Guests: Howard Fineman, Michelle Bernard, Jonathan Allen, Chaka Fattah, Ed Rendell
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: It‘s opening day for the Phillies, and we‘re here to hype the Pennsylvania “HARDBALL College Tour,” starting Wednesday with Barack Obama.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL in my hometown, Philadelphia. I‘m here to advance the big “HARDBALL College Tour” with Barack Obama this Wednesday. We spent the morning here visiting the Philadelphia headquarters of both Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton. Both of them were busy centers of campaign activity. I‘ll be checking in with both campaigns here between now and April 22, when Pennsylvania holds its big primary.
Senator Clinton insists that the campaign here and in the other nine remaining races go on as scheduled.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are some folks saying, Well, we ought to stop these elections.
CLINTON: I didn‘t think we believed that in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: In a minute, Senator Clinton‘s top supporter in Pennsylvania, Governor Ed Rendell, and later a top Obama supporter in Pennsylvania, U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah.
Senator Clinton leads in Pennsylvania polls, but today‘s Gallup tracking poll has Senator Clinton trailing Senator Obama nationally 51 to 43. That‘s an 8-point spread. We‘re going to get to everything tonight, especially in the “Politics Fix” tonight.
But first: Ed Rendell is the 45th governor of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Governor, thank you very much for joining us. We‘ve got a new Gallup poll out today—it just came out—that showed that Democrats, by the rate of 59 percent to 30 percent, think that Barack Obama would be a stronger candidate to run against John McCain than Hillary Clinton. What impact will that have on the superdelegates?
GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think it‘s too early to say. Remember, there are 10 states to go. That‘s 20 percent of all of the states to vote. Plus, we need to re-vote Florida and Michigan. How we can decide anything without the two largest—two of the six largest states in the union not being counted is beyond me.
Let‘s vote those 12 states, and then let‘s—at the end of the primary session in June, let‘s sort of take stock and say, Who is the strongest candidate? And let‘s look at electoral math because whether we like it or not, and most of us don‘t, we elect the president by Electoral College votes, Chris.
RENDELL: And when you do that, Hillary Clinton looks far more formidable than Barack Obama.
MATTHEWS: What happens if the campaign, the primaries and the caucuses, go on as scheduled between now and the first week in June, and after Puerto Rico, Barack Obama‘s still ahead in the elected delegates? What happens then?
RENDELL: Well, I‘d like to see what happens to the popular vote. You know, the Obama campaign says, The superdelegates have to vote for us because we have more pledged delegates and we have a bigger popular vote. Well, my guess is, Chris, if we win Pennsylvania—and I think we will, not by as much as some of the polls, but we will—and we win West Virginia, Kentucky and Puerto Rico big, we‘ll have cut into that popular vote margin.
And why did the Obama folks kill the Michigan primary and not want Florida to vote? Because if they voted, Hillary Clinton would lead in popular votes. And then you‘d have a true wash, Obama with the most pledged delegates, Hillary with the popular vote win. And then who would decide?
Well, I think if the superdelegates look at the electoral math come June, after the primaries are over, they‘ve got to take stock and try to figure out who‘s our strongest candidate. And you know those tracking polls change from day to day.
RENDELL: Three days ago, NBC had it dead even, so I don‘t place much stock in those tracking polls.
MATTHEWS: I‘m just wondering, Governor, whether the call for new elections in Michigan and Florida, where the governors are clearly, and the state legislatures, are not willing to finance such elections and not willing to even hold them at this point, if that‘s just an attempt to delegitimize Barack Obama‘s lead? In other words, it‘s not going to happen. You‘re not going to get re-votes. But this allows you to say that, We didn‘t get a fair test during the scheduled primaries and caucuses.
RENDELL: Well, you should understand, Chris—and Governor Corzine and I were intimately involved in this—we answered Governor Granholm‘s call to produce people who would guarantee a certain amount of money, if there was a shortfall in the raising efforts. Michigan was ready to vote the June 3 primary. The Republicans were for it. The governor was for. Senator Levin was for it. And then the Obama folks in the legislature killed it. They killed it.
We could still have primary—party primaries that the party runs, not the states. They would be privately financed. We could still do it. We could do it...
