Guests: Howard Wolfson, Eugene Robinson, Jeanne Cummings, Laura Schwartz, Doug Wilder, Chip Saltsman
NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: It‘s Tuesday. It‘s 2008. And once again that means elections in America.
Welcome to the show. I‘m Norah O‘Donnell in for Tucker Carlson.
There are delegates on the line tonight in Wisconsin, Hawaii, and the state of Washington. Here is the fundamental information about where, when, and how many.
In Wisconsin, there are standard primary elections on both sides of the political aisle. Hawaii holds Democratic caucuses and Washington state holds its GOP primary to award half the state‘s delegates after the state‘s caucuses awarded the first half on February 9th.
In terms of specific delegate numbers, Wisconsin will elect 74 Democratic delegates by congressional district. On the Republican side it‘s winner-take-all contest for 37 delegates. In Hawaii there are 20 Democratic delegates up for grabs. In Washington state Republicans will assign 19 delegates.
And the timing goes like this. The Wisconsin polls close at 8:00 local time, 9:00 p.m. here in the east, about three hours from now. And in Hawaii and in Washington state, polls are open until 11:00 Eastern Time.
For the next hour we will examine the issues, the campaign tactics and real stakes in tonight‘s contest with NBC political director Chuck Todd and our election night superstars Gene Robinson, Pat Buchanan, along with the “Politico‘s” Jeanne Cummings and Democratic strategist Laura Schwartz. And we‘ll visit with representatives of the campaign.
But we will begin with the reports from the campaign trail. We‘ll check in with the Clinton campaign in just a few moments. But first let‘s get the latest from the Barack Obama campaign. And for that we turn to NBC‘s Lee Cowan who is in Houston, Texas with Senator Obama.
Hi there, Lee.
LEE COWAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Norah. Yes, tonight is really about managing expectations, I think, for the Obama campaign. They have spent a lot of time, a lot of resources, and a lot of money in Wisconsin over the last several days. In fact, they spent close to half a million dollars on TV ads alone. That‘s more than four times what Hillary Clinton has spent. What they are really hoping they can do is to replicate the kind of broad support that we saw them get last week in Virginia, Maryland and D.C.
If they can do that, especially among those blue-collar Democrats, they think that they eke out not only a win but a very convincing win in Wisconsin tonight. Norah?
O‘DONNELL: All right. Lee Cowan with the latest from there.
Thank you, Lee.
And now from Youngstown, Ohio where Hillary Clinton will spend this evening, it‘s NBC‘s Ron Allen with the latest from Senator Hillary Clinton‘s campaign.
Hi there, Ron.
RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: How are you, Norah?
O‘DONNELL: I‘m well, thank you. How are they managing expectations?
ALLEN: They are keeping expectations very low as well, just as Lee was reporting from the Obama camp. I think the Clintons hope that they come out with a tie or a little better, perhaps, or not much worse. They think that the race is going to be so close that the delegate split won‘t significantly affect the overall delegate race.
And that‘s what the Clinton campaign has been focusing for the past
few days, is the long haul. They continue to insist that this is going to
go on into June and beyond, perhaps to the convention. And they think that
in the long haul they are going to out-win delegates. So they‘re focusing
that‘s why they are here at Ohio. They are focusing on big states with big delegate counts, Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, to come on April 22nd.
And that‘s where they think they‘re going to make up the distance—the difference with Obama. Of course, they have to start winning along the way to do that though.
O‘DONNELL: All right. Ron Allen, we‘ll check in with you later in the evening. Thank you, Ron.
And now let‘s check in with NBC‘s Kelly O‘Donnell who is covering John McCain‘s campaign. He is going to be in Columbus, Ohio.
Hi there, Kelly.
KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Norah. We are in Columbus, Ohio having jumped ahead from Wisconsin. And on that Wisconsin vote, McCain hopes to stretch his lead over Mike Huckabee who remains in the race.
And one of the things I noticed today is John McCain is talking more about world affairs, what happened with Fidel Castro in Cuba, talking about the elections in Pakistan, trying to appear more like a statesman, and focusing less on the nitty-gritty horse race on the GOP side. Norah?
O‘DONNELL: All right, Kelly O‘Donnell. Thank you so much.
And now to Mike Huckabee, who is urging conservative voters to shake up the Republican presidential campaign. He‘s trying to beat McCain in that state of Wisconsin. And NBC‘s Ron Mott is with the Huckabee campaign in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Good to see you. So are they hoping for a win in Wisconsin tonight or are they downplaying expectations today?
RON MOTT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they‘ll take whatever result they can get. Obviously they would like a win, Norah. But they are going on. Mike Huckabee took the day off but this campaign is still very much on, despite the fact he trails John McCain by about 600 delegates. He is still mathematically in this thing. And he says he‘s going to stick around until John McCain—if John McCain can reach that magic number of 1191 delegates to secure the GOP nomination officially.
Now back to you, Norah.
O‘DONNELL: All right. Ron Mott, thank you so much.
What a great update from our reporters on the campaign trail.
