updated 5/19/2010 12:34:23 PM ET 2010-05-19T16:34:23

Guests: Steve Kornacki, Jonathan Martin, Karen Finney

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Relieved of command.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews, in Philadelphia.  A giant in the

U.S. Senate has been taken down.  Arlen Specter, the longest-serving

senator in Pennsylvania history has gone down to defeat at the hands of

Congressman Joe Sestak.  Sestak swept practically the entire state

today, ousting the five-term Republican who switched parties and tried

to win his sixth term as a Democrat.  It‘s a win for the gutsy

Democratic challenger and a defeat for the state‘s Democratic


The other big news out of Pennsylvania will make Democrats smile,

Democrat Mark Critz has won the seat once held by his old boss and

fellow Democrat Jack Murtha.  A win by Republican Tim Burns in that seat

would have signaled real trouble for the Democrats nationwide coming

this fall. 

In Kentucky, the tea party candidate, Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul,

easily defeated the establishment Republican, Trey Grayson, who had the

backing of, among others, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. 

Paul will face state Attorney General Jack Conway, who managed to edge

out Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo in the Democratic primary. 

In Arkansas, the other leg of the stool tonight, another incumbent

in trouble, Senator Blanche Lincoln has been forced into a primary

runoff with Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter.  And in Oregon, Senator Ron

Wyden easily won the Democratic primary.  He‘ll be the front-runner

obviously in a state like that, which is heavily Democrat.

Let‘s begin with NBC News political director Chuck Todd and MSNBC

political analyst Howard Fineman of Newsweek.

Chuck, the message out of Pennsylvania tonight, let‘s start with

the Senate race, is what?  Let‘s take a look, the victor is clearly Joe

Sestak now, what‘s the impact nationwide?

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Well, look, I think the bigger

story as far as Washington is concerned is what happened in that special

election.  And not that Democrats held serve, it‘s that they did so

fairly decisively in that special election.  I mean, look, we can talk

about Sestak-Specter, and the fact is there‘s clearly this sort of anti-

whatever you want to call it, we can call it anti-establishment, anti-

Washington, that‘s percolating, that‘s out there.

We really haven‘t seen something like this taking place in both

parties.  Mind you, Chris, if Blanche Lincoln goes on to lose this

runoff in three weeks from now, which at this point is—you look at

how close this is, a lot closer than folks thought, we‘re going to have

more Senate incumbents lose primaries or not get renominated, counting

Bob Bennett, than we‘ve seen in 30 years.

The last time there was this sort of tumult in both sides was in

the ‘78-‘88 era of both political parties when you had splits in the

Democratic Party and splits in the Republican Party.  And we‘re seeing

that play itself out a little bit. 

But I think the big sort of national lesson and the hand-wringing

that is going to take place in Washington over what happened in that

special election, because Republicans, this has got to feel like Charlie

Brown and the football for Lucy.  This was set up for them.  They went

for the big kick.  They thought they‘d get this victory.  They would

have incumbents and Democrats running scared all over the country, and

it didn‘t happen.

MATTHEWS:  And how many Democrats have won in a row now in the


TODD:  In competitive specials, I think we‘re up to seven.  Now the

streak is probably going to come to an end this Saturday in Hawaii, of

all places, but that‘s because there are two Democrats on this ballot

for the empty House seat there, and only one Republican. 

But in these competitive specials, you know, the Democratic

campaign structure on the House level is simply right now superior to

the Republican campaign structure.  Environment favors Republicans, but

what we learned tonight is a good campaign can overcome a bad political


MATTHEWS:  And we‘ve got a good organization, you‘re saying, on the

other side—the Democratic side.  You see Chris Van Hollen of Maryland

is a good chairman. 

I‘m sitting here with Howard Fineman, my fellow Pennsylvanian here,

savoring the impact, lots of impact here, a lot of sadness on the part

of long-time Specter voters, in fact, long-time Specter—people who

liked the guy, even though they were on the other political party for

all of those years.

Here‘s Congressman Joe Sestak in his victory speech tonight.  Let‘s



REP. JOE SESTAK (D-PA), SENATE CANDIDATE:  This is what Democracy

looks like, a win for the people over the establishment, over the status

quo, even over Washington, D.C.


MATTHEWS:  A bit of Howard Dean there.  Howard?


much Howard Dean, because he has immediately got to become the consensus

candidate of the Democratic establishment.  He should be reaching out to

Arlen.  He should be talking to Ed Rendell, the governor.  He should

become instantly not the insurgent but, in a Democratic state, now he

has got to flip to being the establishment candidate.

But he‘s smart enough to know that this is a year when politics as

usual of any kind is difficult to maintain.  I agree with Chuck about

Pennsylvania 12, about Johnstown.  But keep in mind the guy who won was

not an incumbent.  Yes, he was the guy that was Murtha‘s guy, but he was

not the incumbent.  He ran really close to the ground about bringing

jobs to that area.  That‘s what you have got to do to survive. 

I would caution the Democrats not to take too much comfort from

Pennsylvania 12.  I know they‘re going to be spinning it that way, but

that was the ultimate New Deal Democratic district where they‘re used to

the Democratic Party, bringing the big government programs in there.  I

think it would have been Armageddon for the Democrats had the

Republicans won that seat. 

