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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Feb. 8

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Amy Sullivan, Jonathan Martin, Jennifer Donahue, Eugene Robinson, Linda Douglass, Tony Blankley, Michelle Laxalt, Douglas Brinkley

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  How will the Republicans beat the Democrats once the opposition party has picked its nominee?  Iraq is one problem.  How will they defend the White House from the home front surge?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

How can you resist that tune?  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews, and welcome to HARDBALL.  The big news over the last 24 hours, of course, is that John McCain is now the all but certain, in fact, I‘d call him the certain Republican nominee for 2008.  That means starting now, John McCain can start preparing for the general election, while the Democrats may be forced to spend months now figuring out who their nominee‘s going to be.  What might McCain‘s strategy be?  Well, we‘ll talk to two top Republican strategists about the two very different campaigns McCain would have to run, one against Hillary Clinton, obviously, one against Barack Obama, depending on who wins the nomination.

And we have some new poll numbers for you tonight that show how different those strategies will have to be because of how different the challenges are going to be.  And there may be another challenge for McCain, Mike Huckabee.  Does he argue he‘s the only true conservative in the race now and keep going after McCain?  Looks like he‘s doing it.

On the Democratic side, Super Tuesday left the race wide open, as you all know, so all eyes now turn to this weekend.  There are contests in four Democratic states.  We‘ll talk to two experts on the historic Democratic race under way again this weekend.

We‘ll get to all this tonight, but first, how should McCain, good old John McCain, take on one of the new people, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?  Tony Blankley is a Republican strategist, executive vice president of Edelman Public Relations, a hell of a firm.  And Michelle Laxalt somehow got the job—she‘s a Republican strategist and somehow got the job as president of the lobbying firm The Laxalt Corporation.  Amazing how you get these jobs.


MATTHEWS:  Let me—let me go to Tony Blankley.  Is it ready to start now?


MATTHEWS:  Should John McCain start now carving up one of the two, Hillary or Obama?

BLANKLEY:  Yes, I think the general election campaign on both sides, to some extent, is starting.  And McCain has an advantage because the Democrats are also in a primary contest.  I think the one that he has to target now is Obama because he and Obama are going to be challenging, fighting for the independent vote.  And I think he needs to start trying to challenge Obama to show flexibility.  Where can we compromise and work together?  And Obama can‘t afford to concede any points.  He can‘t afford to agree to negotiate on tax cuts for the rich because in the primary, he‘s got to be tough on, you know, the left side of the issues.  So it will be a chance for McCain to start showing that Obama is not really the guy who‘s going to reach across the aisle.

MATTHEWS:  You mean publicly offer...

BLANKLEY:  Yes, I would—I would...


BLANKLEY:  I would—I would simply engage him and start talking about it because McCain‘s free.  He‘s got the nomination.  Hillary, on the other hand, you can wait a little while because she‘s set (ph).  That‘s going to be a base election, I think, and...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s a base election?

BLANKLEY:  I mean, I think she‘s going to have the Democratic Party—

I don‘t think she‘s going to be as competitive in the independents and the soft Rs and the soft Ds.  There are going to be personality issues to play (ph).  I think that game sort of plays itself out.  The ethics issue, he‘ll be able to use money in politics he can use against her.  Obama‘s the trickier challenge, and I think the opportunity to play him is stronger early on, while he‘s still defending himself from Hillary.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  His strategy is to go after Obama first, let Hillary wait because the Hillary operation is pretty much cut and dried.  You know what you‘re going to do.  What do you say?  Smart strategy to start now against Obama?

LAXALT:  I think Tony is a true blue Republican in suggesting that Senator McCain do so.  However, I don‘t think Senator Obama is going to fall for getting into head-to-heads with John McCain before he has secured the nomination.

I do agree that two separate types of general election campaigns would need to be run by Senator McCain.  We know, for instance, that he is beating Hillary Clinton on a head-to-head basis quite handily, although when it comes to Senator Obama against McCain, Senator Obama is beating McCain.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Well, let‘s take a look at those polls.  We‘ve got a new “Time” magazine poll just out as you speak.  It has Obama, Senator Obama, Barack Obama, 7 points ahead of McCain at 48 to 41, while Hillary Clinton and Senator McCain are in a dead heat at 46, the two senators there equal at 48.  So there is an advantage, but that doesn‘t answer the question, so how do you go after Obama—let‘s start with Hillary.  How does John McCain begin to work on Hillary Clinton as a target?

LAXALT:  I think what Senator McCain should do with Senator Clinton is point out the fact that once again, we‘ve been there, we‘ve done that.  There is nothing new.  We‘ve seen her record as first lady.

MATTHEWS:  Make her the incumbent?

LAXALT:  Make her—she is the incumbent.  She has portrayed herself as the incumbent to get the nomination.  Indeed, she cites as her very experience having been first lady.  Well, what is that experience?  Let‘s see—one, two, and then three tries before she got an attorney general who could be confirmed by the Senate, for instance, a completely failed socialistic health care reform package.  I don‘t think her record is so hot.

And moreover, it would be—indeed, it would be both Clintons.  It would be the dynasty.  It would be an incumbent with another incumbent who would be the president.  Whereas, against Senator Obama, he would be the experience, the guy who, the enemies, the asymmetrical foes whom we have all over the world, indeed, cells all over our own shores—who would they be more frightened of?  John McCain, who has been there and done that when it comes to being literally a prisoner of war for eight years and has his eyes and ears to the ground?  Who would our enemies most be frightened of?