Now we know about all the contests tonight and the primaries. Now let‘s break it all down with the analysis. With—joining us now is the busiest man in the business, certainly here at NBC News, our political director Chuck Todd.
Chuck, thanks so much for joining us. Let‘s talk first about the Democrats. And everybody‘s, of course, eyes are on Wisconsin tonight, partly because Hawaii is going to—we‘re going to get those results so late.
How key is Wisconsin? If Barack Obama wins that state it will be 10 and 0. The polls have shown that it‘s a very close contest.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right.
O‘DONNELL: If Barack Obama wins there tonight and wins big, would that be devastating for Hillary Clinton‘s campaign?
TODD: You know, it could be because of what it could foreshadow. Wisconsin is—would be among one of the whitest states that Barack Obama has won to date, if he does. And if he wins it handily, this is an electorate that could look a lot like what Ohio might look like. It‘s, you know—it‘s almost 90 percent white. A lot of working class Democrats here.
Now there are some intangibles that certainly favored Obama. Independents can vote in this, same-day voter registration. Obviously Wisconsin has its share of college campuses. But it‘s certainly a big win for him tonight. It means he would have to really gotten into some of her blocks.
O‘DONNELL: And tell us, you‘ve got your map there.
TODD: Oh the magic map.
O‘DONNELL: .about what we know in terms of the delegate count. And we know how much—I guess Wisconsin is in the 70s, right?
TODD: Right. It‘s 74. And we can talk about this a little bit. And I think that a conservative night, you know, a small victory by Obama, and you could have a fairly even delegate split and here‘s why. The heart of Obama support really is here all in Madison and Milwaukee and in the suburbs of Milwaukee. So it‘s in the first, the second congressional districts and the fourth and the fifth.
The rest of the state, a little more rural, a little more working class, and this is particularly the seventh congressional district. Over here is where Green Bay is in the eighth congressional district. Lacrosse is over here in the third. These are places that Clinton should do fairly well. And if she wins, she will do really well.
So looking at these returns tonight particularly following, I think, the eighth congressional district it‘s great looking at it in this Democratic primary. In the general election there might be no better swing district in the country than Wisconsin‘s eighth, and in this Democratic primary, we will see maybe no better swing district than Wisconsin‘s eighth district, which right here so we can make sure everybody knows where it is.
O‘DONNELL: Chuck, two things I‘m look at tonight, I want to know if you feel the same way. Wisconsin, one, independents, because it‘s an open primary, about how they break. They have favored Barack Obama in the past. And two, white working class voters, they have been a pillar of strength for the Hillary Clinton campaign. She‘ll need those types of voters to win in Ohio and in Pennsylvania.
How key will it be for her to hold onto that group? There‘s been all this talk about economy, NAFTA, trade.
O‘DONNELL: We‘ve seen in the exit polls, it‘s a huge issue for voters.
TODD: Right. It is. And particularly, I mean, the sort of the places I‘m looking at, particularly here in Green Bay and here in Racine. This is the heart of working class Democrats and I‘ll say this. If—she‘s got a very strong electability argument against Obama if she continues to do well with these voting groups because she can make an argument they won‘t necessarily stick with the Democratic ticket.
This is the old Reagan Democratic coalition that made Michigan—that turned Michigan from being a one-time solid Democratic state to a competitive state to one that obviously Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush carried the first time.
Working class Democrats, McCain could do well with them. So if Obama doesn‘t start winning them in the primary, that is something that Clinton can use when she‘s wooing. You know at some point the fight for super delegates is going to be over in the electoral resume. And the best parts of Obama‘s resume are going to be independents and Republicans and white men.
The best parts of Clinton‘s resume could very well how she does with these downscale working class white voters who you could absolutely see John McCain having just as much chance of winning them over as Barack Obama.
O‘DONNELL: That‘s a great point, Chuck Todd. Thank you so very much.
TODD: You got it.
O‘DONNELL: And Barack Obama is trying to make it 10 in a row tonight.
That would leave Hillary Clinton with zero wins in the last 10 contests.
Will Ohio and Texas be her firewall on March 4th?
O‘DONNELL: Still ahead, the Republican primary. How long will former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee stay in the race? And is he hurting Senator John McCain‘s efforts to win over the party‘s conservative base?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL: First of all, I‘ve had to go up against the Clinton machine. It‘s not as if they are playing tidally winks, right?
MATT LAUER, HOST, THE “TODAY” SHOW: It‘s hardball.
OBAMA: Every day they‘ve got a press conference accusing me of this or that or the other. So, you know, we‘ve been battle tested during the course of this primary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: That‘s Senator Barack Obama telling the “Today” show‘s Matt Lauer this morning that he‘s tested and ready for anything the Republicans or the Clintons he says might throw at him.
The question tonight is will the Clinton attacks on everything from Obama‘s speeches to his experience be enough to put her over the top in Wisconsin?
Joining me now is Hillary Clinton‘s communications advisor, Howard Wolfson.
Howard, great to have you on. Thanks so much for joining us.
HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Happy to be
with you. A little cold but happy to be with you.
O‘DONNELL: Thank you for standing outside. We appreciate it.
Let‘s talk about Wisconsin, key contest tonight on the Democratic side certainly. It seems to me it‘s kind of the state that almost Hillary Clinton would have invented to win a Democratic primary. It‘s brimming with whites, working class voters who usually support her in this contest.
Would a poor performance in Wisconsin raise real questions about her candidacy going forward?
WOLFSON: No, not at all. You know, this is a state along with Hawaii that the Obama campaign predicted big victories in a couple weeks ago. They knew that these were good states for them, which is why they predicted big victories. We‘re very much looking forward to Texas and Ohio, the two next big states that come up on March 4th. We did run a campaign in Wisconsin. We worked hard. But the Obama campaign long ago predicted victory here and it‘s because they knew this was a good state for them.
O‘DONNELL: We know the economy is in the number one issue for Democratic primary voters in all these primaries. We‘ve got some exit polls that show that seven in ten believe international trade has taken away jobs in that states. Obama, just the other day, hit Hillary Clinton on NAFTA. Of course, President Clinton‘s—one of his signature trade policies.
Let‘s take a listen to what he says.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Just be clear, speeches don‘t put food on the table, but—but the only way that we‘re going to bring about change is if all of you get excited about change. One thing I do have to say about Senator Clinton. She says, well, speeches don‘t put food on the table. Well, you know what? NAFTA didn‘t put food on the table here in Youngstown either. So I‘m happy, I‘m happy to have that discussion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Howard, have you been hurt by issues like that? And the reason I ask is exit polls in Maryland and Virginia showed Barack Obama chipping away at white working class voters, which have traditionally been behind Hillary Clinton.
WOLFSON: Well, Hillary Clinton knows and has said that NAFTA hasn‘t delivered on its promises. That‘s why she‘s calling for a trade time-out. She wants to review every trade agreement to make sure that they are fair for American workers.
And you know, this is another example of where Senator Obama‘s words don‘t match the reality. He‘s praised free trade agreements like NAFTA. He‘s praised trade agreements over the past several years. So Senator Obama has praised trade. Senator Clinton knows that NAFTA hasn‘t delivered on its promises and wants to do something about that.
O‘DONNELL: How do you explain then him, Barack Obama, even in the Potomac primaries in Maryland and Virginia cutting in to Hillary Clinton‘s base? Is that an increasing concern for your campaign and when is Hillary Clinton going to start cutting into Barack Obama‘s base, if you will, and are those part of your plans?
WOLFSON: Well, as I said, we are very much looking forward to the upcoming primaries in Texas and Ohio. Rhode Island and Vermont also vote on that day. You know, we have two very big states there. They are different kinds of states. One is in the south, one is in the Midwest. Texas and Ohio, lots of delegates at stake. We feel very good about our prospects there. Senator Obama is pouring resources, pouring money in into those states. It‘s going to be a very exciting couple of weeks.
O‘DONNELL: Well, you guys just put out today that you raised $15 million in this month. So you‘re flushed with cash, too. Are you going head-to-head with Barack Obama in terms of competing in those states?
WOLFSON: We have had a great month raising money online, since Hillary Clinton announced that she had loaned herself $5 million, the money has been pouring in online. And if you‘re a Hillary Clinton supporter out there, please go to HillaryClinton.com and give. This is your campaign, we need your help.
So we are going to have the resources to compete, but Senator Obama is going to do everything he can to contest Texas and Ohio strongly as he can.
O‘DONNELL: Howard, let me ask you about what was a little tit for tat today, if you will. Of course, this published report that the Clinton campaign is going to go after Barack Obama pledged delegates. Though I know this is difficult for people sometimes to understand, they aren‘t technically bound even though they are signed in our count that we show here at NBC.
The Obama campaign calls this part of the disturbing pattern of the Clinton campaign to, quote, “say or do anything to win tactics.”
Are you going to play that way? Are you going to try and steal away pledged delegates?
WOLFSON: Well, those kinds of attacks from the Obama campaign are unwarranted. We said early this morning that we were not going to engage in that activity. But look, let‘s put this into some context. Roughly 40 delegates separates the two candidates. That‘s about 1 percent of the overall delegates that will be seated in Denver. So this race is essentially a tie. We feel very good about Texas and Ohio. And it‘s going to be a very exciting couple of weeks.
O‘DONNELL: Howard, I guess I asked that question because people are asking, how does Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama? How does—somebody, at least one of the sides even breaks this sort of deadlocks. And so there are questions not only about flipping of pledged delegates but also twisting of arms of super delegates. And rather the Clinton campaign is going to play fair.
So you can assure me tonight, because Doug Wilder, the mayor of Virginia, says there‘s going to be riots in the streets at the convention if this happened. You can assure me tonight you‘re not going to be trying to flip any pledged delegates.