So I don‘t think they should be crowing too much about it, the

basic feel of this is that there are 58 Democratic seats exposed in this

upcoming election, and only three or four Republican seats in the House.

MATTHEWS:  I agree, Arlen—I mean, Howard.  I‘ve been saying—

well, I‘m looking at Arlen up here on the screen.  I‘ve been saying for

a couple days now, I don‘t know if you agree with me or not, Chuck, but

had the Democrats lost that home seat, that home game in the 12th, Jack

Murtha‘s seat, they would be looking at a 40-, 50-seat loss this fall.

TODD:  At least, at least.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s look at Specter first, then we‘ll get back

to the 12th.  Arlen Specter—go ahead, let‘s do Specter first, and

then back to you, Chuck.  Everybody was watching Specter‘s result, how

do you take a defeat after 30 years of victory?  Here‘s how.  Let‘s

watching him.


SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  It has been a great

privilege to be in the United States Senate.  And I‘ll be working very,

very hard for the people of the commonwealth in the coming months.


MATTHEWS:  What a career, Chuck.  You know, I grew up here and back

when he ran the second time for D.A. in 1969, he had one of the great

campaign slogans of all time.  He and basketball great Tom Gola running

for controller.  He was running for D.A. with the slogan—you know,

Elliott Curson and David Gard (ph) take credit for this.  Here it is:

“They‘re younger, they‘re tougher, and nobody owns them.”

Here he is now at the age of 80 facing defeat.  What a career. 

What a career.  Your thoughts, Chuck?

TODD:  Well, look, it is, and you have got—this guy has touched

everything in many ways, the “magic bullet” theory in the JFK

investigation to the Anita Hill hearings, one of his more famous moments

as a sitting senator, to the fact that he came in—you know, what‘s

interesting here is, remember, he got elected in the Reagan landslide in

1980.  That‘s how he came to the U.S. Senate.

Another tumultuous year, an anti- -- at that time that was an anti-

Democratic year, certainly an anti-Washington year, tough economic

times.  And he gets ousted 30 years later in arguably what is a very

similar political environment.

FINEMAN:  Something else we‘ll say, Chris.  In talking to voters

here in Philadelphia today, as I went around the polling places, the

people who liked Arlen Specter, one of the things they said about him is

this guy has been in Pennsylvania politics for 40 or 50 years, nobody

ever accused him of taking a dime...

MATTHEWS:  So good.

FINEMAN:  ... of getting rich off of his office.  And believe me,

in Pennsylvania, you should be sainted if you don‘t over that period of

time.  So whatever else we say about him, this is a guy who took his job

seriously, who worked really hard and studiously as a senator, and was

never corrupted by money in this state.  And that‘s quite an achievement

in Pennsylvania.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go down to Rand Paul, on the other side where you

have another establishment candidate defeated, Trey Grayson, who was

sort of anointed by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.  Here‘s

Rand Paul, the upstart, the hero, I must say, of the tea party people,

the son of Ron Paul who ran for president last time.  Here he is

delivering his message on behalf of the tea party.  Here he is sort of

accepting the crown from them, let‘s listen.



message from the tea party, a message that is loud and clear and does

not mince words.  We‘ve come to take our government back.


MATTHEWS:  Chuck, what do you make of that dramatic statement?  I

mean, he‘s not just running to—well, take the government, he has to

get elected this November in Kentucky against what looks to be a

stronger than expected Democratic Party.  Because Conway, who is a

pretty slick politician, has won that the primary out there against

Mongiardo, what do you make of that fight coming up with him?  Can he

win as a tea party guy per se, or is he going to move to the center?

TODD:  I think you look at the state of Kentucky, you look at its

political make-up, you look at its recent politic history, and it‘s hard

to sit here and say that Rand Paul can‘t win.  You know, obviously Mitch

McConnell went around town and said Rand Paul can‘t win, he‘s going to

put this seat in jeopardy. 

I don‘t know, in this political environment, you know, we had years

where we called it the year of the woman, the year of this, the year of

that, this one feels like the year of the ornery guy that‘s going to

show up in Washington and just sort of, quote, “tell it like it is.”

Sestak in a Pennsylvania, possibly Rand Paul. 

But, you know, the other thing that‘s intriguing me about what

happened in Kentucky tonight is Rand Paul did something Mitch McConnell

has never down in the state of Kentucky, Rand Paul has earned more votes

in a Republican primary, turned out more Republicans in a Republican

primary in the history of Republican politics in Kentucky.

This was Mitch McConnell‘s party, it‘s not Mitch McConnell‘s party,

it‘s Rand Paul‘s party as far as what you look like tonight. 


TODD:  And I‘ll tell you, you start to look, and Mitch McConnell is

going to have to look over his shoulder now inside his own party,

because here politically he has put himself on the line in Kentucky a

number of times recently and he has actually come up short, this most

recent one being Rand Paul.

