Guests: Chuck Todd, Marvin Kitman
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
New Hampshire at zero hour: Edwards 19, Clinton 28, Obama 41.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is our moment.
This is our time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This could have been the other candidate‘s last moment.
Senator Clinton plays the terror card: Referencing the first week of Gordon Brown in England.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don‘t think it was by accident that al Qaeda decided to test the new prime minister immediately. You‘re hiring a president to be there when the chips are down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Fear and tear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: This is very personal for me. It‘s not just political.
It‘s not just public. I see what‘s happening. We have to reverse it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And seconds later, she attacks Obama. New Hampshire could be a blowout. Could New Hampshire be the final score for the Democrats?
For the Republicans, New Hampshire at zero hour: McCain 34, Romney 30, Huckabee 13. McCain rips Huckabee‘s foreign policy inexperience and rips Obama.
New Hampshire at zero hour: Reality two, fox noise nothing. Angry mob of Ron Paul fans send Hannity securing to the safety of room service and Bill O stalks Obama, shoves an Obama staffer, the Secret Service gets involved and he denies he shoved an Obama staffer or the Secret Service got involved.
And there‘s tape.
And did I mention there is Puppet Theater? You son of a bitch. I can edit that out that son of bitch part later. All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
(on camera): Good evening. This is Monday, January 7; 302 days until the 2008 presidential election. It is hard to believe after six years of being buffeted by Republicans ranging from Saxby Chambliss to Dick Cheney to Rudy Giuliani about how only they can keep the nation safe from terrorism and the Democrats equal death. That any Democrat could walk into a primary polling booth in New Hampshire tomorrow and vote for a Democrat who has just done virtually the same thing. But on the fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight: On a day in which she‘d already tear up at one moment and then attacked Barack Obama the next, on a day on which she had already invoked Martin Luther King and President Johnson in a dubious analogy to herself and Senator Obama. Senator Hillary Clinton this afternoon played the al Qaeda card. As a “USA Today”/Gallup poll finding the one-time front-runner once again lagging behind Senator Barack Obama, the latest lead 13. They were tied in this survey just three weeks ago, Senator Edwards in third at 13 percent. Senator Clinton not crying about that this morning in a conversation with reportedly undecided voters in Portsmouth. Not crying at all but close enough. In response to a question about how does it, how does she keep so upbeat and so wonderful, Mrs. Clinton turning from upbeat to emotional.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: This is very personal for me. It‘s not just political.
It‘s not just public. I see what‘s happening. And we have to reverse it. And some people think elections are a game. They think it is like who‘s up or who‘s down. It‘s about our country. It‘s about our kids‘ futures. It‘s really about all of us together. Some of us put ourselves out there and do this against some pretty difficult odds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Sounds great, doesn‘t it, about it not being just political but also personal? Perhaps by personal, Senator Clinton meant personal attacks on her other candidates because in the very next sentence, instead of reversing it, she started to attack some rivals who sounded an awful lot like Senator Barack Obama. We rejoin the senator already in progress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Against some pretty difficult odds. And we do it, each one of us, because we care about our country. Some of us are right and some of us are wrong. Some of us are ready, some of us are not. Some of us know what we will do on day one and some of us haven‘t really thought that through enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: It gets worse. As we mentioned, later this afternoon, at event in Dover, Senator Clinton playing the fear card by pointing out that one day after Gordon Brown took office as a prime minister of Great Britain there was failed attempt to double bombings in Glasgow in London.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I don‘t think it was by accident that al Qaeda decided to test the new prime minister immediately. They watch our elections as closely as we do, maybe more than some of our fellow citizens do. They play our, you know, allies. They do everything they can to undermine security in the world. So, let‘s not forget you are hiring a president not just to do what a candidate says he or she wants to do in an election. You‘re hiring a president to be there when the chips are down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Alas, wait, there‘s more, as if having drawn inspiration from the Karl Rove playbook were not bad enough, Senator Clinton making an another analogy in which she appears to be President Lyndon Johnson and Senator Obama seems to be Dr. Martin Luther King in not a good way quoting her, “Doctor King‘s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act. It took a president to get it done.” Senator Clinton had been hoping to bait Senator Obama into responding in kind to any of her comments today. She failed. The new frontrunner is sticking with the positivity that seems to be fueling his success.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And some are thinking in terms of our constraints. And some are thinking about our limitless possibilities and the American people are tired of hearing about why we have to be divided and why we have to shout at each other and why children have to be poor and why folks have to not have healthcare and why we‘ve got to live in a politics of fear all the time. And why we have to be afraid of each other. People are tired of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: On the Republican side, the seeming almost home field advantage and seemingly not yet kicked in for former Massachusetts governor, Willard Mitt Romney, even in the state adjacent to the one he used to run. The Gallup Poll on Republicans giving Arizona senator, John McCain a four-point edge over Governor Romney though the margin of error is five points, its 21 points for McCain over former Arkansas nominee, Governor Mike Huckabee. Despite or perhaps because of those numbers, even Mr. Romney seemed to be getting on the Obama bandwagon this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘ve brought change to every organization I‘ve been involved with. That message by the way are bringing really change is sweeping the country, looking for somebody who‘s outside the Washington system that will make a difference. Even Barack Obama on the other side of the aisle, why is there such enthusiasm about Barack? It‘s in part because he‘s not one of the insiders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And to tell you a second generation American politician talking there about being an outsider. We‘re focus on each of the races in the moment.