WOLFSON: We said that this morning. I believe the Obama campaign put out a statement about this as well. We‘ve made it very clear. But you asked how the race is going to change. Look, Senator Obama is a relative newcomer to the scene of national politics. Three years ago he was in the Illinois state Senate. He‘s not running on a record of accomplishment. He‘s running on powerful rhetoric and a string of promises.
And as you know and as your viewers know, in the last couple of days, we‘ve learned that in at least one instance and then today we found another that Senator Obama has taken rhetoric from another elected official. And so if you‘re talking about the importance of words, if you‘re running on words, the words ought to be your own. And we have seen from Senator Obama that that‘s not always the case.
O‘DONNELL: All right. Howard Wolfson with the Clinton campaign.
Thank you so much for joining us tonight.
WOLFSON: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: And go get some gloves on there.
WOLFSON: Good to be here, too.
O‘DONNELL: Your hands are going to freeze.
WOLFSON: My—I need the earmuffs, too, but I thought, you know, it was one thing to have a sweater on but earmuffs would be a bit too much.
O‘DONNELL: I do remember that sweater, Howard. You made a wise choice to leave the earmuffs inside.
WOLFSON: Yes, sure.
O‘DONNELL: Thanks for coming on.
O‘DONNELL: And coming up her husband‘s on the ballot but today the attention turned to Michelle Obama and what some say are her controversial comments about her husband‘s bid.
John McCain‘s wife Cindy actually shot back at Mrs. Obama on the campaign trail today. That‘s right. Is this the start of the war of spouses?
And is the presence of a once very famous spouse, Bill Clinton, changing the role for all the candidates‘ better half?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you go 10 in a row?
OBAMA: I think it‘s possible. You know, we feel good about the campaigning we‘ve done there. But you never take it for granted. Remember New Hampshire.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL: My husband didn‘t wrap up the nomination in ‘92 until June. And usually it takes a while to sort all this out. And that‘s why there are rules, Democratic Party rules, that if there are contested delegations, the convention votes on them. Those are the rules.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Sounds like she‘s planning to go to the convention now. By merely every account, this primary election seasons has been the most dramatic in memory, in large parts because of the unpredictability, having rather ups and downs. And it appears that both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are intent on lowering expectations in tonight‘s primaries and caucuses. Surprise, surprise.
Among the potential storylines tonight is the possibility that Senator Obama could win his ninth and tenth consecutive contest. What happens if he does and what happens if he doesn‘t?
Joining us now here in New York are MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and “The Washington Post” Eugene Robinson. From Washington, the “Politico‘s” Jeanne Cummings and from Los Angeles, Democratic strategist Laura Schwartz.
Welcome to all. Thanks so much for joining us.
Let‘s start—Pat, let‘s just talk about the expectations gain tonight. Barack Obama could go 10 and 0. He says he thinks possibly he could. The Clinton campaign is sort of downplaying expectations for Wisconsin.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: If Hillary Clinton doesn‘t make this close or doesn‘t win it, I think it‘s not only bad news for her for what it says but what it (INAUDIBLE) tends, because Wisconsin, as I heard you said earlier, should be ideally suited. There are working class, white folks, Catholics, very older population. And it should be tailor-made for her.
Obama is good in Madison and Milwaukee. But if she doesn‘t, that will be bad news in Ohio, I think, if it‘s bad news in Wisconsin and it‘s already dead even in some polls in Texas. So she‘s looking at a pretty bad hand ahead of her.
O‘DONNELL: Gene, what about that? I was looking at the exit polls.
More than 40 percent voting in the Democratic primary are Catholic. Talking about a lot of whites in Wisconsin, about almost 90 percent in that state. White working class has been one of her pillars of strength.
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right.
O‘DONNELL: Barack Obama was hitting her on that out there. If she starts to lose this base, like white working class voters, which we kind of saw in Maryland and Virginia.
ROBINSON: Well, that‘s.
O‘DONNELL: That‘s trouble.
ROBINSON: It‘s actually—yes. We saw it happening in Maryland and
Virginia. I think that was the significant thing from the Potomac
primaries that Obama made real inroads into these groups that have been
with Hillary Clinton all along. If we see that again tonight in Wisconsin
you know, again, that‘s not a great sign for the Clinton campaign. They have given really mixed messages about Wisconsin.
ROBINSON: But we could—you know, at the beginning, a week or so ago, they were acting as if there weren‘t even—wasn‘t even going to be a primary. And then they seemed to have thought, well maybe gee, we need to compete there. We need to be seen competing there. So they fly out.
O‘DONNELL: Yes, they spent money on ads.
O‘DONNELL: They‘ve challenged him, saying, we‘ve got to debate here, they sent out mailers challenging them.
ROBINSON: Right. And then, and now at the end they have pulled back again and said, but, you know, he‘s going to—he—you know, everybody thought he was going to win anyhow. So don‘t count it against us.
O‘DONNELL: Jeanne, what about that? If we—if Hillary Clinton does not do well in Wisconsin tonight, do you think she goes more negative? We‘ve already seen an up-tick in sort of the attacks in just the past couple of days on a number of issues, whether it‘s accusing Obama of plagiarism, where it‘s on the delegate count, I mean, a number of things, on health care, again, which has been a repeated attacks that they‘ve used. They‘ve used it mailers. What do you think?