And then you look at some Republicans quietly criticizing his

legislative strategy that he has gone at the Obama administration, we

can just look at financial regulatory reform, it was his decision not to

do amendments, and, you know, we can go through this in detail. 

But not to do amendments in committee, go to the floor, and what

happened?  They have got a bill that‘s going to come out that is less

favorable than one possibly to them, as far as they‘re concerned—the

Senate Republican caucus, than they could have gotten if they played the

committee game.


FINEMAN:  ... having worked in Kentucky as a reporter, and then

having covered McConnell going all the way back to when he was county

judge, let me tell you what I think is going to happen there.  There‘s a

unity lunch or breakfast on Saturday.  Mitch McConnell is going to

embrace Rand Paul.  He already was doing it tonight.

MATTHEWS:  Will Jim Bunning be there?

FINEMAN:  Jim Bunning probably won‘t be there.  McConnell is

nothing if not a survivor, nothing if not adaptable.  I agree with

Chuck, there‘s a lot of buzz about McConnell‘s leadership.  But I would

say that McConnell‘s instinct for the jugular, that he‘s a great ground

level politician, with Rand Paul‘s outsider status, is going to make a

pretty tough combination in Kentucky.  Kentucky went by...

TODD:  If they work together.

FINEMAN:  ... 16 points for John McCain.  For...

MATTHEWS:  Does he want him to win?

FINEMAN:  Oh, they‘ll work together, Chuck.

MATTHEWS:  Does he want him to win?

FINEMAN:  Does McConnell want Rand Paul to win?



MATTHEWS:  Does he want it?

FINEMAN:  Oh, yes.  Why?  Because he wants as many votes as he can

get for Republicans in the Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I got you.

FINEMAN:  And Mitch McConnell was Rand Paul 30 years ago when Mitch

McConnell started out, coming out of South Louisville and the anti-

busing movement in Louisville.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  This is fascinating.  This is a night of the

younger guy taking on the establishment, beating the establishment in

both parties...

TODD:  Hey, Chris?

MATTHEWS:  ...beating Specter on the Democratic side, the new

Democrat—yes, Chuck.

TODD:  Really quickly, who would have thought that Ron Paul would

be the Republican presidential candidate with more influence on the

Republican Party in 2010 than any of those other guys that we covered in

‘08.  Not Fred Thompson, not Mitt Romney, not John McCain, but Ron Paul? 

Godfather of the tea party movement?


MATTHEWS:  Ron Paul, who Rudy Giuliani mocked in every debate. 

FINEMAN:  OK.  The reason for that is—the reason for that is,

whether by intention or by accident, Barack Obama and the Democrats‘

program of big programs and big spending has given the tea party types

and the libertarians that Ron Paul represents their reason for living. 

The politics of Obama has revived and amplified Ron Paul.  That‘s what

has happened so far.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I think every election is a vote, whether you like

the way things are going, you vote yes, if you don‘t like the way

they‘re going, you vote change.  Change won tonight.  Thank you, Chuck

Todd.  In every vote, change won tonight.  Thank you, Chuck Todd. 

Except out in Oregon.  Anyway, Chuck Todd and Howard Fineman.

Coming up, much more from Philadelphia on Joe Sestak‘s big win over

Arlen Specter.  Gutsy Joe Sestak he beat everybody, the mayor, the

governor, the party chair, the president, the vice president, the

unions, he beat everybody, and now he‘s the Democratic candidate in the


What do tonight‘s results say about President Obama‘s political

machine?  You just heard it.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, on a big primary

night, only on MSNBC. 


SESTAK:  Now I want to say something about someone who is truly

courageous.  Arlen Specter.  He has devoted his entire life to public

service, and he and his lovely wife Joan deserve our thanks for that. 



PAUL:  The tea party movement is huge.  The mandate of our victory

tonight is huge.  What you have done and what we are doing can transform

America.  I think America‘s greatness hinges on us doing something to

save the country. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  So what are the big lessons

learned tonight?  And what do tonight‘s results say about President

Obama‘s political muscle?  We‘re here with NBC News Andrew Mitchell and

Steve Kornacki of Salon.  I want to start with Andrea.

It seems to me that democracy works.  I always tell people when

they complain about politics, well, you get to pick these people, and

they only serve until the end of their term, and then you can pick

somebody else.  You know, and that‘s what they seem to have done this



think that youth trumps age here in this race.  We‘ll have to take a

look at the breakdown in the tea party vote in Kentucky and see whether

there is an age demographic there.  But clearly here...

MATTHEWS:  Your voice is the voice of a...

MITCHELL:  My voice is...


MATTHEWS:  ... Julie London, seasoned political observer here. 

MITCHELL:  It‘s not from anything but too much cold and not enough

tea, I guess.  But the fact is,the tea party and that reaction there,

and the anti-establishment reaction here, clearly people were ready for


So you could argue that that is an Obama kind of vote, except that

the president, of course, endorsed Arlen Specter and the non-change. 

And, you know, this was really a reaction against the Democratic

establishment in Pennsylvania.  People are angry.  People are

frustrated.  They want something different.

