Guests: Howard Dean, Michelle Bernard, Eugene Robinson, Pat Buchanan, Dee Dee Myers
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Showdown. So who will win tonight? Who‘ll be smiling on Wednesday?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. And tonight, the winds of change sweep across this country of ours. Whatever choice the voters make, the leading names on the ballot forecast American history will be made. We will either advance the presidential cause of the first woman, the first African-American, the first real maverick Republican since Theodore Roosevelt.
But no matter who wins what states tonight, the big news is already on the record book. For the first time, we‘re conducting what amounts to a nationwide primary, which has given a huge number of Americans the chance to share in selecting the nominees of the two major political parties. We‘ve already got some news tonight. Mike Huckabee has won in West Virginia.
But we begin tonight with the Democrats and with the chairman of the Democratic national committee, Howard Dean. Chairman Dean, Governor Dean...
HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIR: How are you?
MATTHEWS: ... it seems to me that the law of unintended consequences has worked in its usual way against the purposes for which it was intended. Your party rules were intended to prevent the mobs from raging against the gate, to keep the establishment in power. Don‘t the rules work against the Clintons today by forcing proportionality and preventing them from winning big?
DEAN: I think the party rules have worked exactly just as we intended. We had four early states, which were diverse both geographically, from every part of the country, and ethnically, every major voting group has been represented. And they—our candidates got out, test drive state by state, got reasonably well known, and now we‘re having a big test. So I—this is working exactly the way I hoped it would work.
MATTHEWS: Proportionality is so different in your party than it is in the Republican Party. Explain why you do it differently.
DEAN: We do it differently than the Republicans because Thomas Jefferson, a great Democrat, when he created the—or helped create the Constitution of the United States, put something in there that makes America unique among all countries were—that is, protection for the minority voters. So if you have a state that goes 55-45 in he Republicans, the 55 get to speak and the 45 are silenced. In our elections, a 55-45 state, both sides—both the people who voted for the winner and the people who didn‘t vote for the winner will be represented at the convention.
MATTHEWS: So that slows down the process from being a quick decision, right?
DEAN: Yes, but that‘s not such a bad thing. Look, Chris, I think, you don‘t want a process that goes to the convention. I don‘t think ours will. I never thought we‘d have a nominee by February 5. Last year was an aberration. We had a candidate who won the Iowa caucuses and hardly ever lost again. This year, I think we have some fantastic candidates, both of whom really represent change, as a opposed to what we‘re seeing on the Republican Party, which represents a third term for George Bush, essentially. And of course, we want to really take a close look at them.
Look, I think it‘s great for all these states to have a really good look at our nominees. And they‘re going to make a choice and our nominees are going to be well known, whichever one of them ends up getting it.
MATTHEWS: You think it‘s good for the Democratic Party, as a party that wants to win this time, that you may not have a nominee until after Pennsylvania, until sometime in late April, at the earliest? You think that‘s a healthy thing?
DEAN: I think that‘s fine because people will get to know our folks really, really well, and I think that‘s really important. And on the Republican side if they have an early nominee, who knows what they‘re going to be like in the general election? So look, I think our system‘s a good system. I do want a nominee before we get to the convention. We can‘t win the race if we have eight weeks to campaign. But I think it‘s great to have all these states have some say, and that was really the purpose of it.
MATTHEWS: Now, your party has punished Michigan and the state of Florida, the parties in those two states, for moving up their primaries beyond what they were supposed to. Are you going to let the Clintons dictate and say that those delegates are going to count? Because Senator Clinton is saying that the Florida votes and the Michigan votes will count, despite the fact that her rivals didn‘t even file because they followed your rules in Michigan?
DEAN: Well, that‘s going to be up to the credentials committee, which will be actually elected by Democrats all over the country. So that decision will be made way down the road. But I think we ought to see what the voters say before we go that far down the road.
MATTHEWS: Well, you did say—but wait a minute. You said that Michigan shouldn‘t count and Florida shouldn‘t count, and now you‘re letting Hillary Clinton say they should.
DEAN: No, what I said was that that‘s up to an elected committee of Democrats. I have 25 people on the committee. There are going to be about 160 or 155 on the committee that will be elected by Democrats all over the country. They‘ll make that decision much, much closer to the convention.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you say?
DEAN: I say the credentials committee will make that decision much, much closer to the convention.
MATTHEWS: Well, why don‘t you take a position on whether you want to enforce the rules? I mean, you‘re like the NBA commissioner. You‘re like Larry O‘Brien. Shouldn‘t you enforce the rules of your league? And the rules of the league were Michigan and Florida shouldn‘t count, and now you‘re letting one of the players on the field saying, Oh, I think I‘d like the two to count because I won.
DEAN: I think any candidate can say anything they please. And I don‘t criticize candidates. You know, my job is to support candidates, not to criticize them. And I appreciate the fight you‘re trying to start here, but...
MATTHEWS: Well, I want to get you in trouble...
DEAN: Yes, I know you...
MATTHEWS: ... because I want you to stand up to the winners and the losers both.
DEAN: Yes, well, you can stand up publicly on the Chris Matthews show or you can say things privately. And in my job, my job is to say things privately.
MATTHEWS: Well, my job is to get you to say something you‘ll regret in the morning!
MATTHEWS: And it‘s worked many times on this program...
DEAN: Yes, it has, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... with you, as well as others.
DEAN: With me, as well as others. It certainly has.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the voters in—do you believe the polls?
