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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for April 25

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Jerry Brown, Charlie Black, Jenny Backus, Rick Wade, Ron Reagan, Kate O‘Beirne

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  John McCain in a crew-neck sweater out there in New Hampshire announces for president.  Will the second try be the lucky one?  If so, he‘ll have to beat Obama, who a new NBC poll has ahead of him.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Tomorrow night at 7:00 PM, NBC News anchor Brian Williams will moderate the first Democratic presidential debate live from South Carolina State University.  For 90 minutes, the Democratic candidates will debate the top issues facing Americans today.  MSNBC will have all-day political coverage tomorrow.  I‘ll be hosting a “HARDBALL College Tour” from South Carolina State University at 5:00 PM with special guest Elizabeth Edwards.  MSNBC‘s Keith Olbermann will join me for pre- and post-game—post-debate coverage.  More on this later.

Plus, looking to recapture his frontrunner title, Senator John McCain made his campaign official today with a formal announcement in New Hampshire.  And a HARDBALL exclusive tonight, a new poll by NBC News and “The Wall Street Journal” finds McCain trailing Barack Obama in a head-to-head match-up for 2008.   Obama leads 45 to 39.  That‘s a big change from just 15 months ago, when McCain led Obama by 5 points.  We‘ll talk to one of McCain‘s top advisers later in the program.

But first, what‘s it take to make it in a presidential debate?  We have three former presidential contenders on tonight, Al Sharpton, Jerry Brown and Pat Buchanan.  But we start with “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson, who is live on the scene in Orangeburg, South Carolina, his hometown.  Eugene, are you happy to be home, sir?

EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST”:  Yes, I am, Chris.  I had a wonderful—oh, we got a cheering section in the back!  I had a wonderful home-cooked meal at my parents‘ house earlier today, which is about maybe a thousand yards from where I‘m sitting right now.  If you look beyond those wonderful young people behind me, it‘s the empty lot where my elementary school was, Felton (ph) Training School.  So this is really a homecoming for me.

MATTHEWS:  You know, it used to ran for president up in the snows of New England.  Has that changed?  Has the geography and the ethnic factor changed from New England to down there in South Carolina?

ROBINSON:  It has.  It‘s changed for the better, as far as I‘m concerned.  It‘s a lot more comfortable, although it‘s a little sticky down here.  I mean, this is a great place to have the first Democratic debate, I think, if for the only reason that the African-American vote is so crucial in the Democratic primaries this year and so kind of up for grabs between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and John Edwards.  It‘s going to be interesting to see how they connect in this town that‘s home to two historically black universities.  It‘s going to be fascinating.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me—I want to ask you about what it feels like down there as an African-American.  I know reading some geography and history, the cotton culture still rules the geography and populations in this country.  African-Americans have always been—in fact, they‘ve often been—before the Civil War, I think were the dominant racial group in South Carolina.

Does it feel different down there, where it‘s not really a minority status, it‘s a large piece of the population, half the Democratic vote?  Is there a sense of solidarity, of consciousness of African-American heritage or what?  How‘s it different than just being a minority generally in this country?

ROBINSON:  It‘s—you know, for me, for somebody who‘s from here, it‘s a sense of overwhelming change.  I never could have imagined when I went to school, you know, 50 yards back that way, that we‘d be in this situation, that there would be a—you know, the leading Democratic presidential candidates would come to South Carolina State University, you know, a black school in Orangeburg, to have their first debate, that among them would be a black man, that among them would be a woman.  This is just incredible.

And you know, just the little bit of time I‘ve had around Orangeburg today, you can just sense how people feel the occasion, feel the moment, you know, how important this is and how much it signifies the change you were talking about, that this is the important voting block in South Carolina, and South Carolina is one of the states that‘s really going to determine this nomination.

MATTHEWS:  Is Barack Obama going to get a big welcome down there?

ROBINSON:  You know, he did the last time he came here.  A couple months ago, he came down to speak to the other historically black school here, Claflin University, where my mother used to be the librarian.  And he got a very warm welcome, including some people who were surprised at how much they liked him and  how—it was a very kind of warm reception.  So you know, I anticipate that, as well.

But this is a very sophisticated town and sophisticated voters who will be weighing policy positions.  And one thing people will be wanting to hear is specifics from Obama of the kind that we hear from Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s great to have you.  I‘ll see you tomorrow night.  Gene Robinson, back home at South Carolina, at South Carolina State University, the debate site for tomorrow night.

How do candidates get ready for a big debate like tomorrow night, and what do they hope to get out of it?  Let‘s ask two former Democratic presidential candidates, the Reverend Al Sharpton and California attorney general Jerry Brown.

Reverend Sharpton, I have to talk to you first about something that‘s in the news.  Who were you with on the phone the other day when Barack Obama was so rudely interrupted at the lectern?


Well, I never really answered it.  He teased and said, Is it Hillary calling, I guess because both of them were wondering where we‘re going to go in terms of endorsements.  I told him it was his wife giving me his grocery list, but I don‘t know who it was.  I really hung up the phone.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you were—boy, you were courteous.  So he wasn‘t, like, jabbing you for being a Hillary ally, was he?

SHARPTON:  Well, I think if he thought that, he wouldn‘t have been there.  All of the main candidates came to the convention.  And if he was that intimidated, he—certainly, he didn‘t show it by showing up and making his pitch.  And I think that speaks for itself.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re a powerful man.  You‘ve gotten more than a million votes up in New York at different times.  I can see why they‘re there.

Let‘s go to Jerry Brown, the attorney general of California, former two-time governor of that state.  Governor Brown, you were in a debate for president in 1992.  We were covering it closely.  You took a shot, I think a direct one and an appropriate one, at Hillary Clinton‘s business as a lawyer.  Her husband came to her defense, slipped past you.  But you had the goods, but it didn‘t seem to do any good at the time.

