updated 7/1/2009 10:14:42 AM ET 2009-07-01T14:14:42

Guests: Amanda Drury, Pete Williams, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Susan Page, Mike Allen, Liz Sidoti, Ryan Lizza, Todd Purdum

CHUCK TODD, GUEST HOST:  And then it was 60.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chuck Todd at the White House.  Chris Matthews is out of the country this week.  We‘re still not able to tell you where in the world Chris Matthews is, but maybe as the week wears on, we‘ll offer more clues.

Leading off tonight: It‘s over in Minnesota.  It was on November 4th that the people of Minnesota went to the polls to pick a senator.  Today, 239 days later, the third longest vacancy in the United States—the United States has had since the selection of senators has finally ended.  The supreme court of Minnesota unanimously rejected Norm Coleman‘s appeals and said Al Franken should be certified the winner.

About half an hour ago, Norm Coleman met with reporters and conceded the battle was over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NORM COLEMAN ®, MINNESOTA, FORMER UNITED STATES SENATOR:  Ours is a government of laws, not men and women.  The supreme court of Minnesota has spoken.  I respect its decision and I will abide by its results.  It‘s time for Minnesotans to come together under the leaders it has chosen and move forward, and I join all Minnesotans in congratulating our newest United States senator, Al Franken.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  And there‘s much more to come.  In a few minutes, Senator-elect Al Franken will hold his own news conference, and we‘ll carry it live here on HARDBALL.

So what does it all mean?  It means the Democrats now have 60 senators, enough votes to overcome any Republican filibuster and some sort of party line vote.  But it also means the Democrats have no more excuses with the public.  They can‘t get things done.  There‘s no blaming the Republicans on this one, if they can‘t get legislation passed.  They got what they wanted.  They own the Senate now, big majority in the House, and of course, they have this place where I‘m sitting, the White House.  It‘s all on them.

There are also a number of other stories we‘ll be covering here on this special edition of HARDBALL.  A new story in “Vanity Fair” magazine describes Sarah Palin as a bit self-obsessed, casual about the truth, and generally unfit for the vice presidency, so we‘ll have the author on who makes those claims.

And there‘s more on the Mark Sanford saga.  Sanford now admits that he had encounters with other women, but—and I‘m going to quote here—

“Didn‘t cross the sex line.”  More on that in the “Politics Fix.”

But we begin with the Minnesota supreme court‘s decision late today in favor of Al Franken.  Pete Williams is NBC‘s chief justice correspondent.  Pete, you were able to succinctly sort of go through all of the arguments before the Norm Coleman concession, and it was going to look like we were going through a 10-day process.  So quickly, tell us exactly what the supreme court of Minnesota decided today.

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, this was a total shutout for Norm Coleman.  They rejected every argument he made about what to do with some contested absentee ballots.  The court said, yes, there were minor variations in election policies from county to county, precinct to precinct, but those were legally insignificant.

Second, it said—he had tried to argue, Look, you ought to apply the same standards that applied in Bush v Gore in the Florida recount in the year 2000.  The Minnesota supreme court said the difference here is that in Florida, there were no policies on how to handle disputed ballots.  There were—in terms of how to determine voter intent.  And there were in Minnesota.  So he lost all those.

Now, the court didn‘t go so far as to order the governor to certify Al

Franken the winner.  It just said that Al Franken is entitled to get the election certificate.  And it said, We‘re going to put the effective order our decision on hold for 10 days, which would have given Norm Coleman time to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.  But he obviously concluded what many legal experts had, which was that that would be pointless, that would be a futile exercise, that it was extremely unlikely that the U.S. Supreme Court would ever take up this case, and even if it did, it probably wouldn‘t actually hear it until February.

So Norm Coleman came to the conclusion, for whatever reason, the legal matters or simply decided he had fought enough, that he decided to call it quits.

TODD:  Now, Pete, it‘s my understanding that that was one of the things that the Republicans were basically saying, if this was unanimous coming out of the Minnesota supreme court, then they would not take this any farther.  So you said that there were a few things that this court didn‘t do.  Could it be, in order to get the unanimous opinion, they held off on ordering the certification, they had the 10-day window?  Not asking you to read the minds of the justices there, but could that have been part of the reasoning in order to get this unanimous decision?

WILLIAMS:  You know, I‘m not sure why they didn‘t do that.  I would guess not because—I would think the real fight would be over the legal holdings, the merits of the case, and not over the order on what to do.  Perhaps the court just decided, as a matter of comity or a matter of not foreclosing any options, to give Coleman 10 days in order—if they had ordered the governor to do this right away, that would have complicated his efforts and it would have seemed maybe like more of a closed book.  So this way, they come down very hard on Norm Coleman, but at the same time provide him a slight escape clause.

But you know, I think Coleman had heard from many legal experts that this would have been a futile exercise to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

TODD:  You‘ve thrown yourself into the Florida recount back in 2000, this recount in Minnesota.  Are there lessons here for other states?  What is it that Minnesota get right in order to not have—in order to avoid a U.S. Supreme Court confrontation, that Florida got wrong?  And are there lessons here for other states on how they conduct their elections and a recount?

WILLIAMS:  Two lessons is, if you‘re going to have a recount, don‘t do it over a presidential election if you want to keep it out of the U.S.  Supreme Court.

But secondly, the more important thing, I think one of the reasons that the Court would be reluctant to take this is that Minnesota was widely regarded to have a very well-run election system, and that is not true in many states.

