they‘re now going after her. 

MATTHEWS:  I think she is a maverick.  Not in this case, but you‘re narrowing it down to the one concern.  I share that is a concern.  But her record of public office, the several years, not the many years, but the several years she‘s been in public life has been that of a maverick, someone take taking on the good old boys, the corrupt system.  I‘m sure every time one party runs the show it gets corrupt, and she was challenging it. 

HARRIS:  This was a year where the status quo in Washington—

Congress has a nine percent approval rating.  The president‘s approval rating is in the mid-to high 20s.  The public wants mavericks.  They want people who are coming from outside of Washington in terms of their values and she certainly brings that. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of a person who really admits they haven‘t paid much attention to the biggest issue in foreign policy, the war in Iraq?  Hasn‘t paid much attention to it.  Do you find that comforting?  Is she going to get briefed on this between now and when she becomes vice president?

HARRIS:  Of course she‘s going to be briefed.  As the mother of someone who‘s getting ready to head out to Iraq, I think on the most important piece of this, in terms of, you know, being the mother of someone who‘s going off to war, she pays attention to it with her heart in a way that is far more important than reading a briefing book. 

MATTHEWS:  “I haven‘t really focused much on the war in Iraq,” that is a statement—that is a statement, Steve.  “I haven‘t focused really much on the war in Iraq.”  I mean, maybe that‘s a healthy thing compared to Dick Cheney, who focused on it too much.  He got us in there.  Is she going to have five or six neo-cons sitting around, telling her what to think now, because she hasn‘t paid much attention to it?  Is she going to be like the president of the United States, when you go in there tabular Rosa and you meet idealogues that talk you into something?  Are we going to have another one of those situations?  I‘m sorry, it is a question. 

MCMAHON:  Wolfowitz and Doug Feith and all those guys are all available to brief her on this, I‘m sure.  But—listen, her story is a remarkable story, a truly remarkable story.  I sat there today and thought she did a fantastic job.  I do think, though, there are some things that suggest picking her was a big risk.  I don‘t think it was a risk that John McCain, frankly, needed to take.  Just this week he was tied with Barack Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you like to be Joe Biden and have to face her in debate?  I want to ask you both, gentlemen.  I think it might be difficult for him to take on this relative new comer in politics, who has been a maverick, who does have a clean record, and is starting out in a way people like to see people start off in politics, clean and excited and exciting.  This woman, based upon meeting her today, is gung-ho.  My hunch is she‘ll be tough to debate.  What do you think, Todd Harris?

HARRIS:  I agree with you.  The Democrats need to be concerned about lowering expectations to the point where, as long as she shows up and can how old her own, and go toe to toe—

MATTHEWS:  Who is going to win that debate? 

HARRIS:  I think Sarah Palin is going to win it. 

MATTHEWS:  Who do you think is going to win that debate, Biden or Palin?

MCMAHON:  I think Senator Biden is going to win it.  I think he‘s going to be there to draw the contrast between the people who are at the top of the ticket.  She‘s going to perform, I‘m sure, better than we all expect, or better than some people expect in the debates.  She‘s a very articulate, very bright woman.  Obviously, you could see that today.  I just think there are a number of questions people are going to have.  When you‘re 72 years old and two times you‘ve faced down cancer, I think the vice presidential pick is a much more serious matter than if you‘re 46 years old.  I think John McCain—

MATTHEWS:  He‘s going to be 76 years old. 

MCMAHON:  I think he was smart to try to do something to mitigate the fact that Barack Obama owns change.  I don‘t know if this was the best choice to do that. 

HARRIS:  The good news, to wrap up—the good news is no matter who gets elected, we‘re making history.  That‘s good news.

MATTHEWS:  Well said on a weekend.  Thank you very much, Todd Harris, speaking grandly for us all.  Steve McMahon.   

Up next, now that McCain picked Palin, will women decide this election?  Wow, this is going to be interesting.  We‘re going to have some people on, including somebody who represents the group PUMA.  I can‘t spell it out, but you can figure out the acronym.  It‘s been mentioned so many times.  Today, We asked our viewers to text message the answer to the following question: will McCain‘s choice of Palin as his running mate help or hurt his chances?  The answers are 33 percent say, yes, it will help, while 67 percent said choosing Governor Palin will weaken his chances.  Two to one against so far, very early in the running.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  I think, as well today, of two other women who came before me in national elections.  I can‘t begin this great effort without honoring the achievements of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, and, of course, Senator Hillary Clinton, who showed such determination and grace in her presidential campaign. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back right now.  It‘s time for the politics fix.  Joining me now is former New York Congresswoman Susan Molinari, MSNBC political analyst, who shined so well in Denver, I must say, with your amazing thoughts, Michelle Bernard, and Darragh Murphy of the PUMA PAC.  Thank you all for joining us. 