RENDELL: ... in the middle of June. There‘s no reason not to do it. And you saw the poll. We‘re talking about polls. You saw the poll that said 24 percent of Floridians would be less likely to vote Democrat in the fall if we didn‘t let them on the nomination.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that if you only had a vote in Michigan and couldn‘t get one in Florida because of Charlie Crist—and you know Charlie Crist is playing this thing like a banjo. He‘s positioning himself as a guy that wants a re-vote, but he wants you guys to pay for it. And then, of course, his legislature is not going along with it. Michigan alone would not be enough, would it, to overcome the popular lead of Barack Obama.
RENDELL: No, you need Michigan and Florida. Although there‘s a case to be made, Chris, for seating the Florida delegates. Here‘s the case, and it‘s a very good one. The Florida Democrats did nothing wrong. They‘re being punished for a crime they didn‘t commit. They wanted to move the primary up to February 4, the allowable framework that the DNC set. But it was the Republicans who moved it into January. They control the legislature. They have the governor‘s seat.
MATTHEWS: But the vote in the legislature was overwhelmingly bipartisan, wasn‘t it?
RENDELL: Understand, but the Florida Democratic Party...
MATTHEWS: But the Democrats in the legislature voted along with the Republicans. Only I think three voted against the change.
RENDELL: I know, but the Florida Democratic Party wanted to play by the rules. At that point...
MATTHEWS: But why didn‘t they get their elected officials to change -
to fight the change, then?
RENDELL: Because it wouldn‘t have mattered at that point because the Republicans control the legislature.
RENDELL: So why are we punishing Florida? And by the way, in Florida, 1.8 million people came out to vote. That‘s an awful lot of people to disenfranchise. If I was one of those Floridians, I‘d be pretty ticked off.
MATTHEWS: So where are we at now, governor? I know your argument. You made a good case now for a re-vote of some kind in Florida and Michigan. But if we don‘t get it, what‘s the next play here after the primaries are over in early June? What‘s the play for the Clinton campaign, to go for superdelegates to overwhelm the elected delegates, or what?
RENDELL: Well, it‘s not so much overwhelm. That‘s another thing, Chris. You know, these calls to end the election—there‘s 20 percent-plus of the states to yet vote.
RENDELL: It‘s interesting. Let‘s assume—we just finished the NCAA elite eight. Let‘s assume that a college baseball game is 40 minutes. At the end of 32 minutes, one team‘s ahead by 2 points. That‘s all, 2 point, not 20 points. And they‘re saying, Let‘s not play the last eight minutes. Well...
MATTHEWS: No, but if—I‘m just asking you, Governor, if you get through early June and finish out the season—I‘m for—I mean, I think most people say that—even Barack Obama says finish the season. You get past Puerto Rico, and Barack Obama is still ahead in elected delegates, so you think the superdelegates should overwhelm them?
RENDELL: Sure. I think the superdelegates have a responsibility.
And by the way, the Obama folks are always saying, Play by the rules. Superdelegates free to vote for anybody they want, have been the rules for four our five conventions. Superdelegates have to look at this as we get into he summer and determine who‘s our best candidate to win. We know that we‘ve got two good potential presidents. Hillary Clinton would be a great president. Barack Obama would be a very good president, in my judgment.
But so we‘ve got to determine who‘s the best bet to beat John McCain. And the time to determine that is not March 31. The time to determine that is the end of June or the beginning of July, as we get closer to the fall election. And I think that‘s always been the role of the superdelegates.
RENDELL: If you want to change that, change it. But while we‘re at it, let‘s get rid of caucuses because caucuses are undemocratic. Why? Older people can‘t vote. There are no absentee ballots. Shift workers can‘t vote. Military personnel can‘t vote. Caucuses are very undemocratic. So if we‘re going to do it, let‘s go straight popular vote, national primary, and then we‘ll decide who our candidates are.
MATTHEWS: But you said if Barack Obama only won the elected delegate fight by a couple of votes—you know, that‘s sort of a de minimus argument. The fact is that somebody said that you should hold a majority of one as sacred as if it were a unanimous vote. That guy was Thomas Jefferson, the founder of your party.
RENDELL: Right. And how...
MATTHEWS: I mean, don‘t you have accept the victory, even if it‘s narrow, of Barack Obama...
MATTHEWS: ... in the elected delegates?
RENDELL: How do you think Thomas Jefferson would have felt about disenfranchising Florida and Michigan?
MATTHEWS: He would have said he supports those who work hard and play
by the rules!
MATTHEWS: I don‘t want what he would say and neither do you!
RENDELL: He would have said, Let the people—of course...