First: The bigger picture from our correspondent David Shuster who‘s joining us now from Manchester, New Hampshire. David, good evening.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC - MANCHESTER, NH: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: As somebody who‘s attended events for both, most of the candidates both in Iowa and now on New Hampshire, how‘s the mood changed?
SHUSTER: Well, first on the Democratic side, Keith, great anxiety among the Clinton camp. I mean, before in Iowa there was a sense that they have some control over events. Now, there‘s a sense that events here in New Hampshire are largely out of their control and yet, there‘s Hillary Clinton trying to change things. In Iowa, she wasn‘t taking any questions. Now, she has shorten her speech, she‘s taking question after question at these town halls. She is drawing more contrasts with Barack Obama. She is suggesting, as you heard, that he‘s not ready from day one. She‘s mentioning that over and over.
As for Barack Obama: Huge excitement in his campaign. His campaign, Keith, almost seemed overwhelmed by the large crowds showing up and that people who are not able to get into the event because of the long lines, the media that‘s not able to get access because the rooms are so jam-packed. As for John Edwards: Great exhaustion. He‘s in the midst of a yet another 36-hour marathon just like he did in Iowa.
On the Republican side, Keith, Mike Huckabee has some sort of resolve that I think he‘s feeling now. His campaign says that he‘s really a bystander. But they do hope that Huckabee can get into double digits. A victory in New Hampshire not as crucial for Mike Huckabee. John McCain:
Great satisfaction after beating Mitt Romney. A guy that everybody in the McCain camp simply doesn‘t like. They believe the magic is back for John McCain. And then, for Mitt Romney, again, incredible nervousness tonight. He has poured a ton of resources in New Hampshire just as he did in Iowa and yet they fear another loss. Keith?
OLBERMANN: David, obviously, we have touched on these three extraordinary events for Senator Clinton today. But the stuff we are not seeing, she‘s on the air with another two-minute ad that run there in local news in New Hampshire just as she did in Iowa before the caucuses there. Have the ads become more negative from her or from anybody else?
SHUSTER: Keith, not from her. Hillary Clinton has not gone with negative ads but she has in a sort of press opportunities when she‘s talking to the media, when she‘s talking to the crowd, she is drawing these distinctions of Barack Obama and suggesting that he‘s not as pure on taking on the lobbying interests as Barack Obama likes to suggest. And again, repeating this idea that Barack Obama does not have the experience necessary to make the kind of changes that everybody wants.
On the Republican side, Mitt Romney has run a ton of negative ads going after John McCain. That may be the source of some nervousness for Mitt Romney because Romney himself has been called a phony by some of the editorialists here in New Hampshire. And there‘s also some fear in the Romney campaign that his negative ads have not worked and that he will be the one who‘s hurt by them.
OLBERMANN: When it comes to undecided voters and turnout with those elements to say nothing of the idea of the independents, how do we expect both of those crucial factors to play out tomorrow?
SHUSTER: Well, Keith, it does appear the undecideds are still relatively high and that maybe just because of the great interest in both sides, in both races here. As far as turnout, all the models are suggesting that turnout will also be very heavy, again, because of the great interest. But here is the one factor that everyone is watching for and that is independents. Independents in New Hampshire, they can go either way. There‘s the sense that John McCain, he was fuelled by independents eight years ago when he won in New Hampshire. But there‘s also a sense that independents can make a huge difference for Barack Obama if they decide to break in to Democratic race and register and essentially vote for Barack Obama. So, those are the ones to watch, 45 percent of the state are registered independents. Those are the ones that everyone is predicting will cause turnout here to be massive, again, because there‘s such great interest here in New Hampshire in both of these races.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC‘s David Shuster for us in Manchester. Great, thanks, we‘ll talk to you tomorrow, sir.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: As promised, let‘s look in depth at each race. First at the Democrats. Our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” is the author of this week‘s cover story on the Democratic frontrunner. Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: When she was asked today whether her campaign was in panic, Senator Clinton responded well, I‘m not. When you are invoking Dr. King against the African-American candidate, let alone the Democrat who seems to have Karl Rove as a campaign advisor as evidence by her invoking the al Qaeda reference there, is it not fair to say that, you indeed, are panicking?