JERRY BROWN (D), CALIF. ATTORNEY GENERAL, FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE:  Well, it‘s not just how you appear in a debate.  That‘s important.  The main point is you want to sustain it.  So you want to make a good impression.  You want to look presidential.  You have to exude a certain gravity or plausibility as a chief executive of the country.

And the second and equally important, not make a mistake.  Don‘t say something stupid because that eliminates far more people than any other cause.  And then thirdly, you have to be around for the next debate and the next debate.  And here you have Hillary who is really ahead, I think, who has the institutional momentum of the party, and she has to maintain that status.

Now, Obama, on the other hand, he‘s the newer, the fresher, he‘s got to prove not only that he‘s dynamic and interesting but that he has that plausible presidential character or aura.  It‘s, Do you look like a president?  Can we imagine you in that role?  I think that‘s the key to the debate, not making a mistake by saying something stupid and looking presidential and not trying—people say policy, I don‘t think it‘s policy.  It‘s presenting yourself in a way that people without resistance can imagine you as the leader of the party, and ultimately, the leader of the country.

MATTHEWS:  Reverend Sharpton, you have a quick wit, as everyone knows, and you‘re quite funny, but I sometimes think you make it up on the spot.  Jerry Brown just said that‘s dangerous.  Is it, for somebody who‘s trying to catch up, to trust their wits?

SHARPTON:  I think that they must trust their wits, but I think that Governor Brown is right, they have to know where they‘re going, and their wits ought to take them to where they look dependable and trustworthy and that they do not become so passionate that people say, Even if I agree with them, I don‘t know that I trust them to have a balanced enough view to be president.  I think a debate‘s as much about selling a persona as it is about selling a policy.

MATTHEWS:  How do you catch up, though?  Let‘s take a look at these three candidates—Biden, Dodd and Richardson.  They‘re all credible people.  They‘ve had long careers.  And yet they‘ve got to catch up to the other three candidates, Obama, Hillary and Edwards.  How do they have the patience out there not to look too randy, too anxious to get on television?  You know what I mean.  I mean, can they play back and hope that people will notice that they‘re heavyweights?

SHARPTON:  I think they‘ve got to say something that is different.  They‘ve got to say it in a way that is provocative without looking like they‘re being inflammatory.  I think they‘ve got to expand the discussion and give the impression that if they weren‘t there, people wouldn‘t be talking about these issues, and therefore I‘m here because the three frontrunners don‘t have the courage or the incite to discuss issues that you really care about.  If they can do that, they give themselves a reason to be on that platform other than their own egos.

BROWN:  Hey, Chris, I think one of the big possibilities here is that the top three maintain their positions, that if these minor candidates, if they can hang in there, nobody gets 50 percent.  If nobody gets 50 percent because it‘s a proportional vote through all these states, then you‘re going to go to the convention, and each of these candidates can have a voice on who they pick.  And the fact that somebody has 42 percent doesn‘t make 50 percent.  And those who are the bottom can pick the second or the third, if they‘re close together.

So I think we‘re facing the prospect that you could have a brokered convention for the first time...

MATTHEWS:  Let me—let me...

BROWN:  ... if these candidates hold together.

MATTHEWS:  Reverend Sharpton, you respond to this.  It seems to me, if you look at the numbers, 60 percent of the vote in these early Democratic tests are women.  If Hillary just gets half the women votes, just half the women as the women with a real shot to win the presidency, she can get 30 percent of the primary vote.  It seems to me that may be enough to win almost every one of these contests in a field that‘s seven or eight wide.

SHARPTON:  Well, I think...

MATTHEWS:  How can she lose?  I have a hard time figuring how she loses this thing.

SHARPTON:  On paper, you‘re right, I mean, but stranger things have happened.  On paper, I think you‘ve got to watch that.  I think you raised something else, Chris.  If I was there tomorrow night, I would be very careful that I don‘t look like we‘re a bunch of men up there beating up on Hillary because the question becomes, Are you going after the frontrunner, or do you look like men beating up on a woman?


SHARPTON:  If I was Hillary, I‘d lay back and let them take their best shot.  She may win by becoming the one they go after.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s how she‘s won in the past, right?

SHARPTON:  I think she has.

MATTHEWS:  She was attacked.  And when she was attacked, when she had problems with the situation in the White House with Monica and all that, she always looked like the victim and people liked her.  When Rick Lazio went after her, remember, in New York state—you were watching that debate...

SHARPTON:  He killed himself doing that.  And I think that—I think I‘d be very careful how I handle her tomorrow night, particularly when the whole stage are all men and then Ms. Clinton.  You don‘t even have a woman asking the questions.

MATTHEWS:  God, you got a feminine side, Reverend!  You have read this well.  I think you‘re right.  Let her play defense.  Let the other guys have the ball.

Thank you very much.  Governor Brown, Jerry Brown, the attorney general of California, the Reverend Al Sharpton.

And tomorrow, as we‘ve been telling you, it‘s the first-in-the-country Democratic candidates‘ presidential debate.  The candidates will meet at South Carolina State University for their first test, moderated by NBC‘s Brian Williams.  That‘s tomorrow at 7:00 PM here tomorrow night, right here on MSNBC.  We‘re going to see if any of the candidates can deliver a zinger like this one back in ‘84.


PRES. RONALD REAGAN:  I will not make age an issue of this campaign.  I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent‘s youth and inexperience.