Now, I still think it would have been a long shot for the U.S. Supreme Court to get involved in any state election like this.  You had eight judges there, a three-judge panel, then five of the seven justices on the supreme court all say that Norm Coleman lost here.  But it‘s widely regarded to have a really solid system.

TODD:  Pete Williams, thanks very much for reporting.  I know we‘ll see you on many other programs in the next 24 hours.

Joining us now by phone is Minnesota‘s—well, she was the senior senator and the junior senator.  Now I think she is just the senior senator, Amy Klobuchar.  Senator Klobuchar, obviously, we‘ve seen a statement.  You‘re very relieved.  Explain what life has been like, having to be one senator dealing—doing the constituency service of two.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA (via telephone):  Well, Chuck, first of all, I think Matthews picked quite a day to be out of the country, huh?

(LAUGHTER)

KLOBUCHAR:  Good to talk with you.  I‘m greeting you from the back room of the Blue Water Cafe in Grand Maray (ph), Minnesota.  And I have to say that this has been quite a time, six months, our staff doing double time with no extra resources.  I‘m incredibly proud of the work that they did keeping up with everything while the economy was so hard.  And I was really—I thought that Senator Coleman handled it with a lot of grace today when he thanked our staff for what they‘d done.

And you know, he had a right.  It may have been a difficult path, but he did have a right to pursue a federal appeal, and he chose to do what was right to Minnesota.  And of course...

TODD:  One of my—go ahead.  Sorry.

KLOBUCHAR:  Well, my thoughts, of course, are with Al Franken.  I talked to both of them today.  One little-known fact that you would love is that Franny (ph) Franken had her bag packed—her bag was packed next to her bed for weeks and months, waiting for this moment in case they had a quick rush to Washington, just like an expectant mother...

TODD:  Just like a child, yes.

KLOBUCHAR:  ... going to the hospital with her toothbrush there.  So I know that they‘re very happy about this.  And we will have two senators and at a very critical time in our country‘s history.

TODD:  Senator, one of the things that I was—that I think a lot of us outside of Minnesota have been surprised about is there actually didn‘t seem to be a lot of acrimony on the ground there in Minnesota.  So are residents there—do they just have a lot of patience over this?  They were OK with how long this went on, or are they a little upset?

KLOBUCHAR:  Well, you know, Chuck, when you‘ve got a six-month winter, you learn to be very patient and people have been patient about this.  They were tired of it, but they have been patient.  And part of it is that our court process—as Pete was talking about and you were talking about—our election process is renowned.  This was an incredibly close election.  No state would have been able to deal with it quickly, 300 votes separating 2.9 million cast.  It was a very hard thing, and it was done in a bipartisan way, the canvassing board.

So overall, people thought the process was fair.  And while they grumbled about the fact that it took longer than the trial of the century, the Lindbergh (ph) baby kidnapping trial, they still knew that it was fair, and I think it made it a lot easier for people to tolerate the wait.

TODD:  Very quickly, when is Senator Franken going to get sworn in, as far as you know?

KLOBUCHAR:  Well, I‘m hoping it will be next week.  We have a lot going on in the Senate.  I know he‘s ready to go on health care.  That‘s something he cares a lot about, and being up here in little towns around northern Minnesota, people really want to get something done.  So I‘m hopeful that it will be next week.

TODD:  Fair enough.  Thank you, Senator Klobuchar.

KLOBUCHAR:  Thank you, Chuck.

TODD:  Enjoy Minnesota during this recess.

KLOBUCHAR:  Well, enjoy filling in this week for Chris.

TODD:  Thanks.

KLOBUCHAR:  OK.  ‘Bye.

TODD:  All right.  Susan Page is Washington bureau chief of “USA Today.”  Mike Allen is the chief White House correspondent for “Politico.”  OK, let‘s see, Senator Klobuchar—Susan, I‘ll start with you.  Senator Klobuchar said it‘s longer than the Lindbergh trial.  I think we had an entire NBA season pass.  Sarah Palin became a grandmother.  Lots of things have happened since the end of this—from election day, and $11 million was spent.

So let‘s talk about the bigger news here, the number 60.  What does it mean?

SUSAN PAGE, “USA TODAY”:  You know, it‘s not really a magic number because you only have 60 if you get the two Democratic senators who are sick back on the floor, Senator Kennedy and Senator Byrd.  You have to hold the moderates.  You can‘t really count on, like, Senator Specter.

On the other hand, I think psychologically, it‘s a big deal.  We haven‘t had a president who has had as many as 60 votes in the Senate since Jimmy Carter.

TODD:  Right.

PAGE:  It‘s a rare thing.  It gives the possibility if you have a party line vote, which sometimes we have on an issue like cap and trade or on health care...

TODD:  Right.

PAGE:  ... that the president will be able to count on 60 Democrats, not 59.  That‘s a difference of more than one vote.

TODD:  And Mike, what are you hearing from Republicans?  What‘s the initial spin?  OK, they‘ve got their 60th vote in Al Franken.  What‘s the initial—what‘s the lemonade that they‘re trying to make out of the lemon that they were dealt today?

MIKE ALLEN, POLITICO.COM:  Well, they‘re enjoying the fact that, as you pointed out at the top, no excuses for the Democratic leadership now.  And as you know, it‘s easy to lose a senator here and a senator there.  But there‘s no question this is a huge booster shot for the president at a time when he‘s going into a very busy summer.

But Chuck, I do want to pause and pull back the camera a little bit and point out that this really underscores what a mess our election system is.  We should not have elections where there is this ambiguous of a result.  Eleven million dollars was spent between the two sides.