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at what former president Bill Clinton said about John McCain.  Let‘s take a look.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  He‘s a very good man.  Hillary likes him a lot.  They have traveled the world together with more skeptical Republicans, trying to show the physical evidence of how the globe is changing.  So it‘ll be interesting.  If they run against each other, you‘ll have two people who genuinely have considered themselves friends and have honest disagreements that they‘ll be able to lay before the American people in a very, I think, civilized and straightforward way.  I think that‘s what people want.


MATTHEWS:  What‘s that?  Why is this former president doing that, do you think, Tony?

BLANKLEY:  Well, I think it makes Hillary look like not a divisive figure, which she is, but, rather someone who will be part of this wonderful, new-age politics of “Can‘t we all get along?”

MATTHEWS:  So she‘ll be more like Barack Obama?

BLANKLEY:  Yes.  I mean...


BLANKLEY:  Let me go back just briefly to Obama...

MATTHEWS:  This is fascinating, by the way.  He is portraying his wife, the candidate, as someone like Obama in what sense?

BLANKLEY:  In that she won‘t be divisive, that she‘ll be able to have a very civilized conversation, debate pleasantly.


BLANKLEY:  We know that‘s not the kind of campaign that‘s going to happen.  But going back to Obama, the reason why it‘s important, I think, for McCain to immediately start working on Obama is because Obama‘s still not known by the public.  And so the Republicans need to start painting him in as many different negative—you know, pleasantly negative ways as possible.


MATTHEWS:  Give me an example, Tony...

BLANKLEY:  Well, for instance...


MATTHEWS:  ... a pleasantly negative way to nail the man...


MATTHEWS:  ... impressed by his style and his manner and his gentility.  It‘s all there.  What would you say against this guy?


BLANKLEY:  Obviously, there‘s no way in the world that the Republican candidate is not going to be pointing out the positions.  Obama has the most—according to “The National Journal,” in 2007 liberal voting record in the Senate.  That‘s to the left of the center of gravity.  Even if the center of gravity in America is moving towards the center, and I think it is to some extent—it‘s not where it was in ‘84, but it‘s still to the right of where Obama‘s positions are.  So (INAUDIBLE) defining him.  Yes, he‘s a wonderful fellow, a lovely man.  Unfortunately, he‘s Walter Mondale when it comes to...


LAXALT:  I prefer that the Clintons do that while they‘re still in the primary...

BLANKLEY:  Well—look, I think...


MATTHEWS:  They‘re unlikely to do that.

BLANKLEY:  They can‘t do that.

MATTHEWS:  Why would they attack a candidate to their left?


BLANKLEY:  Hillary can‘t do that in the primary.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at how Senator Clinton did say—what she did say about John McCain just yesterday.  Let‘s take a listen.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It appears as though Senator McCain will be the Republican nominee.  And I have the greatest respect for my friend and my colleague, Senator McCain, but I believe that he offers more of the same, more of the same economic policies, more of the same military policies in Iraq.  He said recently he could see having American troops in Iraq for 100 years.  Well, I want them coming home within 60 days of my becoming president of the United States!


MATTHEWS:  That‘s so well done by her because she‘s not saying we‘re bringing them all home, she has them coming home.  It‘s so well done.  Whereas she casts John McCain as an extremist, somebody who wants to keep them all there for 100 years...


MATTHEWS:  ... a 100 years war.  How does he fight that?  How does he strategist against her on that one?

BLANKLEY:  First of all, if I were McCain‘s people, I would be getting out to every journalist in the business, pointing out that that‘s not what he said.  He didn‘t say we were going to fight for 100 years.  He made a particular point.  In fact, to the contrary, he said it‘s not a question—the American people don‘t want to see us fighting and losing men, but we‘ll occupy or be there, as we are in Germany, we‘re still (INAUDIBLE) It was in that sense.  So it‘s misleading...

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  Wait a minute.

BLANKLEY:  It‘s enough...

MATTHEWS:  If you can have our troops staged in Iraq and not taking casualties, it wouldn‘t be an issue.

BLANKLEY:  But that was the point he was making!


MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  Is that possible?  If we could station 150,000 troops in Iraq without anybody getting killed, it wouldn‘t be an issue.

BLANKLEY:  No, because we would be a stabilizing force after the violence has been defeated.


MATTHEWS:  Without casualties?

LAXALT:  ... peacekeeping mission.

BLANKLEY:  We‘re not taking casualties in Germany or Japan.

MATTHEWS:  You think...

BLANKLEY:  Or Korea, for that matter.

MATTHEWS:  You imagine—this might be pie in the sky, Tony.  You can imagine America with a large complement of troops in the middle of Arabia and not taking casualties?  You believe that‘s conceivable?

BLANKLEY:  That was what he was arguing.  My...

MATTHEWS:  No, but is that conceivable?

BLANKLEY:  I think we‘ll taking casualties against radical Islam for a very long time.


BLANKLEY:  Everywhere.

MATTHEWS:  No, but in Iraq.


MATTHEWS:  Therefore, the model of Germany, where we haven‘t lost a single American since 1945, is not the appropriate model.

BLANKLEY:  My point is that he was not making the point he was planning to fight.  And so she misrepresented what he said, and he can go after her as typical Clintonian misrepresentation.

MATTHEWS:  This Brigadoon place you‘ve created, this notion of a war-free Iraq, where our troops will stay there for 100 years without being bothered, when it‘s in the political interest of so many people in Iraq to fight our guys.  Do you imagine such a scenario?

LAXALT:  Well, I think that...

MATTHEWS:  A huge complement of American troops in Iraq not being shot at or harmed in any way.