MATTHEWS:  Walter Mondale laughed, it was over.  Speaking of Ronald Reagan, next Thursday, May 3, I‘ll moderate the Republicans‘ first debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi valley, California.  What an honor that‘s going to be.  Two big debates coming up, both here on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Which candidate will be the number one target in the first Democratic presidential debate tomorrow night at South Carolina State University?  And who stands to break out of the pack?  Big questions, offense and defense tomorrow night.  MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan is no stranger to presidential debates.  And HARDBALL political analyst Bob Shrum knows firsthand how candidates prepare for debates.

Bob, it‘s good to have you here.  Let‘s talk about being one of those guys—well, let‘s try to be John Edwards tonight.  You know him well.  You‘ve worked with him in these kind of situations.  How does John Edwards prove his seniority over Obama, prove that he‘s been in the business longer, he‘s a more credible candidate?  How‘s he do it?

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, HARDBALL POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think he‘s going to try to own a couple of issues that are really critical.  One is health care, especially where he‘s put out a big health care plan.

Look, as Pat knows, when you got all these people on stage, no one person can win in a conventional sense, so you have to go in there with a strategic purpose and objective.  Edwards‘s is going to be to own health care.  Obama I think has an opportunity, because they‘re all demanding substance under the sizzle, to instead of saying that he‘ll offer a health care plan in two or three weeks in a speech, provide one right there in the debate.

MATTHEWS:  OK, substance, do you think that will work, Pat?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I wouldn‘t—I mean, health care...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, substance generally.  Is it a smart move?

BUCHANAN:   I think what Obama does—Obama‘s—he‘s got—you go after your negatives.  Your negative on Obama is, Is this guy qualified and heavy enough to be president?  You not only show your humor—I think he‘s got the golden opportunity here.  Show some knowledge, show some wisdom, and really present yourself as—don‘t go after Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Present yourself as a real and more attractive alternative, the future, we‘re new.  He‘s got ideas.  And he is—I think Jerry Brown was right, this guy can be president of the United States.  That‘s what you want him to say coming out...

MATTHEWS:  So push the charisma button.  Push the charisma.

BUCHANAN:   Well, you have...

MATTHEWS:  Just talk to the crowd.

BUCHANAN:   You got to—no, you got to have substance.  He‘s got to have substance because that‘s his problem.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  The Nixon-Kennedy debate, the most famous debate we all watched growing up, Kennedy basically ignored Nixon and went right to the audience.  He spoke—he had that wonderful eight-minute opening statement.  He talked to the audience and ignored Nixon.  Is that smart for Obama, you‘re saying, go to the audience?

BUCHANAN:   Go straight to the audience.  Don‘t go after Nixon.  Nixon fouled up by seven or eight times, I agree with Senator Kennedy.


BUCHANAN:   He was supposed to be above Kennedy.  Kennedy raised...


MATTHEWS:  ... Henry Cabot Lodge got to him beforehand and said erase (ph) the assassins (ph) image, right before he went on the air.  He got him to chicken out.

Anyway, let‘s ask about the other candidates.  Imagine you‘re one of the three other candidates, the senators and Richardson, Dodd, Biden and Richardson.  You‘ve got a good career behind you.  People know you‘ve got the track record.  But nobody sees you in the mix at the top.  Bob, how do you get the press to start paying attention to you, and the public?

SHRUM:  They‘ve got to make a distinctive argument, and I haven‘t heard one so far.  I mean, I think that Chris Dodd and Joe Biden like to talk about all their experience on the Foreign Relations Committee, Bill Richardson at the U.N. and in negotiating.  But experience is kind of a threshold question.  If people decide that Obama has enough experience, Edwards has enough experience—and I think they believe absolutely...


SHRUM:  ... that Hillary has enough—then experience is not a cutting-edge issue.  It can‘t get you into the race.

MATTHEWS:  OK, what about—what about...


BUCHANAN:   -- Richardson—I think Richardson has an opportunity because he‘s got a terrific persona.

MATTHEWS:  I agree with that.

BUCHANAN:   He‘s got a sense of humor.  He smiles.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s big.

BUCHANAN:   He‘s a different guy.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s lost a lot of weight, but he‘s still a big presence.

BUCHANAN:   And he can think of some lines of wit and stuff like that to make him stand out.  It‘s much tougher for me to see how Biden and Dodd do it.  I can see how Kucinich is going to identify with Obama.  Four other candidates (inaudible) is going to say voted for this war.  Obama and I were the only two really opposed to it.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think that—I think that—how does Hillary deal with—Hillary Clinton, the senator from New York—how does she deal, Bob, with what looks to me there‘s going to be an—a pincer around her from all sides—you authorized the war, you‘re part of the problem, you‘re not part of the solution.  How does she deal with that?

SHRUM:  I don‘t think anybody will say that in that way straight to her unless it‘s Kucinich.  I think she is not going to attack Obama because I think that strategy has failed.  And what she really needs is a kind of break-out-of-the-box, Sister Souljah moment in reverse.

For example—and now Pat and I can disagree—I think she might think it‘s smart to say that she was for renewing the assault weapons ban and for closing the gun show loophole before she gets asked.  They‘re all going to get asked.  It would surprise people if she did that.  It would make her look like she wasn‘t taking the safe, conventional course.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think she‘ll honestly take on the 2nd Amendment in this presidential campaign?

SHRUM:  Well, I think the NRA‘s going to take her on, so I think...


SHRUM:  ... that this would be a moment of apparent bravery...


MATTHEWS:  I hear she‘s going to demur on this.

We‘ll be right back with Pat Buchanan and Bob Shrum.  They‘re staying with us.

And up next: John McCain today makes it official.  He looks good out there.  He‘s running for president.  But can he get enough momentum to regain that frontrunner status of the “Straight Talk Express”?  Remember that one?

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Today, I announce my candidacy for president of the United States. 



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was Republican Senator John McCain, of course, formally announcing his candidacy for the White House today. 