I said something the other night.  I didn‘t like the way I said it.  I want to say it better this time.  I think it‘s very powerful when a political party gets behind somebody because they win the nomination.  They beat everybody else.  They take everybody else.  In this case, the powerful candidacy of Hillary Clinton.  When you win the nomination of a political party, it‘s far more powerful than getting a political appointment, even a very high level appointment.  I compared the success of Barack Obama last night to the appointments of Condoleezza Rice and General Powell in the other party, in your party.  I use the word showcase appointments.  I shouldn‘t have used that word. 

I should have said high level, high profile appointments.  They were genuine appointments.  They were not tokens.  Nobody on Earth believes that Condoleezza Rice is not this president‘s chief foreign policy adviser.  Or nobody challenges the nobility—I love the guy, although I wish he had opposed the war—General Powell.  So I used the wrong word.  I should have side high level, high profile, not showcase, because some people took that as token.  Damn it, I certainly didn‘t mean that. 

Let‘s go on to this question here, this question here: will the Republican party—let me start with Darragh, because she‘s very involved in this issue of whether the Democratic party betrayed its potential for women‘s rights in the selection of Barack rather than Hillary Clinton.  Darragh Murphy, Miss Murphy, thank you for joining us.  You‘re with a group called PUMA.  Will this succeed, this Republican move to select, for the first time in their history, a woman candidate for vice president? 

DARRAGH MURPHY, PUMA:  I think it was a brilliant move on John McCain‘s part.  I think we saw John McCain showed Howard Dean and Barack Obama out to be amateurs.  I think it was bold and brave and I absolutely think that it will win over many, many Hillary Clinton supporters. 

MATTHEWS:  Will it crash through the usual agenda of issues that matter very much independent women, political women?  Will it be OK that she is very, very against abortion rights?  Will that matter?

MURPHY:  She‘s still a Republican, but I think what the Republicans have done today is they have taken the excitement of the race and they have moved it over to their side.  It‘s their to lose.  They have stolen the thunder from Barack‘s speech last night.  They made a bold move, a brave move, I would say, and an historic move.  For those millions of Democrats who have been ready to pull the lever for John McCain, now it‘s made it so much easier for them to do that.  I think that is a big warning sign for the Democratic party.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Susan, this question: would it have been better to pick somebody boring, I hate to say it, like Pawlenty or take a chance?  People have called this a Hail Mary shot.  Sometimes Hail Mary shots, shots from the 50 foot line at the basketball court go in. 

SUSAN MOLINARI, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Yes, they do.  I think, to those of us who watched Barack Obama‘s speech last night, even if you disagree with so much of what he stands for, you had to be breathless with the opportunity to make history.  What John McCain did today was to give the Republican party and people who agree with John McCain an opportunity to make history, with somebody who believes in change, who was a reformer, who in her time as governor has really showed how to lead with change. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be back with Michelle.  I guess we have a technical thing.  We‘ll be right back with Michelle Bernard kicking it off.  This is a hot question, was this a smart move?  A bold move, certainly.  Will it work?  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Wild Friday politically.  Let‘s go to the last person on the round table.  You haven‘t spoken yet.  Is this a smart move? 

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  It is a smart move.  McCain has needed the wow factor all throughout this campaign.  We finally got the wow factor.  But I do think it‘s a mistake to believe that women are going to vote for John McCain now just because there‘s a woman on the ticket. 

MATTHEWS:  Susan, what happens to the inexperience charge against Barack Obama.  This governor of Alaska has been in office since last year, that‘s it.  She‘s up for commander in chief to be. 

MOLINARI:  She‘s been in office for two years and she has done more in two years than just about anybody I know. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not—Darragh, does experience get in the way here? 

Or lack of it? 

MURPHY:  She‘s not running for president.  She‘s running for vice president.  What it remind Democrats today is what should have been and what could have been.  If you had Hillary Clinton on top of the ticket and Barack Obama as the vice president, we could have had 16 years of Democrats in the White House.  Now, we‘re looking potentially 16 years of Republicans.  This could be a disaster for Democrats if the voters don‘t stay united and support the down ticket Democrats.  Millions of them will most certainly jump over, not simply because she‘s a woman, but because of the reach out that this represents on the part of John McCain.  And the wow factor, and the fact she appears to be a thinking person and someone who is apparently moderate and reform minded. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll have you on here again, as your thought develop in this campaign, Darragh Murphy.  Thank you for coming on and representing PUMA.  Susan Molinari and Michelle Bernard.  Join us again Monday night at 5:00 p.m. for more HARDBALL, live from lively St. Paul, Minnesota, with MSNBC‘s coverage of the Republican convention, which will be just as exciting as last week.  You bet we‘re going to make it that way at MSNBC.

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

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