WOLFFE: Well, of course, you never see panic on her face. And panic can be measured in all sorts of different ways. And if you look back a couple of months, the Clinton campaign was known for couple of things when it was ahead in the polls. One was message consistency and the other was being cool under fire. What we‘ve seen over the last couple of months even before the Iowa results was a huge amount of chopping and changing of messaging and a distinct lack of coolness under fire. And look, these tactics that they‘re using now, the al Qaeda card, had been a signal for some time, notably through President Clinton. If it was 2004, these would be great tactics, but the Democratic Party and the electorate in general has moved on.
OLBERMANN: About the al Qaeda comment, maybe on being na‹ve, but given how vehemently and how correctly Senator Clinton erupted last July after that Eric Edelman letter, the one in which she was told that just asking about the logistics of getting troops out of Iraq would be reinforcing enemy propaganda, how could she come that close to echoing Rudy Giuliani? The day before the primary, they probably decide whether or not she has a chance on this thing. Did she just lose more Democrats than she could have possibly gained independents?
WOLFFE: Well, again, I don‘t think Democrats are in any mood for that kind of tactic, especially when there is an inspirational candidate running on the other side. And the crowds I see at Obama‘s events are not just there to pick a winner I mean, or even to pick a president, to use Hillary‘s phrase, they‘re really there to be witnesses to what they talk about as being history in the making. So, that‘s a powerful thing to overcome. Not for some time the Clinton folks have been saying, as long as people think that this is an inconsequential time, maybe because Iraq has fallen off people‘s radar a little bit, well, because they don‘t think about terrorism, if it‘s inconsequential then, maybe they‘ll take a gamble on the new guy. And I think those fears are being played out, at least the fears inside the Clinton camp.
OLBERMANN: About the new guy, who coincidentally as we are discussing this, asked why we have to live in a politics of fear all the time and politics of fear was invoked in the primary. How has Senator Obama held up onto this increased scrutiny, the larger media entourage and this basically, twice capacity crowds that he‘s facing?
WOLFFE: Well, they are extraordinary crowds. And look, Hillary Clinton has been getting great crowds. In any normal election, 1,000 people in New Hampshire would be phenomenal. But Barack Obama‘s getting 2,000 and 3,000 people. So, the crucial thing here is look, he‘s feeding off the crowds. I‘ve seen him do. A number of very dull and less loss performances back in Iowa, now, in New Hampshire with this kind of energy behind him, his stump speech has gotten sharper. The media attention, I mean, look it‘s positive attention for him. So, of course, he‘s enjoying it. This isn‘t the period where if you go back a few months, the Chicago papers were trolling through his property deals and his relationships with property dealers in Chicago. So, this is not the kind of media attention that he has to combat. He has to ride this wave and that‘s what he‘s doing.
OLBERMANN: Senator Edwards, picking up any support and if there is any, might it becoming something away from Clinton much the way he did in Iowa?
WOLFFE: He is a little, creeping up in the polls here. But most notably, in the national polls. Look, he is a long way behind any kind of front-runner status. But his numbers have crept up on those national polls as Hillary Clinton has declined and in those national polls, an 18-point lead for Senator Clinton just in mid-December is now a tie.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, give me this briefly. I‘ll ask Jon Alter for the Republican version of it later, which piece of data from tomorrow do you think that‘s going to tell us the most about the chances in the election of whoever the Democratic nominee will be?
WOLFFE: (INAUDIBLE) is right. Look at those independent votes. Because, if Obama is going to actually build this working coalition then, pulling in independent voters which is where American elections get decided is going to be crucial. So, yes, the young voters side is important but if Democrats are going to break out and really nail this general election, they‘ve got to build a bigger majority and that‘s where the independent numbers are so important.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek.” Great thanks.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERAMANN: Got to get them in all age and this reminder about tomorrow night, the New Hampshire primary, up bring you our wall to wall coverage here on MSNBC beginning at 6:00 eastern, 3:00 pacific. Chris Matthews will join me along with the full resources of MSNBC and NBC News on a night that will be at minimum pivotal for both parties and quite possibly decisive for one of them.