DEAN: Well, they—the pollsters have had a tough time this year in general. And look, I‘m not knocking pollsters. Some are good and some aren‘t, just like everybody else. But they really have had a hard time and haven‘t been particularly accurate. I think probably, for the most part, that‘s not the fault of the pollsters. I think what you‘re seeing is wide swings in the electorate.
It‘s not—you know, the thing that‘s so amazing about this election, the first thing is the turn-out. Democrats want changes so badly. In every state, including Florida, we‘ve had enormous Democratic turn-out. And that means people really want a change.
DEAN: Our turn-out is double—in New Hampshire, for example, our turn-out was up 20 percent. Their turn-out was down 3 percent. So that‘s just extraordinary. But the other thing that really is interesting is how many undecided people there are. We have great candidates, really good people. The Republicans are undecided because they, frankly...
DEAN: ... aren‘t so crazy about their candidates.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
DEAN: Our people are undecided because they love both of our candidates, and they loved all of the rest of them when they were in the race, too.
MATTHEWS: Well, what happens, Governor, if you have a situation—looks like it might happen, who knows what‘s going to happen tonight. We‘re going to watch it all night until 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning to see what happened. But if there is a rough tie tonight and there is a rough tie from here to the end of April, when we get to Pennsylvania and all the way to the end, if you have a rough tie and Obama or Clinton win a rough tie, doesn‘t a team make sense or—and if you don‘t get a team of the two of them on the ticket, doesn‘t that just alienate the half that lost?
DEAN: Chris, it‘s fun to speculate on that stuff, but I‘ll let you all do that.
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re the chairman of the party. Can‘t you create a marriage here? Can‘t you say whoever loses is the VP candidate, whoever wins is the P candidate? Let‘s get together here. You can do that.
DEAN: Well, if I were going to have a discussion like that, it probably wouldn‘t be on television. Those kinds of things—of course, those kinds of discussions go on, but this is not the time for those kinds of discussions. The voters have to speak first before people like me get involved and try to put together things like that. I mean, let‘s listen to the voters before we—you know, on television everybody handicaps everything. I‘ve sort of given up watching television in between these elections because people blab and blab and blab. But the fact is, the voters—it‘s the voters‘ turn.
DEAN: It‘s not the pundits‘ turn. It‘s not the pollsters‘ turn. This is the voters‘ turn. This last month-and-a-half and this next two or three months coming up, this is the voters‘ turn. It‘s time for us to shut up and listen to the voters, and that‘s what I‘m going to do.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s almost true, but—but my attitude is...
MATTHEWS: ... to try to figure out where to see an early sign of the decision making tonight. And I‘m going to be looking at New Jersey because I think it‘s an interesting state. It‘s a huge state. It‘s got so much ethnic diversity, African-Americans in the big cities. It‘s got very wealthy people. It‘s got regular people all up and down the state. And it doesn‘t have a big media market. It‘s shared by New York and Philly.
And I‘m watching that state because I think that state, if Obama were to win tonight, would be a big win for him. If Senator Clinton were to win, that would be holding her strength tonight and basically getting through the night pretty well, holding what she had and avoiding any kind of—any kind of swamping of the boat.
That‘s—do you think that‘s pretty smart or not? Have you gone state by state, trying to figure these things out?
DEAN: I don‘t do that. I mean, I really have totally given up on doing that. Honestly, there‘s nobody has the wisdom here. The wisdom is in the collective voters. And you know, New Jersey is an important state. California is a critical state. Georgia is a critical state.
DEAN: There are a lot of important states out there. And you know, I don‘t think—what has to happen, Chris, is not somebody wins in this state or that state. What has to happen, which I think may not happen tonight, is there has to be a real trend. And you know, this has been a very, very close race so far, and I—you know, first of all, I have no idea what‘s going to happen. Neither does anybody else, even if you were polling it.
And secondly, I‘m very comfortable with the voters. Even in 2004, when I lost—you know, you accept the voters‘ judgment. That‘s what it‘s about in the end in a democracy, and this is a great democracy, despite the best efforts of the right wing to undermine it.
DEAN: And I think it‘s—this is great. This—you know, this is what we all live for, not the handicapping and the polls and the speculation...
DEAN: ... watching democracy in action. Our Democrats are going to go out and pick the person who they believe would make the next president of the United States, and I am very, very happy with that.
MATTHEWS: Well, you must also be happy—and I want to say something here in tribute to you. I think four years ago, you did a lot to activate young people, including one of my kids, and—I saw him holding one of your signs up there in New Hampshire. It made me so proud, out in front of the Palace Movie Theater at that big rally you had there. There was Michael out there, holding a big sign for you.
And I do like the fact that I‘m hearing from so many people that their kids are pushing them, as opposed to parents...
MATTHEWS: ... who say, Come on, kid, get out and vote, just vote, register. And now you see kids—I don‘t mean kids, young people in their early 20s, late teens—telling their parents, pushing them to get involved. I think it‘s so refreshing.
DEAN: Well, it‘s a big deal. This is about change versus the past. John McCain and Mitt Romney represent the past. They represent the failed Bush policies. And I know John McCain says he‘s a maverick, but the truth is, he‘s voted for all Bush‘s stuff, including the tax cuts and the Iraq war and everything else. And our guys really want change.
DEAN: And I—you know, this is a transitional election. A new generation is taking over in this country. I think it‘s a great generation. It‘s a good thing. And I think that‘s going to help us in the general election.
MATTHEWS: Well, just remember, Senator Clinton voted the same way as Senator McCain on authorizing the war in Iraq.
DEAN: Yes, but she didn‘t...
MATTHEWS: Let‘s not forget.