Joining me now is Charlie Black, campaign adviser for Senator McCain.  And still with us, our MSNBC political analyst Patrick J. Buchanan, and HARDBALL political analyst Robert Shrum. 

Thank you, gentlemen.  We have a pro joining us now.  It‘s like old times week here.


MATTHEWS:  Charlie Black, one of the great stalwarts of your party. 

Let‘s take a look at these poll numbers.  Respond.  Here‘s the new NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll.  It shows McCain trailing Giuliani 33 to 22 percent.  But watch out for Fred Thompson at 17.

These numbers are interesting.  It looks to me like McCain needs to have a flatter field to win.  He needs to have more candidates for him to win.  It helps him if other guys come in, because it brings down Giuliani. 

CHARLIE BLACK, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  Well, I don‘t think it makes that much difference, how many people are in there, Chris. 

First of all, national polls are meaningless in this process, as you all know. 


MATTHEWS:  OK, Jack Germond. 

BLACK:  Go look—well...

MATTHEWS:  Why are they meaningless? 

BLACK:  Well, because you have to do well in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, or it won‘t matter how you‘re doing in the big states and in the national polls. 

If you go look at the—the consensus of polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, McCain is either even or slightly ahead of Giuliani and everyone else.  Everyone can see he has got the best organizations in those states.  So, John McCain starts off in pretty good shape, as he offers himself today as the most experienced leader. 


MATTHEWS:  How do you deal with the regulars, the political regulars, that always have problems with a maverick? 

BLACK:  Well, you know, that‘s inside-the-beltway stuff and activist stuff. 

MATTHEWS:  No.  I‘m talking about every—I‘m talking about every activist.  Every time you go to a local Republican community, my sense of it is, they—they think McCain isn‘t a wait-your-turn kind of guy.  He‘s not a guy who plays by the rules.  And, you know, he is not a regular kind of Republican. 

He is a guy who goes out there and plays to the media.  He does his own thing.  They don‘t like that. 

BLACK:  What Republican voters want and what the American people want is a president who is authentic, who is an unselfish leader, who does not play politics or put their own self-interests ahead of principle. 

Sure, John McCain tells it like he sees it.  That might not always agree with mainstream Republican opinion, although it usually does -- 82 percent lifetime ACU rating.  But he—he means what he says, and he will do what he says. 



BLACK:  And that‘s what people are looking for. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you approve the shot he took today at Rudy Giuliani, the direct shot, in his opening speech? 

BLACK:  I don‘t...

MATTHEWS:  You heard what he said. 


MATTHEWS:  He went after...


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at what he said about the New York communications systems before 9/11, pretty direct shot against the local folk. 


MCCAIN:  ... confront a catastrophe, natural or manmade, they have a right to expect basic competence from their government.  They won‘t accept that firemen and policemen are unable to communicate with each other in an emergency because they don‘t have the same radio frequency. 


MATTHEWS:  That‘s a direct shot against Giuliani. 

BLACK:  Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

MATTHEWS:  There‘s no other way to read it. 

BLACK:  But the federal government has been working on... 


MATTHEWS:  Charlie, there‘s no other way to read it. 

Bob is laughing. 


MATTHEWS:  Bob, was that a direct shot against Giuliani, or what? 


BLACK:  The federal government has been addressing that issue since 9/11. 


MATTHEWS:  Shrummy.


MATTHEWS:  ... from the Democrats.

SHRUM:  I usually get—have to get in the position of disagreeing with Charlie, but this one is easy.  That was a shot straight at Giuliani. 

BUCHANAN:  That was a sucker punch. 



BUCHANAN:  ... know it was in there. 


BLACK:  Well, look, the federal government has been trying...

MATTHEWS:  He starts the game by punching the guy in the stomach. 

BLACK:  The federal government has been trying to address that issue since 9/11.  Maybe we‘re talking about government at all levels.  The point is, McCain is promising to take on big problems, take on big challenges, and try to solve...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me—let me—let...


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s do Occam‘s razor here.

BUCHANAN:  Come on, Charlie.


MATTHEWS:  He has got one guy ahead of him in the polls.  That guy was mayor of New York before 9/11. 


MATTHEWS:  That guy was in charge of the police and the firemen in New York.  That guy would have been responsible for giving them the same radio frequency to be on. 


MATTHEWS:  That‘s the guy he went after right now to start his campaign. 

BLACK:  This is John McCain‘s day to announce, to present his candidacy to the American people.  We‘re not criticizing other candidates today. 

We do believe that John McCain is the most experienced leader to win the war on terror, to tackle federal spending... 

SHRUM:  Charlie is really churning out this message. 


MATTHEWS:  Is this how you‘re going to honor Ronald Reagan‘s 11 commandment, say no evil of a fellow Republican?  Is this going to be the strategy? 

BLACK:  Well, if you look at the record, John McCain has been more positive and less critical of other candidates...

MATTHEWS:  Until today.

BLACK:  ... than anybody who has run. 



BLACK:  Look, again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I hope nobody takes it...


MATTHEWS:  Bob, would you review here how well Rudy Giuliani and—rather, John McCain is honoring the 11th commandment, made famous by Ronald Reagan, today of saying no evil of a fellow Republican? 


SHRUM:  Well, he is threatened by Giuliani.  And he went after him.  I don‘t think it necessarily was a very smart thing to do, because, in the end, I think McCain has a stronger position with Republican primary voters than Giuliani does.  I think, as they get to know more about him and social issues, he is going to have bigger problems. 

You know, the funniest thing in the speech today—and I‘m sure that McCain has no idea of this—the refrain line that he constantly used, “That‘s not good enough,” is from the announcement speech of another front-runner, a front-runner who failed, Ed Muskie, in 1972. 

BUCHANAN:  You know, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Well, you never—I mean, the second time might work, Both.  What do you think? 