To that point Chuck Todd on the chances it‘s already Obama, Jonathan Alter on the modeled Republican field, standing in such stark contrast to the Democrats. And for those of you who had January 2008 as the month that angry crowds finally took to the streets to embarrass host from FOX Noise. You‘re our winner. The guy followed by the angry villagers there is Sean Hannity. You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The Republicans in New Hampshire on primary eve. Everything old is new again. Ask John McCain. Later: What if the Democratic polls are correct in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Has Obama check mated Clinton and Edwards? And fact or fiction meets puppet theater. And epic moment of COUNTDOWN‘s history as the Frank Burns of news and his fight at the Obama event becomes farther for our popsicle stick view current events. All ahead as we continue.
OLBERMANN: For Republicans in New Hampshire today, the message was change. Kind of an odd note considering that would be change from a government dominated by Republicans for most of the past decade. In our fourth story tonight: Republican Party hands the nation first official primary tomorrow with no clear mandate, no clear message and no clear front-runner. Willard Mitt Romney, the former next door governor, changed his clothes, his music and his speeches after changing into the former New Hampshire front-runner, no thanks to his win Saturday in the much ignored Wyoming caucuses, but thanks instead of his second-place finish in Iowa. This performance, they are helping to reboot John McCain in New Hampshire. Campaigning and now leading Romney 34-30 in a state he won in 2000 reportedly has rejuvenated McCain who at 71 years of age, has not been juvenated since about 1955. McCain is taking swings along with everybody else at Romney but also at Iowa‘s winner, Mike Huckabee who not only lacks foreign policy experience as McCain will happily tell you but in New Hampshire lacks the evangelical demographic which propelled him to victory last week in Iowa. The party‘s problem poised in New Hampshire is Right wing cash cow, Richard Gregory pointed out last week, it relies on three factions—economic, national defense and religious conservatives, a triple play none of the leading candidates seems to currently offer. Let‘s return to Manchester now. We are joined by MSNBC contributor, senior editor at “Newsweek,” Jonathan Alter. Jon, thanks for your time.
JONATHAN ALTER, NEWSWEEK: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Does any outcome clarify things for the GOP tomorrow or primary is really going to see the spotlight, the schisms in this party?
ALTER: I think it‘s the later. You know, the Republicans are a big party that nobody wants to go to. You know, it‘s like the gang that couldn‘t shoot straight. They really do not have it together. They‘re a long way from selecting their own nominee. It‘s quite different than the Democrats. So, I think whether McCain or Romney wins, it‘s still going to be a very fluid race, although the one who doesn‘t of those two will be in deep trouble.
OLBERMANN: With Rudy Giuliani waiting in the wings, would anything short of victory tomorrow night knock Romney out of front-runner status if not the race itself and how would that change the overall dynamic of the race given the cash flow problems that still exist for Huckabee and McCain despite the bump that Huckabee got last week?
ALTER: Well, if McCain wins he is now, he would then be the clear front runner in this race even though he doesn‘t have any money. He‘s the adult. The Republicans usually give it to the guy whose turn it is even if the base doesn‘t much like McCain and even if he‘s out of step with the base on immigration, which is a big problem for him. But if Romney tries to you know, go into these other primaries having spent tens of millions of dollars and not gotten a first-place victory, he is going to have some problems. But he has a lot more money to spend down the road. Huckabee just needs a solid third place, although when I talked to him last night after the FOX debate he admitted to being quite disappointed in his performance there. So, should he slip down and finish a distant third or fourth you know, conceivably to Ron Paul, then, his campaign would be in trouble.
OLBERMANN: It‘s hard to gauge which of the two Iowa victories changed the GOP race more, Huckabee‘s or, in fact, Barack Obama‘s. Romney and McCain reaching out for this Obama mantle of change. Romney as the outsider, McCain is the insider, he says, he always fought for change. Are even Republicans buying either of these staunch Bush defenders as an agent of change?
ALTER: Well, you know, that‘s one of the fascinating things that we are going to see is how many people actually end up voting in the Republican primary. Because, the independents can go in either primary. It‘s hard to imagine Mitt Romney being you know, a huge change agent. He almost personifies the country club Republican that people have been in charge of that party for a long time. Of course, his father was governor of Michigan and a presidential candidate. Now, the problem for him is that no Massachusetts governor or senator has ever lost the New Hampshire primary. And that includes Henry Cabot Lodge winning on a write-in vote in 1964 when he was ambassador to South Vietnam. So, it‘s real important for Romney to win this New Hampshire primary. And for McCain to position himself as an outsider is a bit of a problem since he‘s been in Washington for 25 years.
OLBERMANN: What I asked Richard Wolffe earlier to conclude, Jon, which piece of data from tomorrow is going to tell us the most about the chances of the election of whoever is the Republican nominee is going to be?