DEAN: She didn‘t vote to stay there. She didn‘t vote for $450 billion worth of deficits. She didn‘t vote to veto the children‘s health care plan, which Senator McCain voted for.
DEAN: And she didn‘t change her position on every known issue in the political universe, like Governor Romney. So...
MATTHEWS: You‘re chairman of the Democratic National Committee. You can say the partisan stuff. I have to sort of be—I have to understand the truth here.
DEAN: That‘s right. That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: I‘m one of your big fans, Governor. Thank you...
DEAN: Chris, thanks for having me on.
MATTHEWS: ... very much. You are in many ways a flawed pioneer.
DEAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Governor Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Coming up, the “Smart Viewers‘ Guide” to watching tonight‘s coverage. Chuck Todd‘s going to come on and do what I‘ve been trying to do, trying to find out early indications tonight so we can begin to watch and begin to understand which way it‘s going early in the evening, to see what might happen at 3:00 o‘clock in the morning. Anyway, Chuck Todd‘s coming up, our political director for NBC.
You‘re watching HARDBALL—HARDBALL, HARDBALL—only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m very excited about today. I think we should encourage everybody across the country to come out and vote in this unprecedented national primary. Obviously, there‘s a lot at stake. The stakes are huge for our country, with lots of big challenges. But America‘s up to it. We just need a president who‘s ready on day one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I guarantee you, as the nominee of my party, I can and will carry the city of New York, as well as the state of New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s helpful.
Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. Eight states are viewed as toss-ups tonight on the Democratic side. On the Republican battle, Mike Huckabee could help John McCain take the South.
NBC political director Chuck Todd has what we‘re calling the “Smart Viewers‘ Guide” to watching tonight‘s Super Tuesday coverage. That‘s a tough challenge, Chuck, to explain what‘s going to happen in 24 states tonight, but go for it.
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, let‘s start with this Mike Huckabee/John McCain alliance because, you know, yesterday we identified five states where we thought Mike Huckabee could tip the balance and help John McCain. And in fact, I did some math here in these five states that we‘re looking at, 168 delegates minimum that Mike Huckabee may cost Mitt Romney by just doing—over-performing in these states, pulling that evangelical vote.
But what happened earlier today, what we found out of this West Virginia convention, where we saw the McCain/Huckabee alliance at work—this is another 18 delegates that Romney thought were in the bank. They did not think they were going to lose this thing. They were the only ones organizing for it. And yet McCain showed that they are a lot more organized in this thing than they realized and that this McCain/Huckabee alliance is very real. And now we‘re going to see it probably pop up in a lot of these states.
Missouri is very important because it‘s a winner-take-all. And Chris, he could—John McCain may only get 37, 38 percent, and that‘s a winning number in a three-way race. And that‘s winner take all, 50-plus delegates there.
These other four states are going to be proportional, but just Huckabee‘s proportion—you know, you get a bonus for winning the state. Huckabee‘s proportion is going to be taking all the way from Romney, and like I said, costing him 160 delegates minimum. And we‘re already seeing it. You know, Mike Huckabee is going to be expecting more than just a really good speaking slot at the Republican convention.
MATTHEWS: So we‘re looking at those states—Tennessee and Georgia, Oklahoma, Alabama—how many of those states could Huckabee actually win, not just deny them to Romney but actually take them away from both other candidates?
TODD: Well, it‘s interesting. I think you got to take a look at Georgia and Alabama. And you got to—and we‘ve seen polls where in Missouri, he‘s out-polling Romney. So these are three states he could win. He obviously feels good about Arkansas. That‘s his home state. He should do well there. But he may end up winning—oh, he‘s already technically won West Virginia. He could add a couple more states tonight. And why doesn‘t he go on?
And frankly, if Romney wins in a couple places—let‘s say he wins California and feels like he can move on, then Huckabee—then McCain wants Huckabee to stay in this race. And so obviously, if Huckabee wins a couple states, he will.
We should take a look at the McCain states here. And this is what makes McCain an overwhelming favorite tonight to be the guy with the big delegate lead. And here‘s why. Every one of his base states, Chris, are winner-take-all—Arizona, New York, New Jersey, Delaware—my dots are going to cover it all up—and Connecticut.
TODD: All five of those, this is almost 300 delegates that he‘s going to put in the bank. He could win by a vote or win by 10 votes. I mean, he‘s going to win—he‘s going to win in some of these places by a lot. And that‘s where he starts (ph). Now you throw in those other states I was talking about, winner take all—Missouri, he‘s going to get proportional, about a third of what‘s in those Southern states, never mind California. And we already have him somewhere, 600, 700 delegates tonight. That‘s just 300 or 400 short. He could officially end up the nominee, have enough delegates by the end of this month.
MATTHEWS: So tonight, if we look ahead, in terms of indications, we could have a McCain wipeout, where he denies Romney any states beyond, say, Massachusetts.
MATTHEWS: We could have a situation where Romney does nothing at all, even not just because he does badly but because Huckabee grabs three or four states, as well.
TODD: That‘s right. And then don‘t forget the clock tonight. The clock really favors McCain, right? We‘re going to have—you know, it‘s very likely there are early calls right here in those early Northeastern states.
TODD: They close at 8:00 or 9:00 o‘clock, in primetime. McCain‘s going to look like a big winner. A lot of states are going to pop up that are his. It may not be—we may not find out if Mitt Romney has some mojo, but we may not find out until 2:00 o‘clock Eastern time in the morning, when California numbers finally come in. There‘s a lot or private polling I‘ve been hearing about whispered. Romney‘s polling very well there.