BUCHANAN:  I don‘t think—I do not believe that Rudy Giuliani, with all the—the issues he has got, can be nominated by the Republican Party, or else the Republican Party will dramatically change. 

I think the front-runner is John McCain, for the reason he is a guy sitting there with two pair, and he is scared to death somebody is going to draw three of a kind.  But I don‘t think Rudy can go through it, Chris.  I know you do.  And he has so far.

MATTHEWS:  Because security seems so important this time, more than anything like values. 

BUCHANAN:  But, you know, it‘s just...


BUCHANAN:  It‘s not like it‘s—it‘s affirmative action, amnesty...

MATTHEWS:  I know.

BUCHANAN:  ... gay rights, abortion. 


MATTHEWS:  It‘s your party.  It was your—are you still a Republican or not?  Where do you stand on that right now? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I‘m an independent conservative...

MATTHEWS:  I thought you were. 


BUCHANAN:  ... who generally votes Republican. 


BLACK:  If you go out and watch John McCain campaign, and do town hall meetings 14 hours a day, you will know he is not afraid of anything. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s true.               

BLACK:  He has a good time campaigning. 

MATTHEWS:  He likes to fight, too, doesn‘t he? 

BLACK:  He‘s—he very sincerely—he likes to fight. 

BUCHANAN:  Showed that today.


BLACK:  But he also—he can make peace when he needs to. 

And he would like to go out there and help America solve these big problems. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he believes...

BLACK:  If he doesn‘t win, listen, this guy has had a wonderful life. 

But he thinks he‘s the best man to do it.


MATTHEWS:  We have Pat Robertson on here occasionally.  Is he an agent of intolerance? 

BLACK:  Again, this is John McCain‘s day for us to talk positively. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, didn‘t he—didn‘t he call him an agent of intolerance?

BLACK:  That...


MATTHEWS:  He called Al Sharpton an agent of intolerance.  He was just on this show.

BLACK:  Let me tell you what else.  John McCain, he is a great reconciler.  He has reconciled with people who might have been offended by his last campaign. 


MATTHEWS:  But he did say...

SHRUM:  He‘s been reconciling a lot.


BLACK:  ... just like he‘s—just—he has reconciled with John Kerry and with the people of Vietnam also. 


BUCHANAN:  Is he going to reconcile with Giuliani? 


MATTHEWS:  ... for $1?  But, anyway...

BUCHANAN:  Is he going to reconcile with Giuliani? 


BLACK:  They are currently reconciled.  They are good friends. 



MATTHEWS:  He‘s going to—Mr. Mayor, whenever you get those radios figured out in New York, between the radio—the firemen and the policemen, we will be buddies again. 

Charlie Black, thank you. 

BUCHANAN:  Thank you, Charlie.

BLACK:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  But he is playing rough. 

Anyway, Pat Buchanan and Bob Shrum, it is great to have pros on the show, including Charlie. 


MATTHEWS:  Up next, we are going to go back down to South Carolina State University for a preview of tomorrow night‘s Democratic debate.  I will be down there tomorrow with Keith Olbermann, Andrea Mitchell, Tucker Carlson, and Joe Scarborough.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Bertha Coombs with your “Market Wrap.”

A day to remember on Wall Street, for the first time ever, the Dow crossing the 13000 mark decisively—the final numbers, the blue chips up 136 points, at 13089, the S&P 500 up 15, the Nasdaq adding 23 points.

Stocks getting a spark from the biggest increase in durable goods since December, led by increased demand for commercial aircraft—another report, though, showing weakness in housing.  The new home sales were up last month 2.6 percent, but that was half as much as what Wall Street was looking for. 

And there is no housing slump when it comes to Gwyneth Paltrow.  In her world, things are just rosy—“The New York Post” reporting she and her husband have nearly doubled their money on a Manhattan apartment they bought two years ago.  The couple originally paid $8 million for their condo.  They are selling it, or at least are in contract to sell it, for roughly $14 million.  Must be nice. 

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


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Tomorrow‘s Democratic presidential candidates debate at South Carolina State University is the first-in-the-country debate.  And you can only see it here on MSNBC.  South Carolina State is the first historically black college or university to host a U.S. presidential candidate debate. 

But making history is nothing new to this school, which its alumni simply call State. 

Here is MSNBC—or NBC‘s Martin Savidge. 


MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  For over 100 years at South Carolina State University, they haven‘t just taught history.  They have helped to shape it. 

Founded in 1890 as South Carolina‘s only public college for African-Americans, political science professor Willie Legette says it was the state‘s answer to separate but equal. 


UNIVERSITY:  It was created largely to train largely former slaves. 

SAVIDGE:  By the 1950s, things were changing.  State, as it‘s known, and its students became one of the first Southern institutions to take on the struggle of civil rights. 

But the school‘s proudest cause also led to its most tragic moment. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get that stuff out of the way.


SAVIDGE:  February 8, 1968, students protesting a local whites-only bowling alley were fired upon by state police. 


SOUTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY:  The darkness turned to light, and the gunfire went off, and it sounded like an eternity. 

SAVIDGE:  When it was over, three young people were dead, and 27 were wounded in what would become known as the Orangeburg massacre. 

HERMAN BOLLER, WOUNDED IN 1968 SHOOTING:  Just a waste.  Why would they do that?  There wasn‘t any reason for it, for what happened, over a bowling alley. 

SAVIDGE:  But tragedy couldn‘t stop South Carolina State.  Today, nearly 5,000 students are enrolled at this school committed to making higher learning not just accessible, but also affordable. 

Many students come from deeply disadvantaged families.  Eighty percent of them qualify for financial aid.  State offers futures that might otherwise have been impossible. 