TODD:  Sure was.

ALLEN:  Eight months...

TODD:  On legal fees.

ALLEN:  Right.

TODD:  On legal fees.  This is since the election, yes.

ALLEN:  Right.  And in—I think, in the end, clearly, justice was done.  Every time they opened new votes, Al Franken moved ahead.  And I agree with Senator Klobuchar that it was a good process.  There was not the sort of partisanship that we had in Florida.  There was no Katherine Harris of Minnesota.

TODD:  Right.

ALLEN:  But things should not have to go through this.  Voters should not have to wonder about this.  And when there‘s a close election, there shouldn‘t be this kind of ambiguity.  Republicans here had every incentive to drag this out, not only to torture Democrats because it was close...

TODD:  Right.  Right.

ALLEN:  ... but also because they were raising money off this.  It was a good issue for them.

TODD:  It was.  Well, Mike, Susan, we‘re going to be back with both of you as we continue to await the news conference from Al Franken.  The new -the 60th Democrat in the United States Senate could be sworn in as early as next week.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD:  And welcome back to HARDBALL.  We are waiting for Senator-elect Al Franken to hold a news conference in Minneapolis.  He is now the 60th Democrat in the United States Senate—although, when he gets sworn in, possibly sometime next week.  The Minnesota supreme court unanimously rejected now ex-senator Norm Coleman‘s appeal and said Franken should be certified the winner.

Tim Pawlenty, the governor there, has already put out a statement saying he would sign that certification, possibly as early as today.  I‘m joined here, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for “USA Today,”  Mike Allen, chief White House correspondent for “Politico.”

Susan, I want to just go to Norm Coleman here for a minute.  On one hand, you could sit there and look at Norm Coleman‘s political career and say this guy has lost to a professional wrestler named Jesse Ventura in the 1998 governor‘s race and a comedian from “Saturday Night Live,” and yet he sounded like a guy running for something else today, didn‘t he.

PAGE:  You know, he‘s pressed this appeal pretty far, but he didn‘t go ahead and do the final step to (INAUDIBLE)

TODD:  Right.

PAGE:  And his remarks this afternoon I thought were very gracious...

TODD:  Yes.

PAGE:  ... and that does leave his options open.  As you know, in politics, things are never over, and just because you lose this race by 312 votes out of 2.4 million cast does not mean that you are—it is impossible for you to come back and run for something in the future.

TODD:  Now, Mike Allen, you know, what was interesting about this race to me is it did seem as if Minnesota voters were actually—you were saying, Oh, it‘s awful about this tie, you know, that we ended up having, which essentially is what it was.  It was a statistical tie, you could argue.

ALLEN:  Right.

TODD:  But the voters were sending this message—oh, they were trying to send a message to Republicans, but they hadn‘t been sold yet on Al Franken as the replacement.  You know, how did both candidates handle this protracted process?  I know with Al Franken—I know a lot of Republicans who thought that Al Franken was going to be angry or something during this process, and he really kept his cool and never—you know, never sort of got upset at what—at the lengths with which Norm Coleman was trying to continue this process along.

ALLEN:  Right.  He shut his mouth, and when you‘re Al Franken, that‘s not easy to do.  But just as during the campaign, he surpassed expectations of maybe those who thought he would come off as sort of a clown, based on his professional history.  He grew into the job and he‘s shown himself to be senatorial during this.

Now, there was a strategy behind this.  Some people said, Why didn‘t the Senate Democratic leaders muscle him in?  They could have used his vote.  It was obvious where this was going.  Why didn‘t they act on this sooner?  But there was a very deliberate reason for that, and that is they want him to be legitimate.  They didn‘t want him to look like he was hustled in.  And so this was handled very smartly on their side.  And so you‘re not going to have anyone in Minnesota who is complaining...

TODD:  Right.

ALLEN:  ... about this result, unlike Florida, which is debated to this day.

TODD:  Well, I also got two other words for you guys.  Remember Roland Burris?  And at the time when Harry Reid demanded a certificate signature of Roland Burris from Illinois during that saga, it really did put Franken in a box because, you‘re right, they could have seated him much earlier, just the way they seated Mary Landrieu, frankly, back in 1996, during an election that had been contested, but she went ahead and served.

I want to go through some numbers.  Here‘s some of the math during this long Senate race.  Fifty-one million dollars was raised by Franken and Coleman, and they spent all of it during the actual campaign.  They spent $11 million just on the recount.  Nearly 2.5 million votes were cast.  Franken‘s lead, as we know, final margin, 312 votes.  It‘s been 239 days since election day.

In that time, we‘ve had, as I said, that entire NBA season.  President Obama has been to five continents.  By the way, he‘s had three commerce secretaries.

(LAUGHTER)

TODD:  There have been two presidents, and if you throw in the fact there, probably four commerce secretaries.  Sarah Palin became a grandmother.  It is—and four other people have been appointed to the United States Senate, our friend Mr. Burris in Illinois, and of course, New York, Delaware and Colorado.  So quite...

ALLEN:  And Dick Cheney came out of his undisclosed location!

(LAUGHTER)

TODD:  And Vice President Cheney.  So what did you learn about Al Franken during this whole thing?

PAGE:  Well, you know, he showed some discipline.  And we‘ve long described him as a comedian-turned-candidate.

TODD:  Right.