MATTHEWS:  Young man, could this be that President Obama engaged in

the old politics when he brought Arlen aboard as a survivor, the kind of

deal you would have imagined years ago in old politics, yes, we need

another vote, bring that guy aboard, he‘s in trouble?


MATTHEWS:  It didn‘t smack of the new breed to me. 

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM:  It really is sort of the disparity

between what works in the Senate, which is a very much behind-the-scenes

world, it‘s a clubby world, it revolves around deal-making; and what

works in the game of, you know, sort of mass consumption politics where

you can‘t look like you‘re all about deals, you can‘t look like you live

in the back room world.

MATTHEWS:  That ad killed him, didn‘t it? 

KORNACKI:  Well, it did, but, you know, it...

MATTHEWS:  The ad that showed him saying, I like the deal, it kept

my Senate seat.

KORNACKI:  Absolutely.  But, you know, I look back at this, and the

story line that seems to be emerging is, you know, it was a great

comeback win for Sestak.  But when you look at these polls going back a

year now, you realize Arlen Specter was never really actually over 50

percent in this thing.


MATTHEWS:  Yes, but he was always 20 points ahead.

KORNACKI:  It was just that nobody really knew anything about Joe

Sestak.  And they really didn‘t know there was a race.  And when people

found out there was a race, I think this might have been really simple. 

People said, you know what, there‘s Arlen Specter and there‘s the other

guy, and I‘m with the other guy, because I‘m not with the deal-maker.

MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s funny, we watch this same pattern—I

feel like Jack Germond sometimes, because I see the pattern all of the

time.  They always say don‘t look at the early polls, they don‘t mean

nothing, as Jack Germond used to say. 

And number two, whenever you see an incumbent who is not popular,

the below 50 percent, as you say, it does take some time, but then it

does happen when the other candidate, man or woman, gets his or her ads

on the air, you begin to see the voters say, well, now I‘ve got a

choice, and they go with the new guy.

MITCHELL:  And you went out today, and we were out the last couple

of days, people did not know really who Joe Sestak was, but they knew he

was not Arlen Specter, he was different.  And so I think a couple

things:  Ads really made a difference.  Specter‘s negative ad against

Joe Sestak was a mistake.  It was too negative.

MATTHEWS:  Hitting him for being relieved of command.

MITCHELL:  Yes, it, first of all, as you pointed out earlier today,

he told a lot of people who didn‘t know it that he was military.  And

this is a very pro-military state.  A lot of veterans in this state.

Secondly, the Joe Sestak ad against Specter, which you just you

pointed out, which did take things out of context, as Specter tried to

say, but that message never caught up with the original message, which

was that he was not authentic, was a deal-maker.  And that does not fly

right now.

MATTHEWS:  Here he is, by the way, on the issue which I think has

been sitting out there for a year-and-a-half now, Arlen Specter was a

Republican in this state, I think in his heart he has always been

somewhat of a Democrat in many ways. 

But he became a Republican for obvious reasons, he needed a chance

to get ahead, and he saw in the Republican Party.  But 45 years of

seeing a guy say I‘m an R, a Republican, here he is, Joe Sestak, saying

something about that tonight.  Let‘s listen.


SESTAK:  When I went to Congress just a few years ago, after 31

years in the wonderful United States Navy, I found too many career

politicians are a bit too concerned about keeping their jobs rather than

serving the public, rather than helping people. 

In the Navy, we‘re held accountable for our actions. and we should

expect no less, no less from our politicians in Washington, D.C.


MATTHEWS:  So he‘s not a politician, he‘s saying, Arlen Specter is. 

And the proof is...

MITCHELL:  Career politician.

MATTHEWS:  ... he did anything to keep his career, right?

KORNACKI:  Well, yes, and I‘ve been trying to figure out for the

last couple weeks, as it sort of became clear where this was heading for

Specter, how he could have threaded this needle.  Because if you look at

the one end, if he stayed in the Republican Party, you know, stayed

true, stayed loyal to the party, the people had come to associate him

with it, he was going to lose tonight. 

This was going to be a bad loss to Toomey on Specter‘s part. 

MATTHEWS:  Fair enough. 

KORNACKI:  So he goes to the Democratic Party, and he opens himself

up to all of the charges that Sestak just so masterfully exploited. 

It‘s sort of a radical proposition.  But I‘ve been thinking for the last

week that the best course for Arlen Specter would have been to run as an

independent.  And there‘s an example right now, if you look at the


MATTHEWS:  In what state? 

KORNACKI:  If you look at the early polling...

MATTHEWS:  They don‘t have independents in this state.

KORNACKI:  In Pennsylvania, no, believe me, I‘m familiar with it, I

come from New York, another state, you know, not too kind to its

independents.  But if you look at what‘s going on in Florida right now,

and I know it‘s very early, but if you look at what happened with

Charlie Crist going independent, he has marginalized Kendrick Meek, the

Democrat, for right now, who has now fallen to 20 percent in the polls. 

I wonder if it was so cute, Specter going Democratic, he had to

suddenly, you know, embrace card check, he had to suddenly embrace all

of these things he had never been for before.  If he had gone

independent, he could have had the moral high ground. 