JEANNE CUMMINGS, “POLITICO” SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: I think that she does continue to go negative. She‘s got to knock him off his feet. If he wins tonight by a decent margin, then it‘s more, more momentum, going for him into Ohio and Texas. And if he does eat into her base with the working class voters, it means he‘s found the message that‘s starting to click with those voters. That‘s a really lucky thing for him to find just before he walks into Ohio.
And so if she loses, she has to continue to try to press him to make a mistake or to raise voter doubts about whether he‘s the right candidate.
O‘DONNELL: Laura, can Hillary Clinton wait until March 4th for wins in those states?
LAURA SCHWARTZ, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It‘s a tough call, Norah, because that momentum, the longer it takes to create it, the more down she goes in the polls. As we already saw it, Texas is close. Ohio could really go and be a boost for Obama. He‘s bringing out the NAFTA message up there, which really reigns a lot of supporters in for him.
But I‘ve been on the phone with a lot of folks from Wisconsin, I was there this week, and I‘m from Wisconsin actually, and it‘s really interesting. You‘re right, nine out of ten voters are basically white. And you‘ve got a lot of working class folks that are part of Hillary Clinton‘s base. So we‘re going to be looking tonight at that exit polling.
What base is he chipping away at that can really be a better result for him in Ohio?
BUCHANAN: You know, let me say that NAFTA is a curse word to working class white folks in the upper Midwest, in the industrial Midwest. They are losing jobs, three million of them under Bush alone. But one—and she can‘t use that issue because it‘s Clinton‘s deal.
BUCHANAN: But one issue she could have used, and maybe it‘s too late, is this Michelle Obama. Let me tell you, when she says that, “I haven‘t been proud of my country for 25 years, not my adult life,” that goes straight to the patriotism issue, which really goes to these working class white folks in Texas and Ohio. If I were her, I would roll those robo-calls a couple of million in both states.
O‘DONNELL: Let me just say.
BUCHANAN: Might she go along with that?
O‘DONNELL: Pat Buchanan has lit the match and he has put it under the fire. We are going to talk about it.
ROBINSON: He‘s getting ahead of himself to the general elections.
Pat, it‘s just—cool down.
O‘DONNELL: We are—you have lit the fire that we are going to talk about coming up because, in fact, Cindy McCain hit Michelle Obama on that very issue. We‘re going to talk more about that in a segment coming up. We‘ll also going to talk about the exit polls.
We can‘t say, you know, who voters will go for tonight, but we can tell you, based on our exit polls, what‘s influencing their choice, what‘s the most important issue they say is facing the country. What qualities do they say are most important in a candidate? These exit polls have been so important because they tell us, in many ways, what will happen in the future.
We‘ll go inside the exit polls. All that coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”: As you know, Hillary has lost the last eight primaries in a row, so any crying you see from now on is going to be real.
(END VIDEO CLIP
O‘DONNELL: Hillary Clinton is nothing if not resilient. So Jay Leno‘s joke notwithstanding, don‘t expect the New York senator to shed any tears if she does, indeed, find herself on a ten-primary losing streak come Wednesday morning. In that event, the more likely scenario would have Mrs. Clinton and her campaign digging in, getting ready for the Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania elections still on the calendar, and lobbying uncommitted Super Delegates for their support. And, according to today‘s Politico.com, the Clinton campaign would, if necessary, go after Barack Obama‘s pledged delegates if Hillary Clinton needs them to secure the nomination, a story Howard Wolfson of the Clinton campaign categorically denied here on TUCKER.
Our next guest predicts that there will be riots in the streets if Hillary‘s campaign tries to overturn Obama‘s lead through the use of these delegates. He said there will be chaos at the convention. If you think 1968 was bad, you watch, in 2008 it will be worse.
Joining me now is former governor of Virginia and current mayor of Richmond, Doug Wilder. Mayor Wilder is an Obama supporter. Mayor, great to have you, thanks for joining us.
DOUG WILDER, FMR. GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA: Norah, good to be with you. You quoted me correctly. I did say ‘68 would be tame compared to anything that would take away from people‘s vote in the primaries.
O‘DONNELL: Chaos in the streets?
WILDER: No, I don‘t know that it will be in the streets, as much as it will be at the convention itself, to the extent that people won‘t understand it. What‘s their reason for the Super Delegates? I was a Super Delegate a couple of times. And I always thought it was my duty to do what the people in my state did, in terms of how I would vote.
O‘DONNELL: Why do you think there would be such chaos and do you really think the Clinton campaign would bring it to that by trying to not only twist the arms of Super Delegates, but now we‘re hearing perhaps even pledged delegates?
WILDER: Well, that‘s what makes you think—as they say, politics is the art of the possible. Many people have seen the people you‘ve described do everything that was possible. I hope that they would respect those people who have voted, who have pledged. And likewise, I hope we don‘t have what I would think would be an aberration and a usurpation of the rights of the people through primaries and caucuses.