LAXALT:  I think it‘s an impossible scenario to think that America is safe after September 11 from the kind of asymmetrical warfare which lingers out there, which festers out there...


LAXALT:  ... and I think that‘s what our own generation and our children are going to be faced with.  Senator Clinton...

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s 100 years in Iraq?

LAXALT:  No, I think Senator Clinton was brilliant by phrasing it the way she was because what she was doing was, she was misleading and misstating the context in which Senator McCain made that comment.  But by the same token, she was attempting to move further to whether Senator Obama is, which is, I never would have voted to go in there to begin with.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it was also very deft on her part to say she‘ll begin to remove troops without saying how many she will remove.

BLANKLEY:  Yes, but maybe too clever by half.  I mean, the word “Clintonian,” you know, is in—is in our lexicon, and it means being sneaky and tough.  And I don‘t think she should be playing into that.  I think that‘s exploitable for the Republican candidate to point out, Here she goes again.

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s smarter, John McCain or Hillary Clinton?

BLANKLEY:  You mean IQ-wise?

MATTHEWS:  Ability to debate in close combat, when you‘re on television together and you have to think quickly (INAUDIBLE)

BLANKLEY:  I think she‘s a better debater, but I think he‘s got a superior personality.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  What do you say to that?  When they‘re on television four times on national television and have 80 million people watching, in a general election, where everybody watches, who‘s going to look smarter?  Who‘s going to be smarter?  Hillary Clinton—if it‘s them, Hillary Clinton or John McCain?

LAXALT:  I think that Senator Clinton probably appears to be more of a wonk on a wider range of issues, although Senator McCain has only focused on one portion of his plank in the primary.


MATTHEWS:  You‘re being very careful, Michelle, because it‘ll be very interesting because nobody knows.

BLANKLEY:  The wonk versus the mensch.


MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) Anyway, thank you, Tony Blankley.  Thank you, Michelle Laxalt.

Coming up: The Clinton and Obama campaigns are in a tight race, as everybody knows, fighting for every dollar and every delegate.  Who‘s going to outlast the other person?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was (SIC) President Clinton talking exclusively to NBC‘s affiliate in Portland, Maine.  The fight for Democratic delegates goes on this weekend between Senators Clinton and Obama—on Saturday, it‘s Seattle coffee, then corn in Nebraska and gumbo in Louisiana and those caucuses in Washington state and Nebraska and the primary in Louisiana.  On Sunday, it‘s lobster, the Maine caucus—somebody did a food thing here.

Chuck Todd is NBC News political director and Douglas Brinkley, my pal, is a presidential historian and author of “The Great Deluge”—“Apres moi le deluge.”  I think de Gaulle said that.

Let me—let‘s talk here—here‘s more of—let‘s take a look at—here‘s Bill Clinton talking with NBC‘s affiliate in Maine.


CLINTON:  Well, I will do what I‘m asked to do.  I will not be in the cabinet.  I will not be on the staff full-time.  I will not in any way interfere with the work of a strong vice president or strong secretary of state, strong secretary of treasury.  I will do what we‘ve always done for each other, I will let her bounce ideas off of me.  I‘ll tell her what I think.  You know, we‘ll talk through things.


MATTHEWS:  It‘s interesting there, Chuck, that—that former president Clinton is talking about the role he will play, and that‘s going to be interesting because we have to wonder whether he‘ll do business dealings and things like that and take big speech money around—those are questions that‘ll be raised throughout the campaign.

But right now, he said in an earlier bite there—we didn‘t show it -

he said, I made a mistake the last couple weeks right before South Carolina, of defending my wife, rather than promoting her.  He‘s going to just promote now and not defend her.  What‘s the nuance there in his role?

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Well, this is—what I was told by a couple of Clinton confidants, on Hillary, it‘s—sort of there‘s “Hillary-land” and “Bill-land.”  And Hillary-land, which was post-South Carolina, the plan was he needs to stay positive.  And to stay positive is promoting.  If you defend, by the very nature of defending, you‘re going to have to go negative.

And so the message was sent to him, Look, you‘ve got to stay positive, and that‘s why he is using that language...


MATTHEWS:  You and Doug, take a look at this bite because I think we‘ve got it now.


CLINTON:  I think whenever I defend her, I, A, risk being misquoted, and B, risk being the story.  I don‘t want to be the story.  I mean, I don‘t mind being the story in Maine tonight, but you know what I mean.  This is her campaign and her presidency and her decisions.  And so even if I win an argument with another candidate, it‘s not the right thing to do.  I need to promote her but not defend her.


MATTHEWS:  Doug Brinkley, you cover history.  You‘re a great historian.  But isn‘t it amazing how human-size former president Clinton seems in that, seeing how much a regular person he seems in that dinette there.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  Well, he‘s had to bring himself down a lot.  I mean, South Carolina was a terrible mistake.  Not only did he get a kind of a race-baiting tag attached to him, but in many ways energized Ted Kennedy to get out there and created this kind of momentum that Barack Obama‘s still running on.  I think history will show, if Obama got the nomination, that Bill Clinton‘s interjection in Nevada and South Carolina was not helpful to his wife, and that can‘t be nice for the Clintons to have to live with, thinking that maybe he screwed it up, the guy who everybody thinks is the great politician of our time.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I also think that—my interjection here would be that I think Ted Kennedy‘s role in this may have been underrated.  I think that although he wasn‘t able to deliver his state or California, I think he gave the Obama camp that notch up it needed coming out of South Carolina.  What do you think?