ALTER: Well, you know, Richard was right about independents. But you just drill down a little more into that, I want to know which independents went for Obama versus McCain. Remember, if they are the two nominees, the presidential election will be fought over that independent vote. Both of them have shown appeal to independents. As part of it will just be the numbers in each primary in Iowa which, like New Hampshire, is a swing state. It went hugely Democratic just in terms of which caucuses people showed up at. So, there are some hints here of what could happen in November. We also want to see what happens with college educated men. They have, in recent years, been a real swing vote that has gone over to the Republicans. If Obama makes a lot of headway with them in New Hampshire, that will be something to watch for.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC. Many thanks, Jon.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The Republicans have far to go before they put us to sleep. But what are the chances that tonight and tomorrow will be the pinnacle of the Democratic nominating process? NBC political director, Chuck Todd on the possibility that it‘s already over. And then, we look back at some of the strategical mistakes of the campaign. No, actually, this is an Australian demolition derby or something. Next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Eighty years ago tomorrow, Sander Van Oker was born. As White House correspondent and a variety of other positions, one of the keys to this NBC News organization from 1957 to 1975. Later, at ABC News and most recently of the History Channel, to say nothing of his proud inclusion in Nixon‘s enemies list and as cameos in the movie, “Dave” and Henry Fonda‘s fabled “The Great Smokey Roadblock”. Happy birthday in advance, Sander van Oker. On that note, let‘s play “Oddball.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN (voice-over): We begin in Canberra, Australia, and that nation‘s largest hot run festival. 110,000 people showing up to see flying motorcycles, jet-powered trucks, and one of the more lame stunts you‘ll ever going to see: a driver in a luxury sedan plowing through a wall of flames and zipping through a gutted city bus, and finally going into a pile of cars. Glad Evel Knievel didn‘t live to see this. The stunt car was engulfed by flames. Luckily, the driver was rescued by firefighters who blame a lit cigarette as the cause of the blast. Now, you know what? I‘m not sure about that outcome.
To Lubbock, Texas, where Bob Knight has a new strategy for dealing with the evil media for making him do and say all that bad stuff. At a news conference after winning the 899th game of his career, Knight brought his 21-month-old grandson with him to act as a human shield. Knight joked with the youngster asking him if he thinks anybody there knew anything besides his grandpa and tossed the sun child around a little to loosen him up. Finally, the news conference began.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER (voice-over): How big of a win was this momentum?
BOB KNIGHT, COACH, TEXAS TECH: Who knows? I don‘t know any of that stuff. You guys read fairy tales and all that bull(bleep). You know, we have to come out and play well. The next time, we play, and the next time. This has nothing to do with the next game. Just trust me. OLBERMANN: Ear muffs, Junior. At least, he didn‘t throw a chair at the kid or put him in the starting lineup and then take him out.
Obama goes from double digits behind to double digits ahead in New Hampshire, Clinton gets teary and Cheney-ey, and the Edwards camp thinks she‘s running out of money-ey. Could New Hampshire end the Democratic primary race? Ah, but with Bill O., it is never over. The scuffle in New Hampshire on tape and by Bill O‘Reilly actually attacks somebody taller in puppet theater. This story‘s ahead but, first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three “Best Persons in the World”. Number three, best debut: new “New York Times” columnist William Kristol attributes, in his first appearance in the paper today a quote to Michelle Malkin which was actually said by Michael Medved. One day on the job, one correction. Well done, sir.
Number two, best dumb criminal: unidentified man in Wilmington, Delaware, trying to hold up a gas station, said he had a gun. When challenged to produce it, he instead threatened the clerk with a fire extinguisher. He then alighted from the place without any money.
Number one, best promotion: a new book claims there is a new number two in Scientology. Yes, there are supposed to be several lawsuits, lawyers calling it a pack of lies, false, vicious, bigoted. Tom Cruise and that some Scientologists also wonder if his daughter might have been fathered with the frozen sperm of the late L. Ron Hubbard. I thought it was Heather Graham was starring in the remake of “Rosemary‘s Baby”, not Katie Holmes.
OLBERMANN (on camera): In the modern political era, every presidential candidate who won both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary went on to win their party‘s nominations. No exceptions. In our third story in the COUNTDOWN, if senator Barack Obama wins New Hampshire tomorrow night, isn‘t that it? Or can the perception of inevitability be pierced with a strategy that includes more modern facetted presidential primary season? A super Tuesday with a record number of states voting on the same day. Since 1972, when the Iowa caucuses moved to the first in the nation‘s status, any winner of Iowa plus New Hampshire was the eventual party nominee—whether Democrat or Republican. The reasons—manifold, perhaps, obvious, that looking like a winner begets more win but there‘s also the practical: money drying up with the other candidates. The Clinton camp says its resources are still considerable—that, after a senior adviser to former Sen. John Edwards, Joe Trippi said that the Clinton campaign may be on the ropes financially. Let‘s call in NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd who is, again, at Manchester, New Hampshire, tonight. Chuck, good evening.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Good evening to you, sir.