Let that process—I‘ve never seen so many people before in my life want to participate in the American dream, the American process of politics. Let the people speak.
O‘DONNELL: But mayor, somebody is going to have to break this deadlock. I mean, it is neck-and-neck. It‘s 40 delegates separating the two of them. It‘s close again tonight, even in Ohio and Texas. This thing will go on. Either Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi are going to have to get in and break this. Or maybe Hillary Clinton‘s campaign is going to flip some of these delegates.
WILDER: You‘re absolutely right. How do you flip it? You flip it, in my judgment, not flip it but look to see what the American people in the process, the Democratic process in the Democratic party, what they have done. Who is ahead? I‘m not saying Obama is the person. Whomever that person would be—if it‘s Hillary, let then those Super Delegates play that role of saying, look, enough is enough, and then you‘ve got to do something also about Michigan and about Florida.
These people are entitled to have a voice. How do you do it? You certainly don‘t—are you going to have another primary. Isn‘t there room for a caucus to be held in one of those two states or in both of those states, and to have the people, third and fifth largest states in the nation, being left out? No. Let the people continue to speak and let these Super so-called Delegates, super to the extent they have position—did you have to fight for them? Did you have to stand in line for them? Did you have to do what these other people have done to get elected?
Join that process and then go on with the Democratic process of making certain that our party is strengthened not weakened in Denver.
O‘DONNELL: Mayor, thanks for joining us. It‘s an interesting warning about chaos at the convention. Thanks again. We appreciate it.
WILDER: Thank you, Norah. Good to be with you.
O‘DONNELL: Turning to another issue of this campaign, the life of a political spouse, say nothing and smile and you‘re accused of being a Stepford Wife. If you speak up, you open yourself sometimes to swift and scathing criticism. The candidates themselves are often so guarded as to sometimes sound rehearsed. But the spouses could wind up providing just the right pinch of spice in this marathon campaign.
So it went over the last 24 hours between Michelle Obama and now Cindy McCain. This is what Pat Buchanan was talking about earlier. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.
CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF JOHN MCCAIN: I‘m proud of my country. I don‘t know about you, if you heard those words earlier. I‘m very proud of my country. And I‘m proud to be a person that has voted in elections and I hope that all of you will do so today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Will this all matter? Joining me again are MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and the “Washington Post‘s” Eugene Robinson, and from Washington, “The Politico‘s” Jeanne Cummings, and from Los Angeles, Democratic strategist Laura Schwartz. Welcome to all of you.
All right, Pat, since you were itching to get in on this conversation, what‘s wrong with what Michelle Obama said?
BUCHANAN: I mean, for her entire adult life, nothing has made her proud of her country? How, in heavens name, can she install patriotism in her daughters if nothing in her entire adult life has made her proud of her country?
O‘DONNELL: That‘s not what she said, Pat. What she said was, for the first time in my adult lifetime, I‘m really proud of my country. Her husband is running for president.
BUCHANAN: For the first time in my adult lifetime I am proud of my country.
O‘DONNELL: I‘m really proud of my country.
BUCHANAN: What is the matter with this woman.
ROBINSON: Because hope is coming back alive. Look at the context of what she said, Pat.
BUCHANAN: She wasn‘t proud when the Berlin Wall came down? She wasn‘t proud when we won the Cold War? She wasn‘t proud when Bill Clinton did all the things he supposedly did? What‘s the matter with someone that they‘re not proud of their country and should they be the first lady of the United States, if nothing in 25 years has years has made them proud of their country?
O‘DONNELL: Laura, is Pat Buchanan right or wrong? Laura?
SCHWARTZ: You know, Pat, I think it really has gotten to the point that this is context of a whole speech, one that she gives a lot. She always talks about the pride factor, and she was really talking about the hope and the movement. I don‘t think this is going to really last too many days. I‘m sure they are going to pull it out and use it for robo calls and the rest.
It was interesting how Cindy McCain referenced it today. In 2004, I traveled with Teresa Heinz Kerry, and there were a few times that she was misquoted or taken out of context, and one time especially when she said something about Laura Bush that just came out wrong on paper. Laura Bush, instead of saying something in a reaction just said, I‘m sure she was misquoted. Let‘s not look into it further. Laura Bush took the high road and that‘s why she has had such high approval ratings. I‘m surprised Cindy McCain brought this up.
O‘DONNELL: Gene, is this a first to see, essentially, another potential first spouse, Cindy McCain, attack another candidate‘s wife?
CUMMINGS: This cycle is unusual, in that any one of these people might be comparable to the role Hillary Clinton played in 1992. But what we have this year is a whole class of strong spouses who are helping their husbands, and in one case their wife, with their campaign. So we had Mrs. Edwards before, very strong, very smart, outspoken woman. And now we still have three strong spouses left in the race. And I think there could come a time when any one of these could step off message or say more than the campaign might hope, or—
O‘DONNELL: Did she misspeak? Was it wrong for her to say, for the first time in my adult lifetime I am really proud of my country?