TODD:  I think he gave—I think he helped give Gravitas.  Obama grew as a sort of presidential candidate that week after South Carolina, and it culminated—it started with—with the victory in South Carolina.  It was—the exclamation point was Ted Kennedy.  And then that culminated with that debate, where the two of them were equals.  And it was the first time you really saw Obama sit there and he looked like her equal in every way.  More importantly, she treated him as her equal, and she hadn‘t been doing that before, and that actually had been pretty—I actually think...

MATTHEWS:  How did she do that?  How‘d Senator Clinton treat Senator Obama as an equal?

TODD:  Well, she would—she would defer.  She would defer to him:  I agree with him.


TODD:  I agree with Senator Obama on this. 

And then she would also say:  As Barack and I—it was a very collegial—the two of them, they just...


TODD:  And I think that that deference that the two of them showed for each other elevated him more than—more so than—than maybe the Clintons would have wanted. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at Senator Clinton today in Seattle, Washington. 


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Tomorrow, you get a chance to help pick a president. 


H. CLINTON:  And, you know, if this were a primary, where everybody could vote all day, I would feel pretty good about it.  But it‘s not.  It‘s a caucus.  And you have got to show up at 1:00.  And I already met three nurses outside and I said, well, are you going to caucus for me?  And they said, well, we‘re working tomorrow. 

So, I need all of you to redouble your efforts to go to the caucuses tomorrow, to be there, to stand up for what we need in a president. 



MATTHEWS:  Well, the caucuses have been very good to Barack Obama.  You could hear there Senator Clinton expressing her concern about her objection to them, because they don‘t make it easy to vote.  They make it harder to vote, because you have to be there at a certain time.

Here‘s Senator Obama, Barack Obama, making his complaint about the nature of the race right—everybody‘s got a complaint right now.  There are a lot of red flags coming down. 

Here he is. 


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  My strong belief is that, if we end up with the most states and the most pledged delegates from the most voters in the country, that it would be problematic for the political insiders to overturn the judgment of the voters.  And I think that should be the guiding approach to determining who will be the nominee. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s a hot issue raised by both of them.

Hillary Clinton is saying she doesn‘t like caucuses, Doug Brinkley, because they‘re really not as democratic as a primary, and then Barack Obama looking ahead to the fact that he may lose those so-called superdelegates‘ votes, even if he has the most elected delegates.  And he‘s saying, if that happens, that‘s no good.  He‘s basically saying, that wouldn‘t be fair. 

BRINKLEY:  Well, look, tomorrow is going to be probably a very good day for Barack Obama.  He does do well, as you said, Chris, in caucuses. 

If he wins Washington, Nebraska, and Louisiana—and it‘s the first major test for a Democrat in post-Katrina New Orleans.  Obama was there yesterday.  It looks like he‘s going to win.  He‘s going to have a great Saturday. 

I think Hillary Clinton‘s rebound will be Sunday, in—possibly in Maine, and then going into what you guys are call the Piedmont race.  If she can win Virginia, then it all gets down to Ohio and Texas, and the momentum goes to her. 

Obama‘s great fear is those superdelegates, that, somehow, he‘s going to end up with the most delegates, but not get the nomination, because Hillary Clinton got a lot of those superdelegates earlier, when everybody thought it was hers to own and people wanted to sign up with her, and they gave her—the Clintons their word that they would be for them.  They don‘t want to switch now.

So, Barack Obama‘s playing:  I‘m the straight Democrat.  Let‘s count the delegates.


BRINKLEY:  And it looks like he‘s racking up more states than Hillary Clinton, too. 


MATTHEWS:  Chuck—Chuck, run through it exactly where it stands. 

You have got a sheet there that explains how this stands. 


TODD:  Basically, on pledged delegates, Obama‘s ahead.  You throw in the supers, and she‘s narrowly ahead. 

But one thing about these superdelegates, more than half have not yet said who they‘re going to be for.  And I think that‘s as telling as anything.  Obama has prevented a bunch of these folks who are really finger in the wind.  I think everybody is making too much of these superdelegates. 


TODD:  I really think, at the end of the day, they‘re elected officials, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  They will go with the flow?

TODD:  Finger in the wind.

MATTHEWS:  And, so, we won‘t have a situation like we had in 2000 in Florida, where—and it was an undemocratic result. 

TODD:  Feel that it‘s undemocratic.


TODD:  I mean, Obama said something interesting, by the way.  He said, if I have the most states, the most delegates, and the most votes—I think he may have the most states.  I think he may end up with the most pledged delegates.  I don‘t know if he‘s going to have the most votes.

And that‘s going to be an interesting...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes.

TODD:  That‘s going to be an interesting Issue If we go to Puerto Rico on June 7, and she narrowly has the most votes, he narrowly has the most pledged delegates.  Well, then what—what is the right call?  You know...

MATTHEWS:  Well, each side will have its way of the scorekeeping.

TODD:  That‘s right, because these caucuses...


TODD:  I‘m sorry, Doug, we‘re out of time. 

Doug Brinkley, thank you very much for joining us, and Chuck Todd. 


MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Watch out.  Vice President Cheney goes hunting again this weekend. 

And guess who gave money to John McCain? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


H. CLINTON:  This is not just about electing a president.  This is not just about, you know, some, you know, momentary good feeling about, you know, what we can do together, because it‘s going to be hard work.  We have got a lot of damage to clean up.  We have got a lot of repair work to do.  But I am totally confident and optimistic we are up to the task.

Aren‘t you?




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

So, what else is new out there in politics? 

Well, from church pulpits to radio booths, a conservative chorus keeps corralling that, John McCain is not one of us, but news today that the right-wing posse may be heading to the former POW‘s rescue.