In fact, I will tell you, John McCain may regret that he has spent so much time in Massachusetts toying with this idea of beating Romney there, and sort of sticking, putting a nail in Romney‘s political coffin, and maybe he should have spent a little more time in California.
TODD: We will if they regret that.
MATTHEWS: Where he went this morning.
Let‘s talk about Democrats right now. It‘s far more alive, I think, fair to say.
MATTHEWS: What are you looking for early in the evening? I have been looking at New Jersey, thinking, there‘s a state that, although Obama has been behind, he‘s moving.
MATTHEWS: And, if he catches her there, it says he‘s catching her in a lot of places.
TODD: Well, it‘s interesting. You know, the Clinton campaign themselves brought up a couple of their base states today as indications that, you know, oh, if Obama doesn‘t do well here, that‘s good for Clinton.
And you‘re like, wait a minute. You guys were always supposed to do well here.
TODD: And that was Massachusetts and New Jersey. These are poll-
closing times that happen at 8:00. And I think you‘re right. If we‘re in
the too-close-to-call business at 8:00 in these states, rather than feeling
comfortable calling these things for Hillary Clinton, that is going to send
that is going to tell us something, I think, what happened nationally.
Was it—was it—was it a bigger night than we realize? And then, of course, the other thing that I‘m going to be fascinated about is, what is Clinton‘s margin of victory in New York? It‘s very likely tonight, Chris, that Obama could get more delegates than Clinton, but lose more states.
Why? Because the margin that he loses New York by may be much narrower than the margin, for instance, that he beats her by in Illinois. And the difference in delegates that he gets out of it, than—what he nets, he may only—he may get a 55/45 delegate split out of New York if he really does well.
TODD: And, yet, he may have a 65/35 delegate split out of Illinois.
And that net...
TODD: ... that‘s a big deal, particularly if the big enchilada of the night ends up being as close as a lot of people expect.
MATTHEWS: Who is going to win the side war for California? It seems like the Clintons know that, if they lose out there, they‘re in—they‘re in deep trouble. It seems to me they are trying to spin it that, if they don‘t lose California, they have had a triumph for tonight. Is that the spin they can succeed with?
TODD: Well, I think it‘s more than just California.
I will move to our tossup states here for a minute, so we can see them. We have got, I think, four states that, together, if one candidate wins three of the four, they are going to say, we won the night.
TODD: That‘s California, Arizona, Missouri, and Connecticut. All four have been very close. All four have those two different electorates, right, the Schlitz crowd vs. the Chablis crowd.
TODD: Throw in the African-American vote that has helped boost up some of Obama‘s numbers. Throw in the women vote that‘s coming out in bigger numbers, and that‘s helped Clinton.
But that‘s basically been the divide inside this Democratic Party, frankly, for presidential primaries for the last 20 years. Well, these four states, if one of them gets the three out of the four—and, obviously, California being the biggest of the prize, just rhetorically—that‘s a big deal.
And it is interesting to me that the Clinton campaign absolutely now is, hey, if we win by a vote in California, we have won something tonight.
I think they are very nervous about California, Chris.
MATTHEWS: They are. And I think they do win if they win in California, though. It seems to me that maybe that is the one that is going to decide tomorrow‘s big news story.
Anyway, thank you very much, Chuck Todd. We will be with you all night. You‘re our man.
TODD: You got it, buddy.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Robert De Niro came out for Obama yesterday.
Guess who came out for Hillary today? It‘s the battle of the stars.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The opportunity to vote for yourself for president is really something I had never expected to be able to do. It was a great honor. And it‘s very humbling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So, what else is new out there politically?
Well, first, Hillary targets women on the Hallmark Channel last night, then men on “David Letterman.”
Here she is on “The Late Show” last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”)
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”: The other thing that I thought you handled smartly was this notion of, oh, if she‘s elected, you know, is he going to be in there, you know, going through stuff?
LETTERMAN: What have we got here?
LETTERMAN: And I forget exactly what you said, but the tone of it was just perfect, which was, please, you know.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, please.
LETTERMAN: He‘s had his time in the office.
CLINTON: Right. Right.
LETTERMAN: It‘s now my administration.
Undeniably, there will be a role for him, but to think that he was going to take over...
CLINTON: Well, look, you know, in my White House, we will know who wears the pantsuits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Anyway, speaking of celebrity, Barack Obama is getting a last-minute boost from some high-powered Hollywood types.
Chris Rock—I love him—Scarlett Johansson—or Johansson—recorded automated get-out-the-vote calls for Obama. And singer Dave Matthews endorsed him on his personal Web site.
And to counter Robert De Niro‘s endorsement of Obama, Hillary just got this one.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JACK NICHOLSON, ACTOR: I think the Democrats are going to have a good candidate, whoever that might be. I happen to be in Senator Clinton‘s camp.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Uh-huh.
NICHOLSON: Because I think she‘s the best man for the job.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I wonder what time of day that was.
Now for tunes. Take a look at this new music video from the band called the Solids. It‘s called “I‘m an Obama Baby.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: God, they even got the Kennedys in there.
And now it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number” tonight.
As 24 states head to the polls on this very exciting super-duper Tuesday, let‘s—let‘s go right now with the spotlight, the one overlooked contest, Indonesia, where nearly 100,000 expatriate Americans went to the polls today. Remember that Barack Obama spent time in Indonesia growing up? Well, this may explain tonight‘s “Big Number”: 75. That‘s the percentage of the Indonesia-based American vote today that Obama won, 75 percent. Tonight‘s Indonesian returns are already in for Obama.