CUMMINGS: It sounded to me like hyperbole, you know, where you don‘t think literally about what you‘re saying, you‘re trying to make a symbolic point. Then her comments were taken literally. It‘s the kind of thing you‘re probably never going to hear from her again.
BUCHANAN: You‘re never going to hear it again. Is it not—is she not under some obligation to explain that or correct that? I mean, it was the lead on Drudge. When I first saw it, frankly, I was astonished that she would make a statement like this. First time in my life—
O‘DONNELL: I‘m really proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.
BUCHANAN: Read the earlier thing.
O‘DONNELL: Let me tell you, for the first time in my adult lifetime I am really proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.
BUCHANAN: For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am proud of my country. That‘s a dreadful statement for any American to make.
ROBINSON: If you‘re going to parse it like that, I‘m really proud of my country, implying that she‘s more proud now than she would have been before. If you‘re going to be literal about it. But why are you parsing the statement of a potential first lady?
BUCHANAN: I‘m not parsing it.
BUCHANAN: This may go over well at the “Washington Post,” but I‘ll tell you, you go out in middle America, the Republicans will take that and beat her to death with it and beat him to death with it. I‘m telling you.
O‘DONNELL: Beating up on a political spouse, Gene, has that ever benefited? If John McCain starts beating up on Barack Obama‘s wife, how is that going to play?
CUMMINGS: It‘s not unprecedented. Remember the item, stay home baking cookies, which I may not have the exact quote. We‘ve seen this before. I think Pat has got a point. If she didn‘t mean to say that, it was a mistake to have said it. It will come back and they will be dogged by it and they are going to have to deal with it. I think all these people are out there, they are speaking every single day. The notion that someone might misspeak or over speak at some point is kind of inhuman. They are still human.
BUCHANAN: Correct it. Why didn‘t she come out today and say, look, that is not what I meant to say. I misspoke and I know what the words say. I love this country. I‘m proud of it. I‘m especially proud now that it‘s my husband. Why didn‘t she say that?
SCHWARTZ: Really she‘s going to have to explain it. But at the same time, when you look at this in context and you look at her history, she grew up in poverty and was able to pull herself out with her family‘s help. I think she has a tremendous story.
BUCHANAN: That‘s a good story but she‘s not proud of her country.
O‘DONNELL: Gene, is it a sign of her inexperience that she misspoke. I‘ve heard her before. She was in Ohio and she said Iowa. She made the same—
ROBINSON: It‘s a sign of how many speeches you give a day over how many months. You don‘t say everything the way you intended to say it every single time.
O‘DONNELL: I‘ve watched her. She speaks without notes.
BUCHANAN: She‘s very bright and speaks very correctly. When you see Cindy McCain make that statement today, my guess is she‘s been spoken to before she made it.
O‘DONNELL: I can‘t believe Cindy McCain is doing that. That is remarkable. She‘s very engaging.
BUCHANAN: She‘s very engaging. It‘s very, very effective, quite frankly. Obama and these people are sharp. When you do something like that, you say oh, my goodness, move on this right away. I don‘t know why they are digging their heels in. We‘re talking about it and arguing about it. It‘s going to be argued about a lot more and it‘s to their detriment.
O‘DONNELL: The panel is sticking with us. We‘ll have more on this and other issues about tonight‘s primary. Also, Mike Huckabee says he‘s staying in the race to give conservative voices a chance to be heard. In doing so, is he pulling what Republicans really want?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It‘s so important that in Wisconsin you give the conservatives not only of Wisconsin but of America, give them a chance to be heard.
If you‘re doing to vote for me, I don‘t care if it snows another three feet, please go vote.
If for some reason you have decided you‘re not going to vote for me, my request is, stay home tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP
O‘DONNELL: The unsinkable Mike Huckabee is a contestant tonight in Washington State and in Wisconsin. Senator John McCain has already turned his political sights on his Democratic rivaling. There is the matter of the Huckabee campaign to resolve. When will the former Arkansas governor call it a campaign and how will tonight figure in that decision? Joining me now is senior adviser to Mike Huckabee, Chip Saltsman. Chip, great to see you.
CHIP SALTSMAN, SR. ADVISER TO MIKE HUCKABEE: Norah, always glad to be with you.
O‘DONNELL: I know you‘re probably sick of this question, but people keep asking, what is he still doing in this contest, if McCain has pretty much got it wrapped up? It‘s almost impossible for Huckabee to win.
SALTSMAN: He doesn‘t have 1,191 delegates yet, and that‘s what it takes to win the nomination. Listen to the governor himself as he‘s been talking to folks in Wisconsin. He‘ll be going to Texas tomorrow to do the same thing. He‘s talking about—he‘s giving voice to a lot of Republicans who feel like they haven‘t had voice in the last couple of years.