PAGE:  Maybe we have to stop doing that because he did not—he didn‘t show anger in public.  We don‘t know if he was upset in private.  That‘s possible.  He didn‘t show any kind of cutting humor.  We‘ll see what he says when he comes out.  I would predict when he comes out in a few minutes and speaks to us that he‘s going to try to replicate the tone that Norm Coleman had, which was gracious to his opponent and looking forward and talking about the needs and wants of the people of Minnesota.

ALLEN:  You know, Chuck...

TODD:  Hey, Mike, is there—yes, go—well, one—one thing I want to throw at you, is there any—is there any backlash on the Republicans?  You mentioned how they used Norm Coleman as sort of this—they spent $1 million on him themselves, the two parties, RNC, the NRSC.

Did—did they spend too much money?  Will there be a backlash among some Republicans about how much they threw money into what was a lost cause, frankly, three months ago, one could argue? 

ALLEN:  Yes.  No, Chuck, I think that that‘s very astute. 

This was a net money suck—there‘s no doubt about it—at a time when Republicans need to be...

(CROSSTALK)

ALLEN:  ... money.

TODD:  All right, Mike, I‘m going to stop you here, Al Franken and Mrs. Franken coming out to cheers. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA SENATOR-ELECT:  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you for being here. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

FRANKEN:  Thank you so much. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

FRANKEN:  Franni and I are so thrilled that we can finally celebrate this victory, and I am so excited to finally be able to get to work for the people of Minnesota. 

I received a very gracious call from Senator Coleman a little while ago.  He wished me well; I wished him well.  And we agreed that it is time to bring this state together. 

Over the last eight months, as the nation has watched this all unfold in this state, Minnesotans have earned the right to take pride in the transparency and the thoroughness of our process and in the integrity of our election officials.

But during the same period, Minnesota families have continued to face real challenges.  So even though Franni and I are thrilled and honored by the faith that Minnesotans have placed in me, I‘m also humbled, not just by the closeness of this election, but by the enormity of the responsibility that comes with this office.  We have a lot of work to do in Washington, but that‘s why I signed up for the job in the first place. 

When we started this campaign way back in February of 2007, I said that Americans have never backed away from tough challenges and Minnesotans have always led the way.  Working with our fantastic senior senator, Amy Klobuchar, I‘m going to fight hard to make quality health care accessible and affordable to all Minnesotans, to make sure that our kids have an education that prepares them for a 21st-century economy, to make Minnesota the epicenter of a new renewable energy economy that frees us from our dependence on foreign oil, to restore our standing in the world, and put people to work here at home. 

To those Minnesotans who worked for me, volunteered for me, voted for me, I can‘t tell you how grateful I am.  When you win an election this close, you know that not one bit of effort went to waste. 

And to those who devoted their time and energy to supporting Senator Coleman, I can only imagine how hard these past months have been.  But no matter whether you voted for me or for Senator Coleman or for Senator Barkley or whether you voted at all, I want the people of Minnesota to know that I‘m ready to work for all of you, that I‘m committed to being a voice for all Minnesotans in the U.S. Senate. 

I know there‘s been a lot of talk about the fact that when I‘m sworn in I will be the 60th member of the Democratic caucus, but that‘s—that‘s not how I see it.  The way I see it, I‘m not going to Washington to be the 60th Democratic senator.  I‘m going to Washington to be the second senator from the state of Minnesota, and that‘s how I‘m going to do this job. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

FRANKEN:  I promise to do my best, to work hard, to stand on principle when I believe I must, and, yes, to compromise when I believe that that is in the best interests of the people of Minnesota. 

So on behalf of Franni and our beautiful kids, Joe and Thomasin, let me say thank you to the people of Minnesota for your patience, for your thoughts and prayers, and for giving me the opportunity to work for you in Washington.  I can‘t wait to get started. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

FRANKEN:  Now we‘ll take—we‘ll take a few questions.  Thank you. 

QUESTION:  When do you—when do you expect to have the election certificate in hand and sworn in?  How difficult is it going to be to come in so much later than everybody else? 

FRANKEN:  Well, I—I can‘t tell you exactly when I will be seated, but I think it will be early next week.  And it will be—coming in, in mid-session will be more difficult than having started January 6th, I‘m sure, but I have been trying to keep abreast of what‘s been going on and I will do the best I can. 

QUESTION:  Senator-elect, can you tell us—describe the moment Norm Coleman called and essentially conceded the race to you after nearly eight months of anguish and frustration.  Describe what that moment was like knowing you were going to become a U.S. senator. 

FRANKEN:  It was really—it was a very gracious call, I must say. 

He—he—I—he said it was a very hard-fought campaign.  I said it was

I said, “Norm, it couldn‘t have been closer.”  And I said to him that Franni and I can only imagine what this was like for him and his family, and he just—he just said, “This is going to be the best job you‘ll ever have.” 

QUESTION:  And you agree, I take it?

FRANKEN:  I—I hope it‘s the best job I ever had.  I—yes, I—I think it will be. 

QUESTION:  Describe that moment, when this—the weight of all this was finally off your shoulders. 

TODD:  And there you heard from senator-elect Franken.  He himself speculates that he will be getting sworn in some time early next week. 

I can tell you that he has basically a staff in waiting.  He had been trying to have a chief of staff ready to go, so that he could hit the ground as quickly as possible. 

You heard Senator Klobuchar earlier tell us that his wife had a bag packed for Washington, almost like an expectant mother waiting for the call. 

I‘m still here with Susan Page and Mike Allen. 