“TIME” magazine reports that, yesterday, Karl Rove, the guy who made it his life‘s mission to destroy McCain just eight years ago, has contributed $2,300 to McCain‘s campaign.  The conniving consigliere has maxed out for Mac.  Spread the work. 

Check out this new bizarre TV ad the Clintons put out for Tuesday‘s primaries here in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia. 


NARRATOR:  Our economy could be heading into freefall.  For millions of Americans, foreclosures, interest rates, and health care costs are spinning out of control. 

With your job and family‘s security in the balance, the stakes have never been higher in choosing our next president.  The person you can depend on to fix the economy and protect our future. 

H. CLINTON:  I‘m Hillary Clinton, and I approve this message. 


MATTHEWS:  I think that fits neatly into all our falling dreams. 

Anyway, by the way, small point, but did you notice that the guy who started falling in that TV ad was not the guy we saw several thousand feet lower?  Check it out.  The falling guy has blonde hair and white pants, and the parachute guy has brown hair and red pants.  What happened to that guy?  Did they change guys halfway through that ad? 

Anyway, Dick Cheney—that‘s how he and his family pronounce their name—is headed back this weekend to the infamous Armstrong Ranch in Texas, famous—or infamous—for being that ponderosa where, two years ago, Dick Cheney accidentally shot his buddy Harry Whittington.

Well, host Ann Armstrong has told the local paper out there that her vice presidential guest is one—quote—I love this—“fabulous shot.” 

And, finally tonight, the HARDBALL “Big Number.”

Lots of money news out there this week from the Clinton campaign.  We found out, for example, that Hillary Clinton loaned herself $5 million to help the campaign keep going.  We heard some staffers, in fact, aren‘t getting paid in that campaign. 

But do you ever wonder where all that campaign cash actually ends up? 

For that, today‘s “Washington Post” points out a truly big number:

$500,000.  The Clinton campaign‘s latest financial reports show that they spent nearly $500,000 last year on none other than parking.  That‘s a half-million bucks this year just on garage space. 

And that‘s tonight‘s HARDBALL “Big Number.” 

Up next:  Will Mike Huckabee stick around, and what impact will it have on the conservative support for John McCain?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I am Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks ended a dismal week with a mixed session.  The Dow Jones industrial average fell 64 points.  And, for the week, the Dow was down 561 points.  The S&P 500 lost more than five-and-a-half and the Nasdaq, and the only one in the green there by about 12 points. 

Chrysler is planning big cuts.  The number-three U.S. automaker has told dealers it could reduce the number of dealerships by a third and cut the number of its models by half—no word yet on which models will be affected. 

McDonald‘s reported, global sales in January rose more than 5 percent thanks to growth in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.  But, here in the U.S., sales lagged. 

And oil prices surged today amid some supply snags overseas and a looming cold spell here in the Northeast.  Crude oil gained $3.66 in New York‘s trading session, closing at $91.77 a barrel. 

That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to



MIKE HUCKABEE ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  As most of you know, yesterday, things got a little interesting in the Republican primary.  Another one of the candidates has left the field. 


HUCKABEE:  And we‘re now basically down to two of us.  And the fact is, a lot of folks have said, well, why don‘t you quit? 

Well, let me tell you something.  Let me explain why I‘m not going to quit.  Because, first of all, I still believe that we can win. 



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

You heard it there.  Mike Huckabee is not going to quit this race. And he makes John McCain‘s courtship of the conservative base of the Republican Party all the much tougher. 

But why don‘t conservatives like John McCain? 

Well, Associated Press reporter Libby Quaid has done us the favor.  She‘s put together a list of 10 top reasons why conservatives don‘t like McCain.  We tweaked it ever so slightly to bring you the HARDBALL top 10 list.  But we owe it to her. 

So, why do conservatives dislike McCain? 

Well, first of all, number 10; campaign finance reform.  McCain tried to limit the role of money in politics.  Conservatives never forgot him—forgave him—forgave him. 

Number nine: immigration.  McCain supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. 

Number eight: tax cuts.  McCain twice voted against President Bush‘s tax cuts in 2001, again in 2003.  Now he says he wants to extend those tax cuts, keep them permanent. 

Number seven: gay marriage.  McCain does not support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. 

Number six: stem cell research.  McCain would relax restrictions on federal dollars for embryonic stem cell research. 

Number five: global warming.  He calls for action to halt it. 

Number four: gang of 14 member, that bipartisan group that banded together to avoid a Senate showdown on filibuster. 

Number three: Kerry veep.  McCain was approached by John Kerry about being his veep in 2004.  He rejected the offer. 

Number two:  He works with Democrats on bills. 

Number one: temper, temper, temper.  Conservative James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, said in a statement on the morning of Super Tuesday primaries that he would not vote for McCain, citing, among other things, his—quote—“legendary temper,” and that—quote—“he often uses foul and obscene language.”

That‘s James Dobson taking a shot at—at John McCain. 

Anyway, enter Mike Huckabee, who‘s still in the race and who‘s got lots of support in the South.  Plus, he plays bass. 




MATTHEWS:  Joining me now is Jonathan Martin of “The Politico,” and Amy Sullivan of the magazine—actually, she‘s “TIME” magazine editor of “The Nation” section, author of the upcoming book “The Party Faithful.” 

Amy Sullivan, let‘s talk about Huckabee.  He seems to have an appeal in one of the country dramatically.  That‘s the South.  Among the Bible Belt, the guy practically owns the place.  He blew out Mitt Romney there.  I think it‘s one of the reasons Romney quit the other day.  Where‘s he headed and why? 