He could have said this really isn‘t just about survival, this

isn‘t just about calculation, this is about me being fed up with

politics.  In that argument, I give it maybe a 15 percent chance of


MATTHEWS:  Seem me smiling? 

KORNACKI:  I give it a 15 percent chance...

MITCHELL:  Not here.

KORNACKI:  ... of working.


MATTHEWS:  ... and I know this state pretty well.  This state is so

this state likes the big lever, straight D, straight R. 


MATTHEWS:  Andrea, respond to what his theory was.  What do you

think of his theory, could he survived third party?

MITCHELL:  Not here, not here.  Not in Pennsylvania.  That said, I

mean, the party machine took a big hit today.  This was also a defeat

for, like it or not, what Arlen Specter did with the stimulus bill was

$10 billion for NIH, for cancer research. 

The governor, the mayor today were talking about that.  This was

somebody who brought home the bacon and some very, very important

projects.  But people didn‘t care about the fact that they were losing

seniority, losing a big appropriator.  They just wanted something fresh,

something different.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s talk about the president of the United

States, everybody cares about him one way or the other.  He‘s running—

it seems to me, his true north is about 50 percent.  It wobbles back and

forth, but it ends up, for some reason, about—I think that‘s about 40

percent of the white vote and the minority vote, that explains his 50


So it‘s a little wobbly for a general election re-election

candidate.  Does tonight help him or hurt him?   I think the question

is, it‘s almost like a steering wheel that has lost its control.  Does

he have any control over local elections any more?

KORNACKI:  No, I don‘t think so.  But I...

MATTHEWS:  Does he have any power to control an election?  Really,

it‘s—that‘s a tough question.

KORNACKI:  I—but I never thought—you know, the one example

that I can think of, it‘s sort of modern in the last 20 or 30 years in

politics where a politician who is not on the ballot can come in and

positively affect a race, I really have, I think, only seen it once

where the numbers really measurably moved. 

And it was Rudy Giuliani in New York City, six weeks after 9/11,

coming in for Mike Bloomberg, and positively moved the numbers.  I‘ve

seen them negatively move the numbers all the time when they‘re not on

the ballot.  But I think...


MATTHEWS:  Andrea, do you think he has got any clout? 


MATTHEWS:  Does the president have any clout?



MITCHELL:  Less clout tonight.


MITCHELL:  But—but they won...

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s...

MITCHELL:  But they won the 12th district here.  They won...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.  That was Bill Clinton going in.  That was

a big win.  We didn‘t say that.  We‘re going to talk about that later in

the show.  Bill Clinton went in for Critz in the 12th, he won the big

one.  This president—our president went in, it didn‘t help Arlen.

MITCHELL:  Again, it‘s Scott Brown.

MATTHEWS:  I know, he didn‘t help against Scott Brown.  Anyway,

Andrea Mitchell, thank you, Steve Kornacki.  We‘ll have much more on

tonight‘s primaries.  Ahead, we‘ve got a great election night coverage

coming up. 

Up next, another conservative family values law-maker, a little

side show here, falls victim to a—you don‘t fall victim to a sexual

affair, I think you have something to do with the perpetration of one. 

in this case, there‘s a twist, by the way.  This guy is big on

abstinence, so is his lover, apparently.  They mutually agreed on that


You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  This is so weird, this



MATTHEWS:  Ha!  Back to HARDBALL.  Now for the “Sideshow.”

First, talk about deja vu, yet another conservative law-maker known

for his tough stance on family values has admitted to an extramarital

affair.  This time it‘s eight-term Republican congressman Mark Souder of

Indiana, who announced his resignation in a statement Tuesday night.

The kicker here, Congressman Souder actually made a Web show video

with his mistress, an aide in his district office about a 2008 House

hearing on abstinence-only education.  Check it out.



advocate for abstinence education, and in 2006 you had your staff

conduct a report entitled “Abstinence and Its Critics,” which discredits

many claims purveyed by those who oppose abstinence education. 

What did you think of this hearing?


feel I should have probably abstained from the hearing.  When I was

chairman of the committee of which Waxman was part—the chairman was

part of my subcommittee, we did an abstinence program on how to make

them work better, and how to make any kind of program work better. 

JACKSON:  Not to prove that they failed.

SOUDER:  And his program is how we can repeal abstinence programs. 


MATTHEWS:  While they sold abstinence, I guess they weren‘t buying


This next item straight out of the right field.  Who does Rush

Limbaugh hold responsible for the oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico? 

Well, he‘s holding the Sierra Club, and other, what he calls,

“greeniacs.” See if you can follow his logic.



Sierra Club to pick up the tab for this leak?  Everybody is focused on

BP and Halliburton and Transocean.  Let me connect the dots here for

you, the greeniacs have been driving our oil producers off the land,

from offshore to way offshore to way, way, way out there offshore. 

And obviously, it‘s going to be a much more expensive, problematic

proposition to get oil from that depth than elsewhere.


MATTHEWS:  Wow, so Rush would rather have the environmentalists,

not BP, pay for the damages?  We‘ll have the executive director of the

Sierra Club, Michael Brune, on HARDBALL later today, that‘s Wednesday,

to answer to that wild one, that whopper.

Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.” A look ahead to November today, we

saw the anti-incumbent mood come out in full force.  Can Republicans

ride that wave to overtake or re-take the House?  According to odds-

makers at intrade.com, Republicans‘ chances now are 44 percent and

rising.  Republican chances are about even or almost to take control of

the House of Representatives, 44 percent, still on the shy side, but

getting there.  Tonight‘s “Big Number.”

Up next, our coverage of tonight‘s primaries continues from

Philadelphia, (INAUDIBLE) where Arlen Specter has gone down in defeat to

Joe Sestak.  It took him a while to do it, but he has done it.  Sestak

has won.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, live from Philly, only on MSNBC.




SESTAK:  Let‘s remember we don‘t just vote for change, we fight for

change.  And let‘s remember that our president needs someone down there,

more down there, because while John F. Kennedy didn‘t have it quite

right when he said one man can make a difference and every man can try,

it does take a number of men and women to try. 

Let‘s come together and let‘s prevail in November, and let‘s have a

public servant that will always be beholden to you and accountable to



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That‘s Congressman Joe Sestak, who defeated five-term, 30-year

incumbent Senator Arlen Specter tonight who was a Republican for 45

years, had been in elected office.  Sestak made the case that Specter

was an opportunist and ran a devastating ad in which George W. Bush

praised Senator Specter, that ad made a big difference up here.

Also in Pennsylvania, Democrat Mark Critz has won that special

election way out west—in western Pennsylvania, over Tim Burns the

Republican.  That‘s Jack Murtha‘s old congressional district—the late

Jack Murtha, the only district in the country, by the way, in which John

Kerry won it in 2004 but then McCain won it in 2008.  In other words, it

switched against Obama.  And that raises real questions about the

Republican Party‘s ability to win back the House, you might say, in

November, at least they don‘t look as strong as they might have if they

had won.

Down in Kentucky, a big victory for the tea party folks as Rand

Paul beat the establishment Republican Trey Grayson by a nearly 2-to-1

margin.  What an upset and a triumphant upset.  Paul will face state

Attorney General Jack Conway, who narrowly, very narrowly defeated

Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo in the Democratic primary. 

And in Arkansas, a totally race situation.  Democratic Senator

Blanche Lincoln, a centrist Democrat, has been forced into a primary

runoff three weeks from now.  Lawrence O‘Donnell is an MSNBC political

analyst, and Jonathan Martin writes for Politico.

If you had to write an essay about tonight with your personal take,

Lawrence, the topic you would begin with would be what?


anti-incumbent essay, Chris.  There was nothing worse Arlen Specter

could bring to the ballot box than 30 years of experience in Washington,

30 years‘ experience in the Senate. 

And also, this is a terrible upset for the White House political

strategy team betting on Specter as they did.  Joe Sestak, I think, has

saved the White House from having Arlen Specter as the nominee.  Sestak,

to me, looks much stronger going into November than Specter would have. 

And so they‘ve got some more strength in Pennsylvania as a result of


And holding on to that seat, though, the special election, Chris,

in many ways that is the big news of the night.  That is a real setback

for Republican momentum that everyone assumed was out there in

congressional races. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s get back to Sestak‘s victory.  Did you get a

sense, as we went to the polls this Tuesday up here, that the White

House was laying back?  That they weren‘t really trying, they didn‘t

send the president in?  Joe Biden came by the other day, spoke at his

daughter‘s graduation, getting a masters degree at the University of

Pennsylvania, but didn‘t do any campaigning, that they sort of separated

themselves and let Sestak win in the end?  they didn‘t want to be part

of any last minute effort to stop them?

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, they definitely got wise to what was happening in

time to save the president from any big embarrassments like he had in

Massachusetts, going up there on the final weekend against Scott Brown

and really losing badly. 


O‘DONNELL:  So they—you know, yes, exactly.  So they did the

right thing in the end, it was—definitely the right thing to do was

to pull back in that race.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, (INAUDIBLE) Jon, did you think that makes—you

know, there is this term I heard from David Gregory that I had forgotten

because I hadn‘t heard it since the election: “transactional politics”

as opposed to “relationship politics.” 

A lot of us grew up with relationship politics.  You make friends,

you stick with them, you go down with them until the last dog dies. 

That‘s Bill Clinton-style politics.  This transactional politics, where

you cut a deal, OK, we want your 60th vote, we want your vote for the

stimulus bill, and them our deal is not going to last forever.

MARTIN:  Right.  Well, here‘s the transaction, and this is sort of

the White House case, in April of last year, they got someone that

ultimately became the 60th vote that got them the health care bill that

they passed.  So, look, at the time it was a smart bet. 

Now ultimately they were stuck with somebody that was going to have

a tough time, given this environment, that I think they saw that a

couple of weeks ago.  That‘s why Obama never came back.  That‘s why

Biden never came back.  And that‘s why you saw this sort of distance...

MATTHEWS:  Well, he came back four days ago, but not this last—

not over the weekend.