Susan, we were remarking to each other, in that statement about health care and energy, that Rahm Emanuel might have been able to say it.  It was saying the president‘s priorities. 

How important is hearing something like that, if you‘re this White House? 

PAGE:  Well, I think—I think it is important, because we‘re coming right into the—a critical month. 

The month of July is going to be a killer for this White House.  That‘s when health care is either going to get done or not.  And we will get some clues about whether cap and trade is going to get through the Senate, two of the president‘s top domestic priorities. 

This is a crunch time for the White House coming up.  The White House figures President Obama will never be more popular than he is right now. 

To get these tough votes through, this is the time they want to do it. 

TODD:  Right. 

PAGE:  Sixty votes in the Senate can only help. 

TODD:  And I want to talk about that 60th vote, Mike. 

He made a reference to it, and obviously had to say the politically smart thing to say for Minnesota, is:  Hey, I‘m—I‘m nobody‘s vote that you can count on.  I‘m just the second vote for Minnesota. 

But talk about this 60th vote.  I had somebody from the White House tell me during the stimulus fight, they made some compromises that, had they had one more vote in the United States Senate, they wouldn‘t have had to make, and maybe it would have meant not having Susan Collins come on, but they still would have had the votes they would have needed. 

Where else will this play a—play a role, having this reliable vote?  And—and I think Franken will be a reliable vote for the president‘s agenda.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  Where will this...

ALLEN:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  ... come in?  And who does this hurt? 

ALLEN:  Yes.  Well, this is the very time that you‘re starting to hear a lot of complaints from the left about health care being watered down too much, that they‘re giving away the store, and this will give them a little more backbone. 

Chuck, as you have seen, every signal, both from the White House and from their allies around town, in interviews, on the air, is that they are fully prepared to muscle this through without any more Republican votes than they had on the stimulus. 

So, this gives them a little calcium in their backbone, one more vote that they can count on, because you‘re right.  Franken will be one that—

Senator Franken will be one they can count on. 

By the way, how great is it that his wife is Franni Franken?  Like, you can‘t...

(LAUGHTER)

ALLEN:  It‘s so fantastic. 

But it does put in the spotlight these Senate Democrats that they can‘t necessarily count on.  So, the White House is going to need to do nearly as much orchestration as they did before.  But it helps them, at a time when they were worried about having to give away the store. 

With energy, it‘s even—even more delicate calculation than with health care, because, with health care, I think you can keep watering it down until you get the votes, and you pass it. 

TODD:  Right. 

ALLEN:  With energy, you can‘t do that, Chuck, because...

TODD:  NO.

ALLEN:  ... as you water it down, you lose votes on the other side. 

TODD:  Right. 

ALLEN:  So, it‘s a very delicate calculation. 

TODD:  Well, I will tell you this.  Energy is not a partisan battle. 

It‘s a geographic battle; isn‘t that right, Susan? 

PAGE:  That‘s certainly true. 

But, talking about health care, you know, this—this not only gives the Republicans, moderate Republicans, a little less sway on health care.  It strengthens the hand of liberal Democrats, who don‘t want to compromise on a public option. 

It makes it—it makes it—we may have a slightly different kind of bill than we would have had, not only because of the 60 votes, but because Al Franken is going to be a liberal vote who is going to be on the side...

TODD:  Right. 

PAGE:  ... of the people on the left...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  Well, a bad—a bad day from the “Maineiacs...”

(LAUGHTER)

TODD:  ... our Republican friends up in Maine. 

Thank you, Susan Page and Mike Allen. 

Up next:  Will Sarah Palin be a serious candidate for the Republicans in 2012?  A new “Vanity Fair” expose is out.  And even those who worked on the McCain-Palin campaign pan her as someone who was—quote—“nowhere ready for the job of vice president, and might never be.”

So, will Sarah Palin be ready the next time around?  We will talk to the article‘s author, Todd Purdum. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Amanda Drury with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks fell sharply today, but still managed to log their best quarter in a decade, the Dow Jones losing 82 points, the S&P 500 down seven.  And the Nasdaq finished nine points lower. 

U.S. consumer confidence fell in June, after two straight months of gains.  The drop appeared to reflect a growing uncertainty in the availability of new jobs.

Elsewhere, the Treasury Department says that it‘s stepping up the pressure on Swiss banker UBS to identify all U.S. clients with secret accounts.  A source familiar with the investigation says U.S. clients will not be able to access secret accounts starting July the 1st unless it is to transfer the money into an onshore account. 

And a federal judge today revoked Texas financier Allen Stanford‘s bond, saying he was a serious flight risk.  He‘s headed back to jail to await trial on charges of swindling investors out of $7 billion. 

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

HARDBALL. 

TODD:  And welcome back to HARDBALL, live from the White House. 

In the August issue of “Vanity Fair,” the magazine‘s national editor, Todd Purdum, has a piece called “It Came From Wasilla” about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. 

Here is one nugget from the 2008 campaign about the man who now lives in the house behind us here—quote—“At least one savvy politician, Barack Obama, believed Palin would never have time to get up to speed.  He told his aides that it had taken him four months to learn how to be a national candidate, and added: ‘I don‘t care how talented she is.  This is really a leap.‘”

Well, joining us for much more on Palin‘s leap onto the national stage it‘s not even been a year, believe it or not, since we got—the world got to know who Sarah Palin was—and what she might do next, “Vanity Fair”‘s Todd Purdum. 

Todd, I want to divide this up.  It‘s a 10,000-word must-read for Palin—for people who just obsess over Sarah Palin.  And there are quite a few folks out there.  I want to divide this up. 