OLBERMANN: All right, if the polls are on the money there, it‘s Obama by at least a dozen. If they‘re on the money in South Carolina, it might be Obama by 20. In that construction, what could possibly happen later on that would make this statement false: when the polls close in New Hampshire tomorrow, Barack Obama will have cinched the Democratic nomination?
TODD: It would take a major gaffe by Barack Obama. I mean, at that point, it is all about Barack Obama playing the role of front-runner. And, the only thing I will say to this is that he has not been the front-runner other than for about 48 hours here in New Hampshire. You know, even after his Iowa win it was still seen as a, “Oh, wow, look, now he is an equal competitor to Hillary Clinton.” All of a sudden now, it‘s weird out here, it feels like he won the New Hampshire primary yesterday. Everybody‘s already speaking in the past tense about New Hampshire, speaking in the past tense about Senator Clinton‘s attempts to win in the first two states. So, you know, he will be the front-runner for sure after he wins here on January 9.
And things change when you are a front-runner. You get different types of scrutiny. You know, the scrub brush becomes a Brillo pad and it just becomes a little bit tougher. And, you know what, the guy hasn‘t done it. And, we‘ll see, he may hold up just fine. But, then again, he may not. Gary Hart became an equal in 1984 and he collapsed eventually when the spotlight came on. We‘ll see. As you noted, that was when the calendar was strung along. The problem here for anybody trying to stop Obama is his calendar ends, for all intents and purposes, on February 5th.
OLBERMANN: Are other candidates‘ desperation levels an indicator of John Edwards, of whom I have the greatest possible respect—comes on this show last Friday, wouldn‘t even acknowledge for a second that the turnout for the Democrats in Iowa was a huge story—couldn‘t turn the message off for 15 seconds. Today, Hillary Clinton, for whom I have the greatest possible respect, gets all emotional, a sentence later, attacking Obama and crying, by the way, which, after Ed Muskie, what Democrat cries in New Hampshire? But then, Edwards criticizes her for crying and she makes this weird Martin Luther King-LBJ analogy. And then lastly, she might as well quoted Rudy Giuliani from this Karl Rove “Only I Can Really Keep You Safe” handbook. Just how they are reacting tell us better than polls or anything else just how early it has gotten late out there?
TODD: Correct. I mean, I think, body language is everything. When I said I felt like the New Hampshire primary ended yesterday on the Democratic side, that is what I meant. As you could see it in the body language. Joe Trippi today told one of our producers who crawl, who‘s on that 36-hour marathon, you know, their attitude at this point is like, “Look, Obama is a bullet. He is a speeding bullet. Get out of the way.”
Which may explain, for instance, why Edwards made the decision to attack Clinton. It was basically get out of the way of that bullet. That is coming after her. Her status quo campaign, the inevitability thing, that thing is getting blown up. And whatever Edwards is trying to do, in Joe Trippi‘s words, hang around the drain and don‘t get sucked down and hope that, maybe, Obama makes a mistake and, suddenly, John Edwards is the last guy standing.
OLBERMANN: So, what happened here? I mean, I was surprised last week that so many people seemed surprised by how well Obama did in Iowa, as if there was a hidden belief, or whichever reason you want to pick, that he would actually get 10 percent or something. Does his surge have something to do with people looking at Iowa and saying, what do you know, other people support him. I‘m not going out on a limb here.
TODD: Well, look, it was the Howard Dean—the lesson of Howard Dean --from 2004. Right, you saw all these metrics before the Iowa caucuses in 2004. And, we thought, “Oh, my goodness, look at this Howard Dean thing!” And, then, of course, he collapsed. But this really is—and I say this with not disrespect to Barack Obama—he is Dean 2.0. You know, it got the bugs out and it showed that if you match a movement with a candidate who is equal to the movement. I mean, that was always the problem with Dean is he never lived up to what the movement he was growing is. He has now lived up to this movement and it is growing. It is a snowball and it is turning into an avalanche.
What is interesting, Keith, is for six months, a lot of us have been saying, “Look at the wrong track in this country.” People are upset with both parties. The polarization message was becoming much more powerful than anybody realized. Independents flocked away from the Republicans to the Democrats. And, now they are angry at both parties. There was definitely something going on there. You just had to wait for somebody to tap into it. And, it looks like Obama has tapped into it.
OLBERMANN: Right now, Obama himself looks like Tiger Woods. Let‘s see if he keeps that going. Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News. I‘ll talk to you tomorrow night. Great thanks, Chuck.