RENDELL: ... Florida and Michigan didn‘t exist.
RENDELL: But he would have said, Let the people vote.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the Democrats have a shot at carrying Florida on the best of conditions this year?
RENDELL: Oh, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Do you think?
RENDELL: Absolutely. And particularly when the issues about Social Security are fashion (ph). I think this is going to be the best chance we‘ve had to carry Florida...
MATTHEWS: I think...
RENDELL: ... since 2000.
MATTHEWS: I think Hillary has a better chance than Barack in Florida, but I think...
RENDELL: No question.
MATTHEWS: ... Barack has a better chance if you‘re his running mate.
MATTHEWS: Would you be available, Governor, to be a running mate with Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton?
RENDELL: No. I said, Chris, I‘m going to finish my term here. And who in their right mind would want someone like me to be their running mate? You know, if they came up and said, What do you think of the presidential candidates‘ environmental policy that he released today...
RENDELL: ... I‘d say, Fair. you know, Fair. You know, I have this problem of telling the truth all the time and...
MATTHEWS: Well, I think you‘d carry Pennsylvania and save it for the Democrats because it is a little bit precarious with John McCain running. And I think you‘d bring back in—you‘d bring Ohio in. And I think you‘d make Hillary competitive—or Barack competitive in Florida. I think you‘d be a great running—I understand the situation at home and your responsibilities to the commonwealth. Anyway, I‘m here to build you up because I do think you‘re the best political around.
Hey, thank you, Governor.
RENDELL: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You‘re running a hell of a campaign for Hillary Clinton.
RENDELL: And we‘re going to...
MATTHEWS: If she doesn‘t win by 10 points, it‘s not your fault.
RENDELL: There you go.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, sir.
RENDELL: See you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Governor Ed Rendell of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Tonight, I‘m heading up to Allentown to meet with Mayor Pawlowski and later join the Obama bus tour coming out of Allentown tonight.
Coming up, by the way, Eugene Robinson and Tucker Carlson handicap the race and talk about Ed Rendell, who just spoke.
And on Wednesday, of course, it‘s the return of the “HARDBALL College Tour.” Barack Obama‘s our big guest for the full hour at West Chester University right outside Philadelphia. That‘s Wednesday. There it is. Barack Obama and myself and the students at West Chester University with lots of questions from them for the candidate.
And then the “HARDBALL College Tour” continues later in the month with John McCain on tax day, April 15, at Villanova. That‘s John McCain also at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern. I‘ve invited Senator Clinton to a similar event, of course, where she can also answer the questions of college students. We‘re hoping to hear a big yes from Hillary Clinton to join this triple play in Pennsylvania.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL up here in Philadelphia. Can the Pennsylvania primary be a game changer for Senator Clinton? Can she go all the way to Denver and win there? “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson‘s an MSNBC political analyst, and Tucker Carlson, MSNBC senior campaign correspondent.
I want to start with Tucker. When you look through this, through the wall of the future here into everything we can see down the road through the end of August in Denver, does Hillary Clinton have a real chance to be the Democratic nominee for president?
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC SENIOR CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, of course she does. I mean, look, we‘re in a moment now where we were two days before the Super Bowl. Of course the Patriots are going to win. Every moment where we felt we know what the future holds, we have been wrong. It‘s going to be very difficult to get superdelegates to undo what seems to be the will of the people and support over Hillary over Obama. There‘s no doubt he is likely going to be the nominee. But they have a real argument, and Rendell just said it, Governor Rendell. It‘s very simple. Florida and Michigan ought to have their votes count. That‘s a resonant argument in the Democratic Party still stung from 2000. I don‘t see what the counter-argument is. And if they keep making that argument, I think they‘ll get somewhere.
MATTHEWS: Well, is that a base for a compromise, Gene, whereby both sides agree they‘re going to find some way of counting Florida and Michigan, but at the end of the count, the candidate who has the most elected delegates is the winner, and they all agree to that? You think there‘s a compromise there?
EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think from the Obama campaign‘s point of view, it depends on where you find the compromise. You know, find some way of seating delegations from Michigan and from Florida, certainly. I think they would support that. But not the delegations necessarily that were chosen in these primaries that weren‘t really primaries.
So you know, I think the Obama campaign will continue to kind of play the rope-a-dope on this and just, you know, not agree until the right offer comes, which is, like, a 50/50 split or a 60/40 split or something that they know they can live with, that doesn‘t do what they would consider damage to the delegate count.