First, let‘s look at what happened.  And I want to read a couple here, one about what you said one key McCain aide said, sort of what happened right when she was picked. 

One key McCain aide said—quote—“‘I think, as I have evaluated it, I think some of my worst fears, the after-election events, have confirmed that her more negative aspects may have been there.‘  And his voice trailed off—quote -- ‘I saw her as a raw talent, raw, but a talent.  I hoped she could become better.‘”

Tell us more about this—this rawness and how much of it that maybe the McCain campaign missed. 

TODD PURDUM, NATIONAL EDITOR, “VANITY FAIR”:  Well, I think they took one of the great leaps of faith in American political history.  And they were desperate. 

They needed something to shake up that race.  And she did shake it up. 

And you remember, being in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, how...

TODD:  Right. 

PURDUM:  ... dramatically she took over that convention, the kinds of crowds she got for John McCain on the stump. 

TODD:  Right. 

PURDUM:  So, in the short term, in the first 10 days or so, it seemed to be working. 

What happened, though, was, what the McCain campaign had not really taken the time to find out was that there was a whole sort of counterstory about her in Alaska that was a lot less rosy than the one they sold of a—a governor with record-high approval ratings, 80 percent support in her state...

TODD:  Right. 

PURDUM:  ... who had taken on big oil and so forth.  There was always a lot more problems with her than they knew. 

TODD:  Well, here is more of your piece. 

You say: “None of McCain‘s still-loyal soldiers will say negative things about Palin on the record.  Even thinking such thoughts privately is painful for them,” you write, “because there is ultimately no way to read McCain‘s selection of Palin as reflecting anything other than appalling egotism, heed—heedlessness and a lack of judgment.  They all know that, if that their candidate, a 72-year-old cancer survivor, had won the president, the vice presidency would be in the hands of a woman who lacked the knowledge, the preparation, the aptitude, and the temperament for the job.”

Todd, those are very tough words.  Did you have people in the McCain campaign say this to you, or did you feel like this is what they were saying—they were saying—read between the lines, this is what we‘re saying? 

PURDUM:  I don‘t want to get into sources and methods, as they say in the CIA, Chuck, but I think it‘s safe to say that, yes, I did have people who were very close to that situation say in—in very close to those words just what I have said myself. 

And I think, in some ways, it‘s—that‘s why this whole situation is interesting for history, and why it‘s worth going back to Governor Palin and the whole campaign at this late date. 

A lot of people ask me, oh, why are you going back over that old ground? 

Well, first of all, I do think it is really remarkable.  And I think it was a singular—the only way you can see it is as a singular lapse in judgment by John McCain on the most important decision he had to make as a candidate.  That‘s picking his running mate. 

And it was really out of keeping with everything he‘s always said he stood for and everything he did stand for. 

TODD:  Right. 

Did he lose—did—did any of his supporters—any of his longtime supporters, did—have they lost faith in him?  Did you get that sense? 

PURDUM:  I got the strong sense from some of them that they could not argue that they wish he‘s in the White House now.  I—I—I will say that, that they—they felt quite disappointed at what had happened, and they felt that, in some ways...

TODD:  Right. 

PURDUM:  ... the whole Palin experience was really a—a shaking experience for them. 

TODD:  All right. 

Let‘s talk about Sarah Palin‘s future.  She clearly is popular with some segments of the Republican Party. 

Here was Senator McCain himself on “The Tonight Show” back in April. 

Take a listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO,” APRIL 2009)

JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”:  Who is running the Republican Party?  Is it—is it Rush Limbaugh?  I mean...

(LAUGHTER)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  We have, I‘m happy to say, a lot of voices out there, Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty, Huntsman, Romney...

LENO:  Right. 

MCCAIN:  Charlie Crist. 

There‘s a lot of governors out there...

LENO:  OK.

MCCAIN:  ... who are young and dynamic.  And there‘s—Mitt Romney did a great job, and continues to.  There‘s a lot of good people out there.  And I have left out somebody‘s name, and I‘m going to hear about it.

LENO:  Right.  Right. 

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN:  But that‘s—that‘s what we need. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  All right.  John McCain doesn‘t make accidents sometimes.  It sounds like he knew he was leaving out a certain name. 

You certainly took it that way.  So, does that tell us that maybe...

(CROSSTALK)

PURDUM:  Well, listen, I take it—I take it—yes, I take it that way, Chuck, because, you know, I have spent a lot of time watching John McCain over these years in Washington.

TODD:  Yes. 

PURDUM:  And his invariable posture when something is uncomfortable for him—and I think this comes from his personality, from the Navy culture—he makes a joke about it, and usually a—quite a good joke and a very funny joke.

TODD:  Right. 

PURDUM:  And he has a fantastic and sort of self-knowing sense of humor. 

I—I don‘t think there‘s really any other way to read that. 

TODD:  So, you see it as, directly, John McCain basically saying, Sarah Palin should not be—should not be a part of the future of the Republican Party, as far as president is concerned.

PURDUM:  Well, he didn‘t go that far.  I mean, he didn‘t—you know, he‘s—he‘s take—he‘s been careful not to say—to rule her out. 

TODD:  Right. 

PURDUM:  Well, he didn‘t go that far.  You know, he‘s been careful not to say—to rule her out.  He had another opportunity to that say she was sort of unqualified or something. 

TODD:  He wouldn‘t do that. 