It nationally ranks fifth in minority degrees in biology and fourth in minority degrees in mathematics. 

Katrina Chisolm is studying nuclear engineering. 

KATRINA CHISOLM, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY STUDENT:  When I came here, I wanted to do something different and be challenged, so I know that, when I get out there, I could do it. 

SAVIDGE:  In its 2006 college ranking guide, “The Washington Monthly” rated SCSU number one in the nation for social mobility, meaning, from where their students start to where they are when they graduate is a greater distance than at any other school in the country.  No wonder State now draws students from around the globe. 

VESNA POPAC, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY STUDENT:  If they want to experience something, you know, if they want to get a good education, be on a very, very good team that has a great team spirit, I would definitely tell them to come here. 

SAVIDGE:  The school leads in sports, as well as academics.  The women‘s tennis team is bound for the NCAA championships. 

HARDEEP JUDGE, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY TENNIS COACH:  Our tennis team stands out because of the individuals on the tennis team.  They are so diverse. 

SAVIDGE (on camera):  Today at this university, it‘s not enough just to succeed.  They are out to excel. 

(voice-over):  The national spotlight of this political debate offers that opportunity. 


think this debate will certainly help people, in terms of coming to an understanding of what South Carolina State is like. 

SAVIDGE:  And, by hosting the Democratic presidential debate, South Carolina State continues its long tradition of shaping history. 

Martin Savidge, NBC News, Orangeburg, South Carolina. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Martin Savidge.

We know now where the debate is going to be held and who is going to be there, but the big question remains, what‘s going to happen in the debate?

John Harwood is political editor for “The Wall Street Journal” and chief Washington correspondent for CNBC.  Jenny Backus is the consultant now for the South Carolina Democratic Party. 

Well, you first, John. 

This seems to be the big one, in terms of this season, for the Democrats. 

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it‘s certainly the big one to get things started.  And it‘s going to be the first time we see Barack Obama on stage with Hillary Clinton, at a time when he has become pretty competitive with her. 

John Edwards, of course, is running third.  He may want to try to differentiate his candidacy from those other two to try to get in the game. 

And, of course, Chris, as you know, all of those lagging candidates, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, they have got to try to make something happen to try to get in this race. 

MATTHEWS:  Jenny, do you know whether Obama is going to close with Hillary tomorrow night, actually engage with her?  Or is he going to talk to the crowd and continue his charismatic appeal to the people generally? 


I think they are all on their way down here.  And there is so much excitement for all these different candidates. 

Martin talked about the three students whose lives were lost in the Orangeburg massacre.  In an amazing story, tomorrow night, we will have a community celebration, with 3,000 people from the community, in addition to the 800 people going to the debate. 

Obama is scheduled to be there.  Hillary is scheduled to be there.  And it‘s in a gymnasium named after those three students.  It‘s just—and it—it shows you how far everything has come and how things have changed down here. 

And I got to tell you, it‘s a feeling of almost like a convention.  I mean, we have 600 media credentials to cover this debate down here.  It‘s the same level that you would see at a convention.  It‘s starting so early.  And it‘s—it‘s really rocking. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this the only state in which most voters on the Democratic side are African-Americans? 

BACKUS:  Is this the only university that—this is only.

MATTHEWS:  The only state.  No.  Is this the only state, South Carolina? 

BACKUS:  It‘s the first state where African-Americans are critical in the primaries.  Fifty percent of the primary electorate in this state are African-American.  And this part of the district, this part of the state is home to a lot of potential primary voters. 

So these candidates are not only here to kick butt on the debate, but they are here on a major recruiting trip.  This is where they are going to sign up volunteers.  This is where they are going to find a huge bulk of undecided voters for the primary. 

MATTHEWS:  John Harwood, which of the other candidates besides the top two, Hillary and Obama, are we likely to see a real run by tomorrow?  I mean, really going to try to make the most of this, do we know yet? 

HARWOOD:  I don‘t think we know yet.  I would expect Bill Richardson really to try to make a move.  Hispanic voters are a wildcard in this race.  He is the first Hispanic candidate with a legitimate set of credentials to run for president.  He has got a good resume.  He comes from a part of the country that later on in the process is going to be very important in this 2008 race.  So I would expect Richardson might try to make something happen. 

MATTHEWS:  What role will Bill Clinton play?  Is he coming tomorrow to accompany his wife, Jenny, do you know? 

BACKUS:  There are hot rumors that he may be coming.  We don‘t know yet.  Obviously we know that President Clinton is tremendously popular with all Americans, but especially with African-Americans. 

But right now the excitement level is just so high, Chris, I anticipate you are going to get mobbed when you come on campus. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, not as much as Bill Clinton will be.  I‘m just wondering—come on, Jenny, is Bill Clinton going to be in the spin room spinning for Mrs. Clinton—for Senator Clinton?  It seems to me that would be the best spinner she has got. 

BACKUS:  Well, look, I‘m not doing strategy for the Clinton campaign, I‘m staying neutral on this.  But I certainly think he is a huge asset for their campaign.  And we‘ll see what happens. 

MATTHEWS:  John Harwood, let me ask you about the other candidates.  It seems to me the ones in the toughest position tomorrow, John Edwards can claim he is the hometown kid.  He can play that card.  Hillary is, of course, the only woman on the thing.  And of course, Obama is the only African-American.  They all have distinctive characteristics which sell just by them showing up. 

How does Joe Biden, how does Chris Dodd, how do they—how does Kucinich, how do they get in this debate? 

HARWOOD:  Well, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd have got to come in through the area of foreign affairs.  You know, Chris Dodd is the leading foreign policy spokesman for Democrats in the Senate.  He may want to talk about Iraq which, of course, is the number one issue in American politics. 