He‘s a governor. He‘s the only person that‘s in this race that‘s outside of Washington. The other three are senators. He‘s talking about those kitchen table issues that are making a difference in people‘s lives, and really, every day lives when they are around the kitchen table at the end of the night saying, how are we going to pay the mortgage, how is our job doing? He‘s giving voice to people who don‘t have voice for themselves.
O‘DONNELL: Chip, you work closely with Mike Huckabee. He is a very funny man. We just heard him, he said the other day, I may be killing my political career over this. Many people think he‘s staying in it in order to set himself up for 2012 as the conservative standard bearer. Is that what he‘s doing, looking forward?
SALTSMAN: I‘ve been with him most of the last couple of weeks on the road and I can tell you, he‘s in it for a lot of different reasons, but he‘s in it to compete for the nomination. He‘s talking about the issues that matter today, not in four years. As we move forward and as—hopefully some of your viewers have seen some of the crowds, big crowds, enthusiastic crowds, that are really connecting with his message.
I‘ve said all along, of all the candidates in the Republican side, all along, he‘s the one candidate really connecting with people all across this country and getting them excited about being Republicans, getting them excited about carrying the conservative message. We think that‘s a good thing for the party today.
O‘DONNELL: Chip, I know you spent a lot of time, Mike Huckabee has, in Wisconsin. We‘ll look forward to those results tonight.
SALTSMAN: We‘ll see how many people decided to put snow in their neighbor‘s yard tonight.
O‘DONNELL: You‘re great to have on. And the governor is worth a good laugh, too. We always enjoy having him.
SALTSMAN: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: As for Democrats, they have been fighting for those votes in Wisconsin. The state is actually the one that invented the primary a little more than a century ago. We have some early exit polls. To talk about all that, we are joined once again by our panel, Pat Buchanan, Eugene Robinson, Jeanne Cummings and Laura Schwartz.
Here‘s what we can report at this hour—We can‘t characterize the race because the polls close at 9:00. But on the Democratic side, the economy, the number one issue. According to Democrats, 43 percent say the economy is the number one issue, War in Iraq comes in right behind that at 29 percent, and health care 25 percent.
Gene, the economy is a major issue there. We‘ve seen that in every other state. Shouldn‘t this be Hillary Clinton‘s best issue and why is Barack Obama cutting into her lead among these types of voters.
ROBINSON: He seems to be finding a message that connects better than his earlier messages. In the beginning, he didn‘t seem to have a lot—a lot to say that resonated with blue-collar working class voters. He seems to have found a lot of things to say they will pay attention to, including this kind of attack on NAFTA, the results of NAFTA. He is very popular among working class whites, among African-American, not that he needs a whole lot of help among African-Americans at this point. It finds resonance there.
In the whole Midwest, as an exporter of jobs, it‘s a good message.
O‘DONNELL: Jeanne, we saw from the exit poll 90 percent of the Democrats say the economy is not so good. People feel this in their pocketbook. Just yesterday, Hillary Clinton released this 13-page pamphlet, an economic manifesto. Is that going to help her with voters.
CUMMINGS: Yes, I do. I think it will help her. It may not have been released early enough to really sink in in Wisconsin. But it‘s clearly the number one issue on voters‘ minds there and in the next couple of states that are must wins for her.
As much as Barack Obama has made some progress in eroding her support, Hillary Clinton did herself, I think, some good in Wisconsin. She fought there. She probably closed the gap. If she doesn‘t win, he still won‘t get as many delegates as might have gotten. In addition to that, if she wins, that‘s terrific, then she stops his momentum. That‘s very good for her, or at least, you know, makes him trip a little bit.
She also nailed his feet in that state. He, I‘m sure, wanted to pocket that victory and move on. He‘s got a lot of work to do in Ohio and Texas, more work than she‘s got. She made him stay in Wisconsin until the bitter end and fight for that state. The most precious commodity in a campaign is the candidate‘s time. She made him spend a lot there and that‘s probably good for her.
O‘DONNELL: Really interesting point. Laura, do you agree with that?
SCHWARTZ: Very much so. In fact, Hillary Clinton went in on Saturday night and her plan was to leave early Monday morning. With the storm that came into Wisconsin, she ended up spending three full days in that state almost, and that has really helped her close that gap. With Barack Obama versus Hillary Clinton tonight in Wisconsin, it is going to be a close race. Again, it goes back to that voter base. Who did Barack Obama take away from Hillary Clinton. That will be story at the end of the day, perhaps more than what the delegate count was.
O‘DONNELL: Pat, on NAFTA, we saw from the exit polls, 70 percent say it takes away jobs. I bet you‘re going to be looking to how closely that breaks tonight.
BUCHANAN: Sure, 90 percent think the economy is bad and 70 percent think the trade thing takes away jobs. NAFTA is a burning issue. Hillary Clinton is inhibited from going after it because Bill Clinton is responsible for NAFTA.
O‘DONNELL: Love it. That does it for us. Thanks for watching. Keep your dials set to MSNBC. Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, myself and the rest of the MSNBC political team will bring you all the results and analysis starting at 9:00 Eastern.
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