PURDUM:  So I think he‘s just tried to keep an ironic distance from it, and pretend that, you know, he knows nothing about this gambling in Casablanca.  It‘s a shock to him. 

TODD:  Let‘s take a look at more of your piece.  You followed her to

Evansville, Indiana.  And you said that “she‘s a star in Evansville and by

and probably in all of the many Evansvilles of America.  But there‘s a big part of the Republican party, the Wall Street wing, the national security wing, in which she cuts no ice.  She could do well in the Iowa caucuses or South Carolina primary, but it is much harder to imagine her making headway in New Hampshire, where independent voters, who were turned off by her last fall.  It is also difficult to see just how she would expand her appeal beyond that base that already loves her.” 

So this piece and the fact that you have a lot of McCain aides talking to you on background, off the record in various forms—do you think this is going to embolden her a little bit and she‘s going to say, you know, I know everybody, all of these glossy magazines and these political smarty pants people from Washington are writing me off.  I‘m going—you know, I‘m going big-time, whether they like it or not? 

PURDUM:  I think she is always best when she‘s—you know, the chips are down.  She‘s surprised people.  That‘s her whole stock in trade in her career.  She‘s proven to have remarkably good instincts at times.  I would not write her off.  I think it‘s significant that people in the Republican party are reluctant to write her off, because they think she‘s a forced to be reckoned with. 

TODD:  They don‘t seem to know what to do with her.  One of the other things you brought up was how she didn‘t have—there weren‘t a lot of consultants surrounding her before she was picked. 

PURDUM:  Never. 

TODD:  And all of a sudden, the McCain campaign sort of dumped a staff of 20 on her she quickly distrusted.  But there is one person who seems to be her lone political adviser.  And I‘ve gotten this from my own sources in Anchorage.  And that‘s her husband, Todd Palin.  Talk a little bit about Todd‘s role in her political world, not just in the campaign, but in everything she‘s accomplished so far in politics. 

PURDUM:  Well, you know, there was testimony in the so-called Trooper-Gate investigation that Todd Palin spent about 50 percent of the time in the governor‘s office in Anchorage.  He often participated in meetings or on calls that he had no official connection to. 

You know, here is a guy who is kind of an out doors-man, a fisherman, snow machine racer, a high school graduate.  And he has been remarkably involved in every aspect of her career.  I think—everyone thinks that he‘s her most trusted adviser.  I had the occasion to meet him very briefly in New York where he was promoting Alaska fishing at an event in Soho, in Manhattan.  He‘s a very attractive, interesting guy, who has had an interesting life, but not a typical—he‘s not the power behind the throne in a typical political marriage, let me put it that way. 

TODD:  But savvy enough to make phone calls in South Carolina, right? 

PURDUM:  Apparently so, and certainly savvy enough or not savvy enough, as the case may be, to make phone calls on her behalf in Alaska. 

TODD:  Very quickly, you will be attacked on this piece for not having a lot of direct quotes from people on the record.  Defend yourself on that. 

PURDUM:  Well, you know, one of the things I have learned as a magazine writer is, in some ways, the most useful information you get is the kind of information that people are not willing to attach their names to.  I know this is a subject of great criticism in journalism.  But I try to think of myself as not writing for the news cycle today, but writing something that 10 or 15 years from now, if people read it, they will say, gee, you know what, that turns out to be pretty close to the truth. 

If I manage to do that, I can sleep at night, even if the people are anonymous. 

TODD:  Well, there‘s no doubt you‘re one of the best writers and reporters that I have met in this business.  So Todd Purdum, thanks very much. 

PURDUM:  Thank you, Chuck and good luck.  Good night. 

TODD:  Up next, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford may have just hit another new low.  He tells the AP, in a big interview, that he crossed the line with other women, but never had sex with them.  And get this, his Argentinean mistress is his soul mate, but he‘ll try to fall back in love with his wife. 

We‘ve got the latest in the Sanford saga next in—I guess we‘re still calling it the politics fix.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD:  And we are back now for the politics fix.  I‘m joined by Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press and the “New Yorker‘s” Ryan Lizza. 

Look at the bullet that crossed from the Associated Press today.  Quote, “SC Gov tells AP mistress is his soul mate, but he will try to fall back in love with his wife.”  That‘s a bulletin, mind you.

Here is part of the longer wire that hit later: “Sanford said Tuesday that he, quote, crossed lines, unquote, with a handful of women other than his mistress, but never had sex with them.  The governor said he, quote, never crossed the ultimate line with anyone but Maria Belen Chapur.  Quote, this was a whole lot more than a simple affair.  This was a love story, Sanford said, a forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day.” 

Liz, you work for the Associated Press.  You were probably getting these bulletins as they were coming in, just kept coming and coming and coming.  At what point does you think the folks in South Carolina say, you know what, he‘s sharing too much information.  Enough of this saga. 

LIZ SIDOTI, ASSOCIATED PRESS:  Look, this is a story that keeps on giving because the governor keeps on talking and talking and talking.  It gets to the point where even reporters are going, wow, this may be too much information. 

Look, I think what this does to the governor is it raises questions about his credibility.  I mean, he didn‘t come forth at the beginning and come out and tell the whole story.  Clearly, it‘s a drip, drip, drip.  Voters, I think, can forgive affairs.  We‘ve seen it happen before.  But where they have a lack of patience and where his credibility will take a real hit is when the lies keep coming and the drips and drabs. 