MARTIN:  But not in the final days.  And clearly Specter wanted

Obama to come back, especially here in Philadelphia.  That didn‘t

happen.  So I think you did see the White House pull back some.  So, you

know, some liberals are unhappy about the DSCC being involved, the White

House being involved for Specter.

But again, at the time, April of ‘09, it did make some sense to get

him to change parties.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s check—let‘s go back to Arkansas, which is

a tough state for the Democrats, Lawrence, you know it well.  I don‘t

know what your views are, but let‘s find them out.  It seems to me it‘s

a state where, despite the popularity of the Clintons over the years

(INAUDIBLE) what the president, when he was governor, won five straight

or six straight elections down there, it‘s tough on a presidential

level, it‘s still a bit of Dixie, John McCain won down there by 20

points over Barack Obama, an African-American, it may have been a

factor, to say the least.

And then you also had—but Blanche Lincoln figured that she could

survive as a senator by voting against cap and trade, by voting against

health care.  Did she go too far away from the party, to her own

detriment and possible demise in this coming up—what is now going to

be a runoff in three weeks, Lawrence? 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, it certainly looks that way now.  And it‘s hard

to see how she would come out ahead going one-on-one with Halter.  All

of the other vote would have to break for her in order to do that.  It‘s

hard to see how that would happen. 

And this is a new world, Chris.  This is a new world in which

elements of the party that normally would be ineffective in a place like

Arkansas, the left side of the party, can come in there with a surge of

money, raised through the Internet, low dollar figures, and really

change the battlefield down there dramatically. 

This is a tremendous victory for the left side of the party, going

to a state where everyone thought they were unwelcome, and really

pulling off a big upset there.

MATTHEWS:  I agree. 


MATTHEWS:  Is it Pyrrhic, though?  Is it Pyrrhic for the fall?  Can

they win a general election from the left? 

MARTIN:  No, look, it‘s going to be...

MATTHEWS:  Are you sure they can‘t?

MARTIN:  It‘s going to be tough in Arkansas, at least, for either

Lincoln or Halter to win this fall.  But Lawrence is right, this is

probably the biggest win of the night for liberals, along with that

special in Pennsylvania too, because not only did they hold Lincoln

below 50, but it‘s a very, very tight race, much tighter than we


Here‘s the challenge though going forward.  That third candidate in

the race in Arkansas was a very conservative Democrat.  It my may be

tough for Halter to get some of those votes in the runoff. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I think it‘s going to be very close.  The question

is whether—to be fair, whether Blanche Lincoln was going to be win

the general either way.  And so maybe they didn‘t pay a big price. 

It is right, you are so right, Lawrence. a big victory for the

Democratic progressives winning down there in a tough state where it

looked like they were not going to do so well.  It looks they may well

win the runoff in three weeks. 

Thank you, Lawrence O‘Donnell.  As always, thank you, Jonathan

Martin. Up next, back to tonight‘s primaries and what lessons we can

apply to the midterm coming up—the midterm in November.  It‘s going

to be dicey for the Dems, according to Intrade.  The betting in Dublin

is getting awful close to 50-50 for the Dems losing control.  I guess

they‘re not quite up to date on what happened in Cambria County tonight. 

This is HARDBALL, live in Philadelphia on primary night, only on



MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Newsweek‘s Howard Fineman and Democratic

strategist Karen Finney, and both are here with some final thoughts, the

lessons learned tonight.

Please both of you don‘t say, well, those were local factors, you

can‘t draw any national conclusions.  Karen, don‘t do that to me.  Don‘t

say, “all politics is local,” like my old boss did.  I want you to say,

all politics is national and here‘s why.  You first, Karen, then Howard.

What‘s the big picture reason why the president lost with Corzine,

Deeds, Coakley, all of these big losses, and now with Arlen, his new

love, all going down to defeat in a matter of months?  What‘s going on?

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  I don‘t it‘s—I think the


MATTHEWS:  Big picture.

FINNEY:  I think the American people are saying, if you‘re not

going to pay attention and listen to us, then you don‘t get to speak for

us.  And I think that is less of a partisan message and less about Obama

than it is an anti-incumbency message. 

I think people are—I don‘t know if you remember the old “MASH”

episode where, you know, Hawkeye starts basically a riot in the mess

hall, saying, we want something else.  And I think that‘s what—that,

to me, is the big lesson for both parties.  You had better be able to—

if you‘re an incumbent, you had better be able to answer the question,

what have you done for me lately?


FINNEY:  How about that?

FINEMAN:  Well, let‘s step back for a minute, Chris.  Most of the

American people...

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t we step into that?  That was pretty good.

FINEMAN:  OK.  Most of the American people still think the country

is headed in the wrong direction, OK?  By 2-to-1.  The unemployment rate

is hovering near 10 percent.  In a state like California, it‘s 12.5

percent, some counties 20 percent. 

Barack Obama came into power as the guy who said, no more business

as usual.  So he shouldn‘t be surprised if the voters are still saying,

no more business as usual if the conditions on the ground have not

changed that much. 

So, you know, he understands this politics because this is the kind

of politics that got Barack Obama elected, OK?  Now he‘s seeing the

other side of it.  Is it all aimed at Democrats?  I don‘t know.  But the

fact is that the Democrats have the White House.  They have huge

majorities in the House and the Senate.  So they are going to feel the

brunt of this no more politics as usual thing.