MATTHEWS: In other words, they‘ll only accept a deal which won‘t jeopardize their lead in the delegates, elected delegates.
MATTHEWS: Is that right, Tucker? So is there a deal to be made there? Maybe that‘s only a nominal deal because they‘ll only deal away enough delegates that won‘t hurt them from winning the number of elected delegates.
CARLSON: Well, look, my theory in life is, The best rhetoric wins in the end. Obama has the best rhetoric on almost everything but this. In this case, Hillary has the advantage. She says, Look, we‘re raising money from private. It will cost the taxpayers nothing. We‘ll have a totally fair re-vote in June, to which the Obama campaign says what? I mean, what is the argument against that? And I think if they‘re smart enough to keep hitting that and opening the wound from the Florida recount with Democrats, who I think still are touchy about that...
CARLSON: ... the idea that not every vote was counted—if they keep pressing that, I think they could get somewhere.
MATTHEWS: What about the rules? The rules were that—and they all agreed to live by them—that those states would be punished for breaking the—for violating the rule on when they could set the primary. And they all agreed to that. And the Clintons have always said they‘re for people who work hard and play by the rules.
CARLSON: Oh, come on! You believe that? These are the Clintons...
MATTHEWS: I‘m positing the fact that Florida broke the rules and they‘ll pay for it.
ROBINSON: You know, I mean, that is an argument that resonates with a lot of people, that the rules are the rules, should play by the rules, and you know, this is the outcome according to the rules. You know, everybody knows that at some point, the rules are going to be bent because I really doubt they‘re going to have a convention with nobody from Michigan and nobody from Florida sitting there, you know, so they‘re going to bend the rules in some way. But you know, the argument about having a privately funded primary by these kind of Democratic fat cats, that cuts both ways. That was not terribly popular with a lot of voters.
MATTHEWS: I wonder. We have elections that are financed. The campaigns are financed. But now that the elections are going to be financed, you got to—I don‘t even like the way—well, I don‘t want to get into—the way they financed some of these debates with their the corporate sponsors. I don‘t like that, either.
Let‘s take a look at this latest poll. Here‘s the latest tracking poll. We‘ve been watching it every day. It‘s a three-day poll. It shows now Obama down to an 8-point lead, but still the longest—apparently longest running lead so far, Tucker, in the polling here by Gallup. There he is. You can see that thing holding that—is that going to hold? Does that tell the superdelegates that if Barack wins these—enough of these delegate fights between now and the end of—or the beginning of June, that he deserves to be the nominee?
CARLSON: I think it does. I mean, this is the poll—and it may not be, strictly speaking, the most relevant poll. The more precise the poll, the more meaningful, as a matter of social science. But this is the one that people are watching, and I think it will have an effect on the opinions of the superdelegates. We‘ve got 23 days until Pennsylvania. And I think that really is the debate changer. Her performance there will determine whether she continues on or not, I believe. If she blows is out, then this race is still in play. If she doesn‘t, she‘s over.
MATTHEWS: Gene, what about the number—other number we reported tonight, that 49 percent to 30 percent, about a 2-to-1 ratio right now, of Democrats believe that Barack Obama‘s the stronger election candidate against McCain?
ROBINSON: I think that‘s equally significant as the tracking poll. Once the perception gets established that, A, Obama is ahead, and B, Obama is the better candidate against McCain, that is a difficult combination for the Clinton campaign to compete against. And it kind of creates an assumption, like the assumption we had a year ago that Hillary Clinton would doubtless be the nominee—you know, an assumption could build much closer to the day that Barack Obama is going to be the nominee, and that could kind of drown out all the other noise.
MATTHEWS: OK. The numbers for some reasons are shifting to Obama. But I think Tucker hit on it. If Pennsylvania‘s a sweep for Hillary, those numbers nationally will tilt again the other way, probably. Anyway, thank you, Gene Robinson. Thank you, Tucker Carlson.
Up next, bowling for votes. It‘s retail politics across Pennsylvania.
Wait until you catch—well, he‘s a good talker. He‘s not a great bowler.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
So, what else is new out in politics?
Well, bowling for Barack? Over the weekend, Obama joined Pennsylvania Senator, his supporter, Bob Casey at a bowling alley in Altoona. It wasn‘t the most impressive showing for Obama. His first time up, he sent the ball right into the gutter, telling reporters, we‘re just warming up. Well, six frames later, he bowled a spare. But, overall, far from a stellar bowling outing.