AMY SULLIVAN, “TIME”:  Well, he‘s not getting out of the race any time soon.  And there‘s really no reason for him to leave at this point.  There are states that he can continue to pick up throughout the South.  He‘s going to do fairly well in Texas.  And it‘s not costing him any money right now to campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  Does he win where they have Southern accents, to be blunt about it?

SULLIVAN:  He won in Iowa. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  He won that.

SULLIVAN:  They don‘t have a heck of a lot of Southern accents there. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the one—the exception proves the rule. 


MATTHEWS:  What do you think?  Finish your thought.  I‘m sorry. 

SULLIVAN:  Well, you know, he has been taking those evangelicals who either didn‘t want to vote for a Mormon or have not forgiven John McCain from 2000 yet. 

And we don‘t know yet, with just two people in the race, how many of the extra evangelicals are going to stick with him. 

MATTHEWS:  What sin did John McCain commit in 2000? 

SULLIVAN:  Well, he called two of the movement leaders agents of intolerance, which, even if evangelicals don‘t like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, wasn‘t something they wanted to hear from possible presidential...

MATTHEWS:  And he didn‘t claim to be misunderstood. 


SULLIVAN:  Absolutely not.  He meant what he said. 


MATTHEWS:  Jonathan? 


I mean, John McCain and Mitt Romney are not evangelicals.  Huckabee can—can offer them the fact that, “I am just like you,” both in his background growing up in rural Arkansas, and also the fact that he‘s a Baptist preacher. 

And, if you look at where he did well, Chris, in the South, it was in the rural areas.  Places like Atlanta and Nashville and Birmingham, the sort of capital cities, the hubs in those states...


MARTIN:  ... he did the absolute worst. 

And I think you‘re going to see the same pattern here on Tuesday in Virginia.  He‘s going to do well in the rural south side, southwest part of the state, Chris. 

Here in the Washington area, he‘s probably not going to do very well at all. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this a country mouse versus city mouse kind of thing, where it‘s simply a rural person with obviously—even a rural name, Huckabee.  I think it‘s sort of a country name.  We all associate it with “I Heart Huckabee”—and against sort of a suburban-type personality like John McCain? 

MARTIN:  Absolutely.  John McCain or Romney. 

Look at Missouri on Tuesday.  Key state, swing state.  Huckabee, he swept in the whole southern part of the state where it‘s culturally more southern, the Ozarks, Springfield area.  Look at the St. Louis and K.C.  suburbs, Chris.  He did terrible there. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at Mike Huckabee in a city situation on “The Colbert Report‘ the other night.


MIKE HUCKABEE ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think we have a real shot at a big state, Texas. 

STEPHEN COLBERT, “THE COLBERT REPORT”:  Texas?  You think you can score with Texas? 

HUCKABEE:  Yes, indeed. 


COLBERT:  Governor, let‘s see if you can win with Texas. 

HUCKABEE:  Game on. 

COLBERT:  Why do you think the people of Texas will go for your message? 

HUCKABEE:  Because, I understand barbecue. 



MATTHEWS:  It reminds me of the night I got Stephen Colbert in a full nelson.  I played a different game with him.

What do you make of that? 

MARTIN:  He‘s having a blast. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  Tell me how—it‘s fun.  Free (ph) TV is everything. 

MARTIN:  It‘s fun TV.  He‘s having the time of his life.  Chris, he‘s already won this campaign.  He‘s probably not ever going to be president, but so what. 

MATTHEWS:  So all he needs is a coach ticket to the next event, the next TV event? 


MARTIN:  Change in his pocket.  There you go, right?

AMY SULLIVAN, AUTHOR, “THE PARTY FAITHFUL”:  You know, he‘s not spending $40 million of his own money to do this.  He‘s not going to get humiliated.  There will be states he‘ll continue to pick up, so there‘s no reason for him to stop yet. 

MATTHEWS:  Why has he survived the people like, well, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel and Duncan Hunter and Joe Biden, and God, Chris Dodd.  Go through the list of, like, 20 people practically who have faded on the side road, and he stays on the main highway acting like he‘s number two.  He just declared himself number two. 

SULLIVAN:  Well, he has a base.  He has a pretty significant base. 

You‘re talking about over a third of the Republican Party.  And they‘re not all going for him, but that‘s still a lot of people.  And he‘s also been extremely lucky in who his opponents have been. 


MATTHEWS:  So when a person—you‘re writing this book about it.  I know

it‘s done now, it‘s coming out, “The Party Faithful.”  A person who goes to

church in an evangelical church thinks about politics from that perspective

I go to this church, I believe in these things, I‘m looking for someone else who does, I‘ll vote for them. 

Is that it? 

SULLIVAN:  It‘s part of that.  But it‘s also, you know, he has this riff that really resonates with people.  It‘s not just spin when he says, people have been saying it‘s impossible, but we keep winning. 

You know, it‘s the David versus Goliath. 

MARTIN:  That‘s right.

SULLIVAN:  It‘s Daniel and the lions. 

These are cultural touchstones that he can continue to really resonate with and say, I‘m just like that guy.  I‘m the little guy.  And it‘s always the little guy who triumphs. 

MARTIN:  And a third reason, too.  He‘s one heck of a performer.  Give credit where he is due.  This guy knows how to get mentioned in the press, how to appear on the evening news. 

Look at Iowa, Chris.  He went out hunting.  An incredible photo-op hunting in Iowa right before the caucuses. 

He went and got a shave and a haircut.  Incredible press from that. 

MATTHEWS:  But here‘s the problem he faces.  There...


MARTIN:  It‘s very, very impressive.