Up next: their worst nightmare. What‘s got the candidates really scared? I came up with this question tonight. What scares them to death, their worst nightmare? What might it be tonight? Barack, Hillary, Romney, McCain, Huckabee, what are they most afraid of tonight?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MICHELLE CARUSO-CABRERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Michelle Caruso-Cabrera with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Not a super Tuesday on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrials plunged 370 points. The S&P 500 fell 44. The Nasdaq dropped 73. The sell-off was triggered by data showing a surprisingly large drop in January in the huge services sector in the United States. That includes travel, banking, construction, restaurants and retail, just to name a few. The index measuring those sectors fell to a level not seen since 2001. That‘s the last time the U.S. economy was in a recession.
Oil prices also plunged today on the services sector report. Crude fell $1.61 in New York trade, closing at $88.41 a barrel.
Toyota reported fourth-quarter profits jumping 7.5 percent. That was thanks to strong sales in China, Russia, and other emerging markets.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
MATTHEWS: Well, we know what the hopes of each candidate are tonight:
to win. But what‘s their biggest fear tonight? I love this question.
Joining me is Michelle Bernard of the conservative group Independent Women‘s Voice. And Howard Fineman, of course, is our favorite MSNBC political analyst and also, of course, “Newsweek”‘s political correspondent.
Let me start with Howard on this question.
Howard, let‘s start with Hillary Clinton.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Her biggest...
MATTHEWS: Worst fear tonight?
FINEMAN: Well, her—her worst fear is that there‘s a tidal wave out there, and it‘s going to crest, and that, even though everybody has been lowering expectations like crazy today, that Obama will do much better than expected, and even though the delegate lead won‘t be that dramatic, there will be a sense of coming together in the Democratic Party.
That‘s what she‘s got to fear, because she wants to lengthen the clock, lengthen the playing field. She‘s now asking for and has agreed to a half-a-dozen debates in every possible location and network. Obama, by the way, has yet to agree officially to a single one of those debates yet. That shows you the body language. That‘s Hillary‘s fear, is that there will be a gathering sense of momentum for him at the end of tonight.
MATTHEWS: Well, when she agrees to do HARDBALL every night for a couple of months, I know she really wants to extend this thing.
MATTHEWS: Let me...
FINEMAN: She may. She may.
MATTHEWS: I mean that in the best of spirits.
FINEMAN: She may.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to—let me go to Michelle Bernard.
Bernard, your sense of—let‘s you start with Barack Obama. What‘s his biggest fear tonight?
MICHELLE BERNARD, PRESIDENT & CEO, INDEPENDENT WOMEN‘S FORUM: Well, I think his biggest fear is that he is—he is unable to really shrink that gender gap.
I mean, women have been pushing Hillary Clinton over the line in every
single state. And, you know, we have been watching the gender gap shrink -
shrink. And I think he‘s going to want to get it down to single digits.
I think he‘s going to want to win big in California. I think California and New Jersey are very, very important for him tonight. And I would say that his biggest fear is losing women and losing in California or—and New Jersey.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go now—we will run through this and then come back and catch up.
McCain tonight—Howard, it just seems to me that McCain has two ways to win. Huckabee wins, or he wins.
MATTHEWS: Either one wins...
MATTHEWS: ... it‘s fine with him.
FINEMAN: Well, I know the people who run the McCain campaign very well. They go back all the way into the history of the College Republicans. And there‘s some people accusing them of pulling a maneuver of helping Huckabee in West Virginia just to create an early embarrassment for Romney. So, they‘re trying to spread tacks on the highway. That may very well be true.
I mean, I think, obviously, the big fear for McCain is that he won‘t be able to unite the party, that, even if he does well tonight, that whether it‘s Rush Limbaugh or Dr. James Dobson or whatever, or Rick Santorum, that this will be a rejectionist front that will just stay out there and live off the land and fight against him all the way through Election Day.
These people are talking big. They‘re talking nasty. Whether they will actually do it or not, I don‘t know. McCain is relying on the idea that, if he does get the nomination, that the prospect of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama will be enough to unite the conservatives. I don‘t necessarily think that‘s the case. Sometimes, conservative activists get in a mood where they prefer to lose.
FINEMAN: They prefer to lose.
FINEMAN: That‘s what they want to do. They love to lose.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I just think that is so true.
FINEMAN: They love to lose.
MATTHEWS: Michelle, I think these guys, like Rush Limbaugh, who I think is a great professional at what he does, would love to be the government in exile, have a Democrat like Hillary Clinton, especially Hillary Clinton, as president, and he could go—he would be in heaven for four years, putting her in hell.
BERNARD: No one is going to unify the Republican Party more than Hillary Clinton. You know, let‘s—let‘s—let‘s make that clear. I have got to actually agree with...
MATTHEWS: No, I mean, let her win the presidency, so the guys on radio can dance for four years on her grave.
MATTHEWS: I mean, they will just love it.
FINEMAN: She will...
BERNARD: Well, I hope you‘re—I hope you‘re wrong about that.
But I have got to tell you, I agree with Howard. I think that McCain‘s biggest fear is California, and that, you know, having Arnold Schwarzenegger and—and Giuliani endorse him and stand out there in California, those are not—you know, there‘s a very disaffected Republican Party in California, and those not—might not have been the best endorsements for him.
I mean, Ann Coulter has said she‘s going to go out. She‘s going to campaign for Hillary Rodham Clinton if John McCain is the Republican—is the Republican front-runner and gets the nomination. I think...
MATTHEWS: And what does that mean?
BERNARD: Well, I...
MATTHEWS: No, really. Well, I‘m serious.