The problem for him is that the Democratic positions on Iraq are so similar to one another.  Chris Dodd has got to try to find a way to make people take him seriously.  He did fairly well in fundraising.  He has got $7 million in the bank.  That‘s more than John McCain does.  So he certainly has an argument for why he ought to be in, but he has so far not registered in the polls. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, John Harwood and Jenny Backus. 

We‘ll see you both tomorrow night for the debate. 

And when we return tonight, much more on the debate with HARDBALLers Ron Reagan and Kate O‘Beirne. 

And as we go to break, a great debate moment from 1960 in the first-ever televised debate between in this case Kennedy and Nixon, underscored the glamour gap. 



NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT:  I think Mr. Nixon is an effective leader of his party.  I hope he would grant me the same.  The question before us is, which point of view, and which party do we want to lead the United States? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Nixon, would you like to comment on that statement? 


NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT:  I have no comment. 


MATTHEWS:  No comment.  And a week from tomorrow, I will moderate the Republicans‘ first debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.  That‘s next Thursday.  The “first in the country debates” for both parties, incidentally, both here on MSNBC.  HARDBALL returns after this.  


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, it is one day now before the big Democratic debate.  The “first in the country debate” which you can watch here and only here on MSNBC.  What can you expect to hear from Hillary, Obama and Edwards?  And can any of the other candidates join them at the top?  When HARDBALL returns.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Tomorrow the Democratic contenders for president debate each other for the first time in South Carolina.  And we‘ll have all of the action for you here on MSNBC and 

Plus, new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll numbers out tonight.  Which of the presidential candidates is showing the most momentum?  Kate O‘Beirne is Washington editor for The National Review.  Ron Reagan is a radio talk show host.  And also we have got radio talk show host Rick Wade who is a senior adviser to the Obama campaign.  There he is.

Rick, thank you for joining us. 

According to the new Zogby poll, John McCain leads the pack of Republicans in South Carolina.  Does anybody want to venture a comment?  Let‘s go to the Democrats because it is tomorrow night.  The Zogby poll also shows Hillary Clinton and Obama neck and neck in South Carolina. 

Rick, is that the way you see the race down there right now in the Palmetto State? 

RICK WADE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, absolutely.  Thanks, Chris, for having me.  No, it‘s going to be a very close race.  Both candidates have spent a lot of time here and they will continue to do that.  Barack Obama is providing the kind of vision for change.  And I think it‘s really catching fire here.  So I‘m not surprised at all.  And that gap will continue to close. 

MATTHEWS:  Who will get the bigger hand when he shows up tomorrow, she or he?  Hillary or Obama? 

WADE:  Well, without question, Barack Obama will have the bigger hand. 

I think his vision is catching fire here.  He is connecting with voters.  And he will do extremely well.  We expect that he will obviously win South Carolina before this is all over. 

MATTHEWS:  Ron Reagan, thanks for joining us.  This is the first time really that minorities—they are not exactly a minority in South Carolina.  African-Americans are a hefty part of the population down there.  And historically always in fact a large part of the population of South Carolina.  This is something new for the Democrats.  They are not trudging through the snow this time.  They are going down to the old cotton fields really in terms of our culture.  Different strategy in terms of letting who has the voice early here. 

RON REAGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Yes.  It‘s true.  It is going to be interesting to watch this debate.  There are a lot of things happening.  A lot of dynamics there for people like Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, this is really make or break.  They have got to bust out there. 

I think Bill Richardson has a chance because he has got some foreign policy chops.  And Iraq is going to be a topic.  When you look at the three top contenders, Obama, Clinton, and Edwards, there is an interesting split there. 

Of the three of them, Edwards is the only one who is saying we‘re getting out of Iraq, period.  Not we‘re going to do a phased redeployment, not we‘re pulling some of the troops out.  We‘re getting out, period.  It will be interesting to see how that clash plays out. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Do you think that he will go after Hillary Clinton for supporting a residual military force in Iraq? 

REAGAN:  He may well, he may well.  He may go after Obama who has suggested—has suggested at least something similar. 

MATTHEWS:  Really? 

REAGAN:  Well, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean, he‘s not pure? 

REAGAN:  I don‘t think he is. 

MATTHEWS:  Rick, is that true?  I want you to check him, is it true that Obama is now somewhat for removing our troops from Iraq or he is for it? 

WADE:  Well, wait a minute.  Let‘s remember Barack Obama‘s original position, that we never should have been in Iraq in the first place. 

MATTHEWS:  No, we are talking about his current position.  Is he for withdrawing troops from Iraq or is he for keeping some there? 

WADE:  Well, he was for not going in the first place.  But yes, he is for a transition of troops, he has offered a plan, from Iraq.  We believe, Barack believes that that is the best hope for bringing stability to Iraq by transitioning our troops from there.  Bringing the Sunnis and the Shia all together to the table of peace.  And that‘s exactly what he has proposed. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that would be nice if anybody could do that.  Do you think anybody short of the lord can do that, Rick?  What magical ability does your candidate Obama have to bring the Sunni and the Shia together after 1,300 years? 

WADE:  Well, the strength that he does bring is he understands what

leadership is about.  I mean, he understands that our position in the world

that the world can‘t do this alone and they certainly can‘t do it without America.  And that‘s what this is going to take.  Bringing people together.  That is a tremendous strength of Barack Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s an interesting argument.  I‘m surprised to see you believe that the American people, the American military and our government has a role in the internal affairs of Iraq. 

Let me go to Kate O‘Beirne.  Were you shocked today that John McCain in his crewneck sweater, looking youthful, out there running in the beauty of New Hampshire today, took a direct right between the eyes shot at Rudy Giuliani, saying the radios for the police and the firemen should match up, they should be able to communicate during crises?  A direct shot. 