TODD: You got it, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We will not be joined by Sean Hannity. He is too busy avoiding angry mobs of Republicans in New Hampshire. Villagers, you forgot your pitchforks. And, in “Worst”, he said something like sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you make the decision right. The, she said get out of my freaking room. Dr. Phil versus Bill O. versus Roger Clemens when COUNTDOWN continues.
OLBERMANN: Video of Sean Hannity being followed by a non-violent but very snarky mob. Video of Bill O‘Reilly misbehaving so badly, the secret service had to step in. “Worst Persons” with Bill O. and Dr. Phil and Roger Clemens were all not enough. Bill O‘Reilly actually attacked somebody taller. Puppet theater—that is next. This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, the nightly cabaret that is our top three “Worst Persons in the World”. First, this quick reminder: “worsts” may come and go but Bill O. is forever. And, tonight, the meeting of two great events: puppet theater brings you the Bill O‘Reilly smackdown in New Hampshire. That‘s ahead but first, tonight‘s worst. The bronze tonight to Roger Clemens. Named in the Mitchell report as a steroid- and testosterone-user, he is not suing baseball which promulgated the claims, but, rather, its witness against him, his former personal trainer, Brian McNamee. Only a cynic would suggest Clemens sued McNamee and not baseball because baseball has deeper pockets with which to defend its suit, while McNamee barely has pants.
Our runner-up, Dr. Phil insists his visit to Britney Spears while she was hospitalized against her will was at the request of concerned family members. His people spent the weekend promoting an episode of his TV show based on the problems of Britney Spears. It was a coincidence that two news organizations are reporting Spears angrily kicked Phil out of her hospital room.
But our winner—it‘s Bill O. night. He brushed at John Edwards for noting in Iowa that 200,000 vets sleep each night under bridges and on graves. Quoting Bill O.: “The only thing sleeping under a bridge is that guy‘s brain. Ten million illegal alien workers are sending billions of dollars back home and Edwards is running around saying nobody has any money.”
Seriously, first off, Lou Dobbs is going to kick your backside for working his side of the street. Secondly, it‘s 200,000 tonight over the course of the year. The veterans administration says 336,000 vets will be homeless on and off. Why don‘t you try changing positions with one of them, Bill? See how long you last and then run your mouth about Edwards.
The over/under on that, by the way, would be three minutes. Bill O‘Reilly:
tonight‘s “worst person in the world”.
OLBERMANN: It has finally happened. The villagers have gotten their pitchforks and their torches and stormed the mad scientist‘s castle that is Fox news channel. Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, Sean Hannity chased by an angry mob of Ron Paul supporters in New Hampshire last night, barely 24 hours after Bill O‘Reilly breached so many rules of journalistic etiquette at a Barack Obama event that the secret service had to intervene. In just moments, the inside of Bill O. biographer, Marvin Kitman, and the premier of “Bill O‘Reilly Actually Attacks Somebody Taller” puppet theater.
First, last night‘s moment in Manchester. Presumably the Ron Paul crowd was angry over the Fix news‘s exclusion of their man from the Republican debate. But, you know, maybe they were just doing this on principle.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hannity, how about an interview?
UNIDENTIFIED RALLYIST: You suck, Sean.
OLBERMANN: And then there is Bill O., reduced to doing his impression of stuttering John from the “Howard Stern Show”, seeking an interview with Senator Obama. He pushed an Obama staffer and had to be restrained by the secret service on Saturday. Bill O. then told his audience he did not push an Obama staffer and was not restrained by the secret service on Saturday. Tonight, he told them he had to push Marvin Nicholson to, quote, “uphold the Constitution” or, maybe, it was the Declaration of Independence—sometimes, Bill gets those two confused. With “You Tube” enthusiast, we have video of everything that happened after Bill O. laid on hands.
Gee whiz, Bill, he was on this show in October 2006. Airing his version of the altercation tonight, Bill O. actually bleeped that phrase ‘son of a bitch‘. He bleeped himself calling Nicholson a, quote, “son of a bitch”. Anyway, for what we did not see, of course, we have “Bill O‘Reilly Actually Attacks Somebody Taller” puppet theater.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PUPPET 1: I don‘t think we are supposed to be here, Bill. This is for the public so that they can shake Senator Obama‘s hand. I think they want us to move.
PUPPET BILL O‘REILLY: Behold, I‘m Bill O‘Reilly, destroyer of worlds. No one on this earth is going to block a shot on “The O‘Reilly Factor”. It is not going to happen. Don‘t you know who I am? I am Bill O‘Reilly, WJM News. I am Bill O‘Reilly, Fox News channel noise network. You‘re in our way. You‘re blocking our shot.
PUPPET 2: Oh. Am I?