MATTHEWS: I‘m dead serious, Michelle. I take you seriously. What does that mean?
BERNARD: I think what that means is that you could be correct, and there is a wing of the Republican Party, social conservatives, that would rather lose this election than see John McCain as the standard-bearer of the Republican Party post-George Bush.
Howard, do you think that‘s true?
FINEMAN: Yes, I think—I think that‘s the psychology of a lot of conservatives. And I have covered them for years. That‘s the mood they are in right now.
But I will tell you, I‘m paid to do my job, but I think I would pay money to see Ann Coulter campaigning for Hillary Rodham Clinton.
MATTHEWS: Yes, well...
FINEMAN: I‘m really hoping for that one.
MATTHEWS: You know, I can only lose by commenting at this point.
MATTHEWS: Let me—let me go to Romney.
Is this—does Romney have hopes left that are real, or are they just the good, old American hopes that you can always pull it off?
FINEMAN: Well, I...
FINEMAN: Yes, go ahead.
BERNARD: I mean, I have got to tell you, I that, right now, for Romney, his—what he is hoping for, more than anything else, is that Huckabee will just get out of the race. There‘s absolutely no doubt about it. Huckabee‘s win in West Virginia is really not looking very good for—for Governor Romney.
The more conservative votes that he takes from Governor Romney, particularly in the South, the more difficult it‘s going to make this race for him. You know, regardless of whether or not he wins in Massachusetts tonight, Huckabee absolutely has to get out of the race if Romney is going to be viable. He‘s only got so many billions of his own dollars to spend on this campaign.
FINEMAN: Well, I—I think—I think that‘s right.
I think that Romney‘s big fear is that he will be rejected by evangelical voters. And there are a lot of them at stake today and tonight. And Huckabee is going after them. If he can win them in a place like Alabama and so forth, that will be a statement that Romney would have trouble, even though he‘s got the sort of conservative commentariat on his side, that he would have trouble getting the Bible Belt to support him.
And, if Romney can‘t get the Bible Belt in the Republican primaries, he can‘t win defeat John McCain. And John McCain...
MATTHEWS: Do you think the LDS thing has hurt him? And can it ever change? Or is this something he‘s come up against, a brick wall, perhaps, of religious difference, prejudice, if you will; this isn‘t going to change four years or eight years from now, Howard?
FINEMAN: No, I think it is a brick wall. It‘s not all that visible everywhere. But you can feel it in the south and you can feel it in the Bible Belt. There are many a Baptist Convention you could go to over the years, where you look at the literature tables and they‘ve got books about the evils of Mormonism. I mean, that‘s just ingrained in the culture there and it‘s a hard thing for Romney to overcome in that part of the country.
MATTHEWS: So, we‘ve decided one thing; the worst case scenario for the radio talk show hosts of the right is John McCain beats Hillary Clinton.
FINEMAN: Yes, but they would enjoy commenting on that one, too, I think.
MATTHEWS: OK, Michelle thank you for joining us. Howard, as always.
Up next, the politics fix. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix. Our round table tonight, Eugene Robinson of the “Washington Post,” MSNBC political analyst Patrick J. Buchanan and Dee Dee Myers, former press secretary for President Clinton, author of the new book, “Why Women Should Rule The World,” a topic we will discuss at a later point. Nice, I love it, though.
DEE DEE MYERS, AUTHOR, “WHY WOMEN SHOULD RULE THE WORLD”: February 26th, by the way.
MATTHEWS: Is your pub date.
MYERS: Yes, it is.
MATTHEWS: And we‘re already talking about it.
MYERS: And we‘re already talking about it.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll help continue the buzz. I got an interesting call last night. Everybody knows I worked for Tip O‘Neill for all those years, the legendary speaker of the House. His oldest child, Rosemary O‘Neill, who never seems to get involved in things this partisan, lately at least, said to me—here‘s a quote, a letter she sent to all her friends; “dad would have loved Barack Obama. Today‘s first-time voters would not believe that years ago running for political office was a joyous pursuit. Just when we needed it most, along comes Barack Obama.” Dee Dee Myers?
MYERS: That‘s a terrific point is that it could be, can be, a joyful pursuit, because I think a lot of the joy in politics has been lost in the intense media coverage and the rapid pace that things unfold and the attention to tiny details and little nuggets from your past that you might not want to remember. And it‘s become a blood sport. But to go back to the days when there was joy in it and you could lift people up is a remarkable achievement.
MATTHEWS: What I find interesting is children of all ages seem to be pushing for Barack. Where it needs to be—I said this about a half hour ago. It used to be parents; will you get your absentee ballots, will you get organized, will you vote?
MATTHEWS: And now the kids are calling the parents and saying, are you going to do this the way I want it?
EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: What I think Obama has done so successfully is evoke the possible, suggest that things can be better. Here‘s a way they can be better. He creates this sort of excitement and optimism. That alone is a remarkable achievement.
MATTHEWS: Who knows what will happen tonight. Let‘s take a look at -
This is a picture. There‘s no voice. It‘s in Swahili what we‘re watching here. I know Pat will help translate this. We‘ve got Barack Obama. That‘s his mom—his grandma. It‘s just an amazing story. I was in the Peace Corps. Everybody is—Africa‘s so far away and here‘s this mother of a presidential candidate. Patrick, your strong emotional feelings on this topic as a man of the world, a global—a global kind of guy, you know?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, Goldwater got the youth vote. George McGovern got the youth vote. The sort of idealism, the passion, all things can be done. He‘s picking up that vote. But he hasn‘t walked into a general election yet. We know what happened to McGovern and what happened to Goldwater.