KATE O‘BEIRNE, WASHINGTON EDITOR, THE NATIONAL REVIEW:  Chris, I was sort of surprised.  He also took a shot at President Bush with respect to leadership on Katrina, Walter Reed, despicable kind of attention some of the wounded were getting at Walter Reed. 

I was surprised because it seems to me John McCain‘s challenge is to solidify Republicans.  They aren‘t much interested at the moment, I don‘t think, in seeing the Republican candidates taking shots at one another when Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi pose such large targets, which is what Rudy Giuliani did in contrast. 

On the other hand, I guess people around John McCain are looking at those—him tanking in polls of independents.  And saw today I guess as an opportunity today to get back that old momentum. 

MATTHEWS:  Kate O‘Beirne said tonight that the John McCain campaign is tanking. 

O‘BEIRNE:  No, no, among independents. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, among, independents.  OK.  Thank you, Kate O‘Beirne. 

We will be right back with you, Kate, Ron Reagan, and Rick Wade. 

And tomorrow at 5:00 Eastern, once again, as we get ready for the Democratic debate, it‘s the HARDBALL “College Tour” tomorrow night, live from South Carolina State University which is hosting these debates.  Our guests will include primarily starting with Elizabeth Edwards.  She and her husband were my guests on the “College Tour” back in December. 



MATTHEWS:  I love it.  You‘re great.  Behind every great man there is a woman trying to kill him. 


ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS:  He has great characteristics... 

MATTHEWS:  What is it?  What—does she do this?  Does she bite your balls like this when you come home? 


MATTHEWS:  When you give a speech, does she do that? 

E. EDWARDS:  My children are watching. 



MATTHEWS:  One day away from the “first in the country” debate for the Democratic presidential candidate.  We want to know what you think about them right now.  Go to our Web site,  You can see right now to rate the candidates yourself. 

We are back now with the HARDBALLers, The National Review‘s Kate O‘Beirne, and radio talk show host Ron Reagan, and Osama—I‘m sorry, Obama senior adviser Rick Wade. 

Rick, when you want to start and give us a preview—don‘t laugh, Ron.  It was a mistake.  Ron, do not laugh. 

REAGAN:  I am not saying anything. 

MATTHEWS:  Rick, can you start and give us a scenario for tomorrow night, how you think your candidate will do? 

WADE:  Yes.  I think he will do real well.  You know, and for him, this is not about who wins or loses this debate.  He is going to talk a great deal about his vision for America and how he wants to affect change. 

Certainly about those issues like Iraq as well as those that affect South Carolinians.  And by the way, Chris, actually on Friday he is holding a town hall meeting in Charleston in South Carolina to make these issues very relevant to the people in South Carolina. 

So you know, he is excited.  And it will be a good debate that we look forward to. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we are hoping—we think he is running a very exciting campaign, of course, like everybody else does.  And we would love to have him—if you have any influence with him, Rick, we would love to host him on a HARDBALL “College Tour,” which is extremely expensive for us to do, but we would be glad to foot the bill to have Barack Obama as our prize guest. 

Do you think you can make that happen? 

WADE:  Well, you know, the way you say that, you know, except for the lord, maybe I can do that. 

MATTHEWS:  Ha, ha, except for the lord.


WADE:  But one of the things that is exciting, you see the energy here at South Carolina State University. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh I know.

WADE:  And this is the.

MATTHEWS:  I have seen it.  I was out there in.

WADE:  The kind of energy.

MATTHEWS:  I was there in Springfield, Illinois.  I do not need to be sold.  This guy does draw crowds and excitement.  Let me go to Kate O‘Beirne. 

When you look at this, is this going to hurt the Democrats in the general election next time, or are they going to be able to prove themselves as a legitimate alternative to Bush in the next night, tomorrow night?

MATTHEWS:  One day away from the “first in the country” debate for the Democratic presidential candidate.  We want to know what you think about them right now.  Go to our Web site,  You can see right now to rate the candidates yourself. 

We are back now with the HARDBALLers, The National Review‘s Kate O‘Beirne, and radio talk show host Ron Reagan, and Osama—I‘m sorry, Obama senior adviser Rick Wade. 

Rick, when you want to start and give us a preview—don‘t laugh, Ron.  It was a mistake.  Ron, do not laugh.  I mean, is it good for the party to have a big whack ‘em whatever campaign debate right before the public on national television?  Is it good?

O‘BEIRNE:  Sure.  I think so.  Sure. 

MATTHEWS:  Even if they fight with each other. 

O‘BEIRNE:  I don‘t know that they are going to do that much fighting with each other.  I do think that both Senator Obama and former Senator Edwards will be taking some shots at Hillary, certainly on Iraq.  She is not where they are.  I don‘t think she is where the energy is.  Maybe on health care.

And the exciting personality is Barack Obama.  I think others are going to look a little tired and like old news on that stage. 

MATTHEWS:  Ron, given the polls, it is a great opportunity for the Democrats to win the presidency next year.  Will the debate tomorrow night help them do that? 

REAGAN:  Well, it can.  I mean, the worst-case scenario is if Hillary and Barack Obama went at each other hammer and tongs in some sort of ugly way, but I do not expect that they are going to do that.  Yes.  Absolutely, it is good.  It is good for them to get out in front of the public all in one place at one time. 

MATTHEWS:  Great.  Thank you very much, Ron Reagan, Kate O‘Beirne, and Rick Wade. 

Tomorrow, live coverage of the Democratic debate in South Carolina all day long beginning at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. 

And joining me for a special HARDBALL “College Tour” at 5:00 Eastern, from South Carolina State University with Elizabeth Edwards as we get ready for the first debate of the presidential campaign, tomorrow at 7:00 p.m.  Eastern right here on MSNBC.  Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”



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