TODD:  Ryan, this feels like—I said I was hesitant to call this the politics fix.  It feels like “Soap Opera Digest” and it‘s a mid-life crisis playing out in front of us.  But you do wonder, at what point do you have maybe the Lindsey Grahams of the world, Jim Demint, the two senators, say, you know what, Governor Sanford, we‘re glad you‘re trying to repair this, but stop sharing all this information? 

RYAN LIZZA, “THE NEW YORKER”:  You know, I guess I disagree a little bit with what Liz said there and what you alluded to.  As a journalist who likes to ask interesting questions of politicians, I find it unfair to criticism when they answer those questions even in a way that is surprising and seems like too much information.  You know, we can‘t—so I wouldn‘t criticize Sanford for that. 

Just on the politics of it, yes, his—other Republicans down there -

there‘s a complicated issue with who‘s coming after Sanford.  So there‘s an incentive for some Republicans to keep him in office.  But I think you‘re right about that, Lindsey Graham and some of the other Republicans who are a little bit embarrassed by this may start to say, it‘s time to pull the plug. 

But I find myself agreeing with Sanford when he says, this is a love story.  If you read those e-mails, this isn‘t your typical politician‘s sex scandal.  There‘s something very poignant about what happened here. 

TODD:  Liz, he points out, it‘s not a staffer.  It‘s not one of these things that we hear about all the time on Capitol Hill, that this does seem different.  Does that give him more leeway with the public?  Do you think the public will be more forgiving? 

SIDOTI:  No, because I think when—when anything like this comes out, it speaks to his judgment.  You can trace an extramarital affair, a love story, or a purely sexual affair back to how a leader conducts himself in office.  These are issues of credibility, judgment, leadership.  And I think all the things come into question when something like this comes out. 

TODD:  You know, Ryan, obviously, this is coming on a day when the Democrats feel really good about things.  They get their 60th Senate seat.  Yet, it‘s like all the Republicans are hearing about is this.  You know, do you think there‘s going to come a time when they‘re just like, you know, we would like to sweep this under the rug and, you know, as much as you say, good for him for filling in all the blanks, as far as people are concerned, but for the good of the party, it may be time that he‘s got to move on. 

LIZZA:  Yes.  It‘s a disaster for the party in Washington to have to be talking about first Ensign‘s affair and now Sanford‘s affair.  And these aren‘t just any Republicans.  These are people that were put up as the future of the party.  These are two people that we were all talking about as future presidential material. 

So obviously, two major blows at a time when they could use some good news. 

TODD:  I‘m going to make this easier on both of you.  We won‘t be talking about sex scandals in the next break.  We‘ll be back with both Liz Sidoti and Ryan Lizza for more of the politics fix.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD:  And we‘re back with the AP‘s Liz Sidoti and the “New Yorker‘s” Ryan Lizza for more of the politics fix.  Let‘s go to some straight-up politics.  Here‘s Al Franken earlier today accepting victory in Minnesota. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA:  So that when I do get here, we can—

I can hit the ground running. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  Well, that was older tape there of not-yet-then senator-elect Franken.  Quickly, Liz, let‘s go to what this means for the guy that works behind us in this White House.  Sixty Senate seats; what does that mean for his agenda and the pressure to get it done? 

SIDOTI:  I think he‘ll have a marginally easier time.  But let‘s remember that this Democratic party is not in lockstep.  There are many different factions of the party.  I mean, in order to make sure he gets 60 votes, he needs to get moderates like Ben Nelson to fall in line.  He needs to make sure that he‘s got the independents on his side as well. 

Sure, it‘s a good day for him, but we‘ll wait to see how much of his agenda is really going to get passed when he‘s got pressure from the left and pressure from the center. 

TODD:  Ryan, does Franken‘s election, or now formality being in the Senate, take away the power of those moderate Republicans and now move the balance of power just slightly to those centrist Democrats, the Ben Nelsons of the world, from Nebraska, Blanche Lincoln from Arkansas, make them sort of the new power center, and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, maybe they both don‘t have that combined power that they did just a couple of hours ago? 

LIZZA:  That‘s exactly right.  If you look at the stimulus debate, Chuck, with three Republicans that voted with Obama on that.  Specter, he was then a Republican, Collins and Snowe.  My understanding of the politics of that is that Snowe was a much easier vote for the White House than Collins.  So if they had had Franken in that debate, you would have had a much bigger stimulus package, and you would have had it a lot faster.  It was Collins who was holding things up at the very end. 

So if you would have had him then—if you would have had—it would have been 59 plus, you know, the two Republican votes.  It would have made a massive difference on that stimulus package. 

Now, on energy and health care, the two big issues moving this summer and then regulatory reform, I think you‘re right.  I think the balance of power moves from the moderate, centrist Republicans to these rural Democrats.  And look at the folks that have voted against Obama‘s budget.  There were three Democrats that voted against it, Byrd, Bayh, and Nelson. 

And those guys have a lot more power today. 

TODD:  They do.  Liz, fame and success in politics; obviously, we‘ve seen both parties have some success.  Will this get contagious?  Will other people look at Al Franken‘s success and say, hey, I can do this too?  There were some Democrats who thought they would get a flood of celebrities.  Is that going to happen, do you think?  

SIDOTI:  No, I think it takes a special, different person to say, I‘m going to run for Congress, or I‘m going to run for president.  I think what Franken is going to be challenged with is coming to the Senate and proving that he‘s not a comedian. 

TODD:  We will see.  I know that C-Span is very happy. 

Thank you to Liz Sidoti and Ryan Lizza.  Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz. 

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

END   

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