On Sunday, he‘s going to be here at D.C., Chris, going to Walter Reed Hospital.  Imagine the press he‘s going to get from that. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m going to ask you this, though—where‘s it end up?  Where‘s the parade end? 

Does it end with him VP?  Apparently, the real cultural concerns don‘t think he‘s one of them, despite his success in that part of the world, in the bible belt.  They don‘t think he‘s an actual true blue, blue plate special conservative, Huckabee. 

SULLIVAN:  Right.  But you‘re talking about the Dobsons of the world. 

MARTIN:  The elite.  Elites.

SULLIVAN:  That‘s not necessarily—those aren‘t the people in the pews.

MARTIN:  Rank and file, yes.

SULLIVAN:  And there is a huge break here.  I mean, Dobson was the last one to the party here in getting behind Huckabee. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that Huckabee could be VP? 

SULLIVAN:  I don‘t think that they would make him McCain‘s VP, because McCain, his problem is being seen as too much of a maverick, and that‘s Huckabee as well, to much of the party. 

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, he‘s an interesting guy.  Anyway, he‘s a great guest to have on this show. 

Anyway, thank you, Jonathan Martin.

Thank you, Amy Sullivan.

MARTIN:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Up next, we‘ll give you “The Politics Fix.”  It‘s always fun on Friday here on the week that saw one big Super Tuesday and the Republican nomination locked up by John McCain.  That‘s what happened this week.  A lot happened this week.  The Democratic fight is still wide open. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSBNC.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ),  PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I am proud to be a conservative, and I make that claim because I share with you the most basic of conservative principles—that liberty is a right conferred by our creator, not by governments. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In “The Politics Fix,” our roundtable tonight, Jennifer Donahue, of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics; Linda Douglass, of “The National Journal” and Eugene Robinson of “The Washington Post.”

Let me start with Jennifer. 

Why does a guy who‘s been a conservative for a hundred years have to do the Pledge of Allegiance all of a sudden here?  Or The Apostles‘ Creed? 

JENNIFER DONAHUE, NEW HAMPSHIRE INSTITUTE OF POLITICS:  Because the—right, yes.  Because the party has changed 20 times since he started being a conservative, and they don‘t know who they are anymore. 

It‘s the three-legged stool.  He‘s sitting on actually all three, but people don‘t accept that.  They say, no, he defends Huckabee‘s social issues.  Romney was the economy.

Not true.  McCain‘s been there the whole time. 

He is a conservative.  He may not be likeable enough, he may not be the conservative conservatives love.  Laura Ingraham decided to skewer him. 

He may not be the CPAC conservative, but if you go back 10 years, 20 years, 15 years, anything you want, he fits in with the overall big picture of the Republican Party.  And all his dissenters are only reducing their chances for him to win and for him to get swift-boated by November 2008, by whoever his opponent is.  And that‘s a huge difference, depending on who that opponent is. 

MATTHEWS:  Linda Douglass, same question to you.  Why is this guy, who is known on this circuit of talk shows for a hundred years, have to come out and explain what he believes, when we‘ve heard what he believes all these years? 

LINDA DOUGLASS, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”:  Well, there are certainly many of these conservatives—and we talked to some of the ones who were at this convention—who think there are many, many issues where John McCain has not been conservative. 

He was against President Bush‘s tax cuts because they might benefit the rich.  He is for stemming global warming, which infuriates some people in the business community.  They‘re furious at him about illegal immigration. 

You know, there are several issues like that.  But more than anything else, what I heard—I talked to David Keene today, for example, who sponsored this whole big—this big conference that he was at.  They don‘t trust him. 

They don‘t know—even if he says that he‘s going to keep taxes low, of course he‘ll be strong on national security, they know that‘s true.  But if he says that he‘s going to adhere to everything they want on fiscal issues and on social issues, they don‘t trust him. 

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  That‘s a pretty good reason not to like somebody. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, that would be another way of saying they can‘t control him, because...

MATTHEWS:  I thought it was that, too.

DONAHUE:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  Because he‘s his own man. 

DONAHUE:  That‘s it.

ROBINSON:  And he does—he does what he feels is right at a given moment. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s why we like him.  Well, journalists love him because he‘s unpredictable.  But...

DONAHUE:  Yes, but...

ROBINSON:  He‘s unpredictable, and he‘s also—and he also can be abrasive, too.  I mean, he can...


DONAHUE:  But Gene, gene, don‘t you think that...

MATTHEWS:  Jennifer, has he ever been abrasive to you? 

DONAHUE:  Yes, but he‘s also been incredibly kind.  I‘ve met the man about 200 times, I‘ve had dinner with him numerous times.  He‘s a whole person.

But you know what?  So is the average voter.

The average voter doesn‘t go to the CPAC conference.  The average voter wants to know whether that tax cut‘s coming again. 

They really aren‘t thinking back.  They‘re in the here and now.  They‘re in not salad days.  These are not gravy days, these are not salad days, these are tough days. 

And they‘re not sitting around racking up yes/no‘s.  On the biggest conservative issues that voters care about, he‘s pro-life, OK? 

He may have the stem-cell issue.  They don‘t really care.  They want someone pro-life, they want someone pro-fiscal conservatism.  He fits the bill. 

He also gets swing voters, Independents.  Without those, he does not win the election. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a strange time, Linda Douglass, for the Republican Party to give—to put this guy through a litmus test, to vet him.  He‘s been picked. 


MATTHEWS:  This is the weirdest thing.  He‘s got the job.  Now they‘re doing the job interview.  It‘s so weird. 