PUPPET BILL O‘REILLY: Move. Move. Mooove. Moooooove.
Oh, no, the secret service.
PUPPET MARVIN NICHOLSON: Sir, I‘d really appreciate it if you didn‘t shove me again.
PUPPET BILL O‘REILLY: You son of a bitch. I can edit out that ‘son of a bitch‘ part later. Hey, senator! Senator, a word please. That‘s really low class, pal. Really low class. And, everybody in the world will see it. Senator!
PUPPET SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Sir, you need to calm down and get behind that barricade with the rest of the presseys.
PUPPET BILL O‘REILLY: I‘m Bill O‘Reilly, Bill O‘Reilly, Bill O‘Reilly, testing one, two, three. Loofah! Loofah! The secret service is not involved. The secret service is not involved. Don‘t tase(ph) me, bro, don‘t tase me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: On that note, a pleasure to speak with Marvin Kitman, long-time media watcher at “Newsday”, most recently at “Huffington Post”, and author of the definitive O‘Reilly biography “The Man Who Would Not Shut Up”.
Marvin, good evening.
MARVIN KITMAN, AUTHOR OF BILL O‘REILLY‘S BIOGRAPHY: Good evening.
What a vicious attack on Bill!
OLBERMANN: Thank you. As funny as all this is...
OLBERMANN: ... there are a couple of serious points here. I mean, plenty of reporters have had physical altercations at political events. Dan Rather at the Democratic convention in ‘68 in Chicago comes to mind.
But, not many of them start the physical stuff. What was going on there?
KITMAN: Well, what you don‘t understand, Keith, is that O‘Reilly is an egomaniac and he is a very tall ego maniac and, as a matter of fact, he is going to be in the Thanksgiving Day parade as one of those floats. Now, but you have to realize also that there are many journalists who are ego—maniacs?
OLBERMANN: Like 100 percent or so.
KITMAN: I might even say that you can possibly be classified that way.
OLBERMANN: Like 100 percent or so.
KITMAN: OK, but what is unique about O‘Reilly as a journalist is that
and this is his egomania—he has to be the center of the story. The story gets pushed to the wayside and what you‘ve been showing here is a classic example of that in action. And also, you don‘t realize that you should be asking what was Bill doing out there, you know, with the peasants in the first place? Now, that was very...
OLBERMANN: Now, I mean, was he showing up to stalk not just Obama but, earlier in the day, Hillary who played him like a $3-banjo. What is it, the scoop news boy gets the story?
KITMAN: You don‘t understand. Bill thinks that he is an investigative reporter, not just a loud mouth opinionate or like many people think. He was out there getting the story. Now, you have to know that his cultural hero is Clint Eastwood and all his life he has modeled himself after Clint and Dirty Harry. Bill is the Dirty Harry of journalism. So, what he was doing there is going out and sauntering in and expecting everything to make way for him.
And his other role model is Mike Wallace. Now, Mike Wallace was famous for his ambush interviews. And he used to hide behind the potted palm. Now, Bill is too big for a potted palm. And he can‘t hide. So he does the frontal ambush. That is what we were seeing. Now, I was wondering why he would possibly think he could get an interview with Obama right out in the open there because, you know, the politicians like to make little speeches and what Obama could have only said was, “It‘s time for a change, Bill. Good night.” But I would suspect he had trouble getting Obama to sit down for an interview.
OLBERMANN: Yes, he‘s mentioned this several times. One other thing about this, half of the things in your book that O‘Reilly told you about his childhood seemed to be phrases like my father smacked me and the nuns hit me and the guy hit me. Is this ultimately a pathologically violent guy?
KITMAN: I would think not. I had 29 interviews and he never once took a swing at me. That was a sure sign. But, he is a very tall guy and he is very physical and he likes to play football and everything. He still plays touch football. But the thing is, his main weapon is his mouth. And he has an Achilles mouth, as you have seen more and more. He is getting into a lot of trouble.
OLBERMANN: He has played too many games of football without a helmet over his mouth.
KITMAN: Without a helmet—yes.
OLBERMANN: Marvin Kitman, the author of “The Man Who Would Not Shut Up”. It‘s still the definitive book on the subject. Thank you, Marvin.
KITMAN: And it‘s coming out in paperbacks.
OLBERMANN: Congratulations. That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,713th day since declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. Reminder of our coverage of this, now obviously critical New Hampshire primary begins at 6:00 Eastern, 3:00 Pacific tomorrow. Chris Matthews joins me to co-host. Everyone from Tim Russell to Pat Buchanan to Rachel Maddow joining us throughout the evening. All the info with none of the grandstanding and none of the stalking. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Don‘t tase me, bro! Good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.