In the old days, they might have been able to wire it for Arlen

Specter, even though he‘s 80 years old, even though he has been in the

House for 30 years, et cetera, even though he‘s a Republican, they may

have been able to wire it.

The machine might have been able to wire it.  But machines don‘t

wire anything any more.  Barack Obama‘s candidacy and presidency stood

for that.  He went up against Hillary Clinton.  He went against the

insiders.  He said, I‘m the new thing, this is continuing. 

The politics that got him elected is continuing to this minute.


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about two groups of people and how

they did tonight.  One is the netroots people, the progressives, the

people that—many of them watch this network quite loyally, the

netroots people that really want to see change.  They tend to be

younger.  They tend to be digital.  They supported Bill Halter down in

Arkansas heavily.  So did the SEIU.

On the other side of the political equation, the tea party crowd,

the symmetric—the doppelganger of that crowd, they both won tonight,

it looks to me.  Is that a fair assessment?

FINNEY:  No, absolutely.  But, again, Chris, I think what you‘re

hearing from both sides of the spectrum is, we will not be dictated too

about who we‘re going to support.  If you think back to New York 23,

where you had sort of the backlash in the—initial backlash, frankly,

in the Republican establishment, where local Republicans said, you don‘t

get to tell us who our candidate is.

I think Martha Coakley, a big part of her problem, she assumed that

it was going to be her seat, and voters said, no way, you don‘t get to

just decide it‘s your seat, we get to decide.  And similarly, I think

the galvanizing support that you‘ve seen from the left, for Bill Halter,

they also are pretty strongly supportive of Joe Sestak.  And similarly

for the tea party.  Same idea, we get to decide.

MATTHEWS:  Karen, I need some time to thank you and—Howard

Fineman and Karen Finney.  Thank you, Karen, especially.  And, Howard. 

And good night, Mrs. Fineman, wherever you are.  When we return—

Howard‘s mom.  When we return, the highlights from this big night

tonight.  You‘re watching HARDBALL.  That‘s an old—“good night, Mrs.

Calabash,” in the old days of Durante.  Only on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL on this big primary night in my

hometown.  It‘s great to be home.  And what a night it has been

politically.  Here‘s a look back at some of today‘s and tonight‘s



MATTHEWS:  We‘re back, and with the news, the Associated Press has

projected Rand Paul as the winner of the Republican primary for the

Senate in the state of Kentucky.

PAUL:  I have a message, a message from the tea party, a message

that is loud and clear and does not mince words, we‘ve come to take our

government back.


CANDIDATE:  We saw the numbers coming in, and we figured out what was

going to happen.  I looked at the girls and I said, you‘re going to have

your daddy around a bit little more.

PAUL:  People say to me, what can one man do, what can one senator

do?  What I say to them is, it‘s more than just me, it‘s you, it‘s a

nationwide movement.  And what I say to Washington is, watch out, here

we come.


Andrea Mitchell is now reporting, I‘m being told at this hour, two top

Specter supporters telling NBC News Specter cannot overcome this margin.

MATTHEWS:  People care about how—you care about your politics,

everybody who votes cares about their politics.  To be so casual about

it, to say, oh yes, I switched parties because I didn‘t want to lose, it

reminds me of the guy who puts on the woman‘s dress to get in the life


OLBERMANN:  The Associated Press has just called this race for Joe


SESTAK:  This is what democracy looks like.  A win for the people

over the establishment, over the status quo. even over Washington, D.C.

SPECTER:  And it has been a great privilege to be in the United

States Senate and I‘ll be working very, very hard for the people of the

commonwealth in the coming months.

OLBERMANN:  For the special election to fill this seat right now,

Republican Tim Burns has now conceded to the Democratic Mark Critz in

the special election in Jack Murtha‘s old district, the 12th district,

Mr. Critz was formally an aide.

MARK CRITZ (D-PA), HOUSE CANDIDATE:  You know, we all worked so

hard through this campaign.  And we stuck to our message, it‘s about

Johnstown.  It‘s about western Pennsylvania.  It‘s about jobs.  It‘s

about the economy.  That‘s what we‘ve been talking about.  That‘s what

people want to hear.  And that‘s why we run. 

You know, the voters of this district won a great victory tonight. 

But it‘s bittersweet. you know, because we wouldn‘t be here right now if

Jack Murtha hadn‘t been taken from us too soon.


won in the Democratic Senate primary in Arkansas.  But it looks like

that there will be a runoff.

SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS:  Let me tell you, he thought

people were going to write us off, they thought they could write us off,

well, guess what?  They‘ve got another thing coming. 

LT. GOV. BILL HALTER (D), ARKANSAS:  You know, this is a great

outcome for us and our team.  These folks are excited.  As we‘ve

discussed, they‘re going to take five hours off to celebrate, and after

that, everybody is getting back to work.  We‘re going to finish this in

21 days.


MATTHEWS:  In 21 days, we‘ll do it all over down in Arkansas.





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