DOUGLASS:  There is something so fundamentally self-destructive about this, because obviously John McCain, as Jennifer says, is actually a conservative.  And is certainly seen as a conservative by Democrats, who are going to be running against him. 

Plus, he has the ability to attract these Independent voters...


DOUGLASS:  ... which actually means he would be a strong general election candidate.  But they are going to continue to demand that he take positions that might be hard to defend, if he does so.  Because, first of all, it compromises his maverick image if he gives into them.  You know, and secondly, then they just—then they may make him too far to the right for the Independents. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the question, Gene. 

DONAHUE:  Yes.  Like remember the Ralph Reed one? 

MATTHEWS:  Just a minute, Jennifer. 

Yes, Jennifer.  I‘m sorry. 

DONAHUE:  Sorry. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve got a gentleman here that‘s turning his chain (ph).

Let me ask you this about...

DONAHUE:  I wish I could see him.  If I could see him, I wouldn‘t interrupt. 

MATTHEWS:  Just imagine someone else is talking. 

DONAHUE:  You know what it‘s like in a black room. 

I‘m sorry, Gene.  Go ahead. 


Let me ask you—let me ask you, Gene, if—Gene, I‘m laughing here. 

Gene, what happens if he has to keep steering to the right and saluting to the right on every one of these litmus test issues from taxes to cultural issues to foreign policy?  And all the of time, the middle of the road guy or the middle woman is out there saying, I‘m not sure I care about Hillary or Obama, I‘m looking for an alternative, but this guy‘s going far right of me? 

ROBINSON:  Exactly.  This is—that‘s the great appeal of John McCain.  I mean, we were talking earlier about the average voter.

MATTHEWS:  He wants (ph) to give up what he‘s got.

ROBINSON:  The average voter is an Independent or a Democrat.  So...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So the right wants him to give up his sales pitch. 

ROBINSON:  ... he can‘t—exactly.  And give up the reason to elect him president. 


MATTHEWS:  OK, great. 

We‘ll be right back with the roundtable. 

We‘ll talk about the Democrats, because this thing between Hillary and Obama is so close.  It‘s such asymmetric warfare.  It is the great debate and the great fight of our political lives, this one, and it‘s still going on.  It‘s got two more months to run.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.



WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I said, “Hillary, it‘s just the reverse.”  I said, “I think you‘ll have a difficult time winning the nomination.  I think you‘ll have to run for a while as the underdog.  But I think if you get nominated, you‘ll win handily.”


DOUGLASS:  OK, so that‘s Bill Clinton saying that she‘s the underdog.  This is the candidate who started off as the virtual incumbent, as someone who was completely inevitable.  He is so clever. 

Now he‘s telling the story about how she always has to come from behind, fight her way for everything that she ever wins, and of course that‘s why she would be the great general election candidate.  Sixteen different messages in everything he says.  He‘s so clever.


MATTHEWS:  The history of man as told by Bill Clinton. 

ROBINSON:  You know, I mean, and the irony, really, of, you know, the representative of really the best, most complete political machine we have in American politics right now. 

MATTHEWS:  The closest thing to (INAUDIBLE).

ROBINSON:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  And they‘re acting like the underdogs. 

ROBINSON:  And she‘s the underdog.  Poor us, we don‘t have any money, we don‘t have any—you know, they are opening all these offices.  What are we going to do? 

MATTHEWS:  Jennifer, this is a complaint about something that doesn‘t exist, apparently.  Her underdog status is not a reality.  She‘s at least even with Barack Obama.  In terms of troops, she‘s got every big person in the state I come from. 


MATTHEWS:  I mean, she‘s got a lot of clout behind her. 

DONAHUE:  Yes.  Yes, she keeps running...

MATTHEWS:  So, what‘s going on?

DONAHUE:  ... out of money, though.  And people are going to start worrying about that. 

I heard from a college kid up here, not at my college—he‘ll remain nameless, but on January 11th, all the New Hampshire staffers that went on to the other states and some in other states went off pay.  They have been in trouble for longer than a couple of weeks. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, we heard that. 

DONAHUE:  And I think...

MATTHEWS:  So let‘s talk about these races. 

I‘m sorry.  We—Jennifer, I want you to pick up here.

DONAHUE:  OK, Chris.  Let me tell you something.  You know—what I think is happening right now is that if you look at...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s happening is you‘re ignoring me. 

DONAHUE:  Sorry.  Go ahead.  I don‘t want to ignore you. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me—I‘m sorry. 

Can I ask you—we only have a couple of minutes here as we end this show on this weekend.  But there‘s so much coming up this week, and I want you to run through the highlights, everybody here. 

Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington State, and then Maine on Sunday.  Then here on Tuesday, D.C., Virginia, Maryland.  We‘ve got seven events, seven contests between now and practically when we meet again here on HARDBALL.

Who‘s going to win these seven?  Give me an—give me a sense of who is going to win these seven races coming up. 

DONAHUE:  We know that Obama has done well in caucuses.  Young people can go to caucuses and just show up. 

That doesn‘t mean that if Bill Clinton‘s not—if he‘s right, that Hillary Clinton is better at the underdog roll, which she was in New Hampshire, she could surprise us.  But I think he‘s got an edge based on the format of the race that‘s coming up and the Chesapeake—Potomac event. 


DONAHUE:  But I think you‘ve got to look at one thing, which is that this race is split on women 40 yeas old. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Fade to black.  Fade to black, Jennifer.

Thank you, Jennifer Donahue.  We‘re fading to black here. 

DONAHUE:  You bet.

MATTHEWS:  Linda Douglass, Eugene Robinson, thank you all.  It‘s great.

Join us again Monday at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.

Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”. 



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