There is no doubt, this is a tremendous wave, unlike any I‘ve ever seen, and there‘s a lot of enthusiasm. This is an eight-month campaign.
MATTHEWS: When does a preference become a verdict? I‘ve been thinking about it today, gentlemen and Dee Dee. I‘ve been trying to figure it out—it‘s one thing to say, I sort of like this guy. I like the cut of his jib. I like his speeches. And then you get to the level of voting for him a primary. That‘s kind of easy too. Then you go, wait a minute, do I want him to be the next president?
ROBINSON: That‘s another. That‘s another a whole step, when you have to imagine him or her with the responsibilities that come with office.
MATTHEWS: Is that happening tonight? Will the results tonight tell us about the verdict?
BUCHANAN: I heard somebody say on a radio show, name one thing that Barack Obama has done, achievement. And nobody could say anything. It was all these focus groups. That‘s when we‘re going to get into it. If he breaks through and wins the nomination—he‘s moving toward it—people are going to say, what does he stand on NATO expansion?
MATTHEWS: President Eisenhower was asked that same question of Richard Nixon and he couldn‘t think of anything.
BUCHANAN: You give me a week, maybe I‘ll think of one.
MYERS: He lost.
MATTHEWS: Dee Dee, when does preference become verdict? When do
people really make up their minds about Senator Clinton, about John McCain
I say tonight he‘s the first maverick candidate since Teddy Roosevelt or Ike.
MYERS: I think there are many stages of campaigns. I don‘t think it‘s a decision that happens overnight. There are many stages. When you‘re working on a presidential campaign, you‘re struck by, as I‘m sure the candidates are tonight, thinking, this feels like a general election. How can it get any bigger? How can it get any more intense? Where do we go from here?
I promise you tomorrow, if Barack Obama is as successful as we all sort of feel like he‘s going to be—
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know.
MYERS: Which is he‘s in it.
MATTHEWS: I still got New Hampshire sitting in my brain, rent free.
MYERS: Regardless of what happens, he‘s going to be in it. He lives to fight another day. And I think the scrutiny goes. And they‘ll think, oh, my goodness, how did it get more intense than it was yesterday? But it will. And I think that process continues right on through November.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about early indications tonight. What are you
looking for, Pat? What states are you looking at? We‘re going to be here
Keith and I are going to be doing these results. I‘ll run through.
Georgia at 7:00. We‘ve already got West Virginia. Huckabee pulled a victory there. You got Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and New Jersey, all at 8:00.
BUCHANAN: I‘m looking at Connecticut, New Jersey, especially if Obama wins New Jersey, Missouri, and California. And I think if Obama starts taking states there, winning the states, I think the momentum continues and people will say it is an Obama night.
MATTHEWS: Is this Obama spirit rising? Is this the great feeling of let‘s have an African-American, a young guy with an interesting background who can talk? And that‘s rare in politics today, somebody that can talk.
MATTHEWS: Or is it Clinton fatigue? This sitcom‘s just gone on too long, we‘re tired hearing of what Bill‘s doing, that Bill can talk this week; he can‘t talk; he‘s in the doghouse this week; he‘s not in the doghouse. Are we just tired of the sitcom? You know that‘s an issue.
ROBINSON: The tenor of the race did change when Bill Clinton inserted himself in the race. When it was Hillary versus Barack, it was one kind of race. When it was Barack versus Hillary and Bill it was—
MATTHEWS: By the way, things always change when he inserts himself.
ROBINSON: Moving right along.
BUCHANAN: Nobody that can deny that Obama has a tremendous movement.
It‘s larger than Reagan‘s in ‘76.
BUCHANAN: It is really moving. And I can recall that so well going -
MATTHEWS: We are looking at this guy.
BUCHANAN: That‘s there.
MATTHEWS: Look at Michelle Obama checking to see how the husband, the senator is voting. I love that scene. I love it, checking out the local vote.
MYERS: The Reagan movement was based on an ideology.
BUCHANAN: A philosophy and a man.
MYERS: And a man. It was a man-plus.
BUCHANAN: Philosophy helped.
MYERS: We‘re waiting to see with Barack Obama what the plus is going to be.
MYERS: I think so far it‘s a candidacy based, in many ways, on biography and the ability to listen.
MATTHEWS: Well, OK, but isn‘t it unique. At the time in American history, it‘s so complicated, figuring out the fiscal crisis, the world, the financial crisis, how a subprime mortgage in Cincinnati ends up being decided by some sale of a debt in France somewhere, or the whole thing going on with oil right now being 100 dollars a barrel. Yet, we‘re looking for candidates with the arc of their biography; John McCain, war hero, Hillary Clinton, first lady, senator, long life of interesting developments. We‘re looking at this guy Barack Obama. It seems like we‘re looking for a great biography.
ROBINSON: But Obama has one other thing. I don‘t think you can call it a fully elaborated idea yet. You can call it an organizing principle, which is we don‘t have to be locked in the same old arguments we‘ve been having for a long time. It doesn‘t have to be this either/or. It can different.
BUCHANAN: This is February.
MATTHEWS: Decided between the Bushes and the Clintons forever, like a Twilight Zone?
BUCHANAN: In the fall you‘re going to be talking about big issues. Are we going to be in Iraq a year like you said, no matter what has happened?
BUCHANAN: That organizing principles has to be translated then into concrete proposals.
MATTHEWS: Will that triumph over the biographical competition?
BUCHANAN: Yes, because the biographical stuff is everything now, almost. And then it will diminish dramatically, especially once he gets out in front—if he gets out in front, is going for the nomination. The op-O research will be dump.
MATTHEWS: Explain what Op-O research is to regular people?
BUCHANAN: It‘s opposition research.
MATTHEWS: It‘s dirt!
BUCHANAN: It‘s not dirt if you get piles and piles of stuff and you read through them and you read through them.
MATTHEWS: What does it feel like when you are doing that, Pat, in the middle of the night?
BUCHANAN: We did it on McGovern. It‘s wonderful.
BUCHANAN: It‘s panning for gold, Chris!
MYERS: Maybe the politics of the past, but it‘s still fun.
MATTHEWS: I‘ll never forget one of your old colleagues, Donald (INAUDIBLE), once say, writing in the margin of his report, love this job. That was the Watergate Papers, yes.
MYERS: I think regardless, one of the things Barack has done; he hasn‘t just lifted his own supporters. “Time Magazine” did a cover story this week on young voters more broadly. And he doesn‘t have the overwhelming—it‘s not like he‘s winning them two to one. He has a third or slightly more than 40 percent or something. And the other candidates have large numbers of young people supporting him.
What he‘s done is made the whole game more interesting, which is fascinating. And whether he is the nominee and whether he can continue to do that, who knows.
MATTHEWS: My daughter called me the other day, Pat—you guys will love this. My daughter is in college and she called me the other day and she said, we‘re studying the difference of presidential party, presidential models of being president and I‘m trying to decide between the Greenstein model, which is the hidden hand presidency of Eisenhower, and the spokes of the wheel approach of new status and the Kennedy administration. I mean, I am so thrilled to have a daughter who is so beyond anything I was at at the age of 18. It‘s so great. I think kids—
MYERS: And you want to know who is heading the Op-O research.
MATTHEWS: No, she‘s clean. No, but the fascination with the American presidency is so great, that people realize now, if we‘re going to be green as a country, somebody‘s got to lead. If we‘re going to deal with peace in the world, somebody has got to lead. If we go to war, one guy can take us to war. Pat, that‘s pretty frightening understand our Constitution. We have gone to a war that many people think is a disastrous mistake because of one guy.
BUCHANAN: Yes, one guy who was given a blank check by the Democratic Senate.
BUCHANAN: And you know them all as well as I do.
MATTHEWS: And I never forget the list.
BUCHANAN: I never forget the list. I know them all myself. They wouldn‘t help out. They wouldn‘t say no.
MATTHEWS: I think when we have war, it reminds young people especially, even without the draft, that presidents have enormous power.
MYERS: The Senate may have given him a blank check, but most presidents wouldn‘t have gone into Iraq like that. I think the country looks at it and it‘s still—
MATTHEWS: Let‘s me ask you about this phenomenon. We‘ve all studied politics and been it and covered it. For the first time in our lives the American people, half of them practically, are going to have a say today, and already had their say, in picking the nominee for the two major parties. They don‘t have to sit around and wait until November and get stuck with the choice they didn‘t like.
Today, California, it isn‘t at the end of the line like it used to be. It‘s right up there in the line. New York, not at the end of the line anymore. New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, huge states. What‘s it going to mean to the country where we finally pick our nominee in a big party a national primary?
BUCHANAN: That‘s a terrific thing when you see the head-to-head races, as you‘ve got in the Democratic party. And in California, for Republicans. Let me tell you, you talked about Huckabee. Huckabee, I don‘t think, is going to help himself in the long run by this perceived collusion with McCain. If that isn‘t old politics, McCain‘s guys throwing their votes to this guy to beat the challenger and things like that. He‘s going to get the Lindsey Graham treatment. Lindsey Graham supported the McCain amnesty and he‘s in trouble in South Carolina because of it. I think Huckabee is hurting himself with some of this stuff, Chris, I really do, because he had an image coming out of the south, Evangelical, populist.
MATTHEWS: What is his future anyway?
BUCHANAN: It depends on whether McCain wins. If McCain is the nominee—if he didn‘t win --
MATTHEWS: I don‘t think Huckabee‘s on the ticket. I don‘t see that happening.
BUCHANAN: No, but I‘m talking about four years from now. I think what Romney is looking for right now is tonight and four years from now.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of Lieberman campaigning with a Republican everywhere he goes? I‘ve never seen anything like this.
MYERS: Right, but what‘s interesting to me is that a lot of the conservative continue to beat up on Joe Lieberman. It‘s like they don‘t really appreciate him that much, I don‘t think. He‘s bringing up—
MATTHEWS: I am convinced Joe Lieberman has spent his whole life loving the United States Senate. He worked hard to get here. I think he wants to be a senator for life. I don‘t think he wants another job.
MYERS: I think it‘s from conviction. I think he‘s decided—He‘s always been very hawkish on this war. I think he‘s decided that McCain would be the best president.
MATTHEWS: He beat Ned Lamont, Pat.
BUCHANAN: He‘s not going to be the key guy in Senate, because the Democrats are going to pick up Senate seats.
MATTHEWS: Everybody will be here all night. We‘ll be staying alive on pizza and cookies all night tonight. Eugene Robinson, thanks for the nice line about the injection by Bill Clinton. Your line, not mine.
ROBINSON: No, no.
MATTHEWS: Dee Dee Myers. Your line.
MATTHEWS: -- “Washington Post” columnist, Dee Dee Myers, thank you. Pat Buchanan. Don‘t go anywhere tonight. Our live prime time coverage of Super Duper Tuesday starts in just a minute. It‘s going to go on all night. This is MSNBC, the place for politics.
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