Obama did assure everyone that his economic plan is better than his bowling. It better be. Look at this. This isn‘t exactly the right form. Thirty-seven is what we bowled, not good out of 300.
Speaking of sports, if you‘re going to throw out the pitch at a baseball game, make sure you have solid approval ratings. Here‘s President Bush getting booed at the Washington Nationals‘ openers last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And here to throw out the inaugural pitch at National Park to mark a new era of Washington baseball, the president of the United States.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, it was a good pitch, a little high, but a good one.
And it was not a lob. It was a real pitch.
Anyway, let me tell you, all politicians get booed at sporting events. He go booed. It was overwhelmed by applause. He‘s got a lot of guts throwing that pitch.
Anyway, like a Rolling Stone? Apparently, Hillary Clinton is a huge fan of Mick Jagger. She told reporters Sunday that she is psyched to see the new Martin Scorsese documentary about the Stones, in which she makes a cameo appearance, as we reported last week.
Hillary said about Mick Jagger—quote—“If you go to a Stones concert today—and I have been to—been to one—it‘s just amazing. He has this incredible presence. He‘s very disciplined. He works out.
And he‘s incredibly devoted to what he does.”
Disciplined, hardworking, devoted? God, she even makes a Rolling Stone sound like being a wonk.
Anyone, more—more sad—more sad news about newspapers today. Anyone who watches this show knows how much I love newspapers. I don‘t mean online. I mean actually holding they newsprint in my hand. Well, today, the Newspaper Association of America reported that print newspaper and ad revenues across the country dropped almost 10 percent this year. That‘s the worst drop in print revenue for newspapers in half-a-century.
And now it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number.”
If you didn‘t get enough of Al Gore when he won the Nobel Prize for his—or his Oscar, you‘re about to get a whole new—a whole lot more. The former vice president is waging a massive campaign to push for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. A big part of that effort will be advertisements with some unlikely pairings, like this one with Al Sharpton and Pat Robertson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
PAT ROBERTSON, HOST, “THE 700 CLUB”: We strongly disagree.
AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Except on one issue.
Tell them what that is, Reverend Pat.
ROBERTSON: That would be taking care of our planet. It‘s extremely important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Over the next three years, much money is Gore‘s team planning to spend to word on greenhouse gas emissions? Three hundred million dollars. By the end, his ads might be as commonplace as that lizard in the Geico commercial.
Three hundred million dollars, Gore‘s going to spend to spread the word—tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster takes a look at the political strategies under way at Pennsylvania.
And, on Wednesday, the HARDBALL College Tour returns. Barack Obama is our big guest, live from West Chester University in Pennsylvania. That‘s Wednesday at 5:00 and 7:00. Then the HARDBALL College Tour continues with Senator John McCain at Villanova University on April 15, also at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern.
And we‘re attempting to complete the Pennsylvania HARDBALL triple play with Hillary Clinton. If not, that‘s her call.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I am Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks rising, as a dismal first quarter comes to a close this Monday, with the Dow gaining 46 points, the S&P 500 up 7.5, and the Nasdaq seeing an 18-point gain. But, for the quarter, the Dow was down about 7.5 percent, the S&P 500 down almost 10 percent, and the Nasdaq down 14 percent.
Stocks were up, as oil prices fell, crude oil dropping $4.04 cents in New York‘s trading session, closing at $101.58 a barrel.
But the big story on Wall Street today the Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson laying out plans for the most sweeping overhaul of the financial regulatory system since the Great Depression. The plan includes new powers for the Federal Reserve to supervise, not just commercial banks, but also mortgage brokers and investment banks. The plan could take years to complete. But it‘s already drawing criticism from some on Capitol Hill.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to Chris and HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
There are just 22 days now until the primary here in Pennsylvania.
And this was a very busy day for both the Clinton and Obama campaigns.
HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster is following all the developments. He joins us live from Washington—David.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, Barack Obama picked up
the endorsement today of Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. This makes 13,
the number of endorsements that Barack Obama picked up. But that‘s also
the same number of Senate endorsements that his rival, Hillary Clinton, has
13 to 13.
Meanwhile, Obama campaigned today in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and he tried to leverage a famous Hillary Clinton ad to bash Senator Clinton and John McCain on Iraq. According to Obama, the key issue is judgment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The important thing, when—when you get that 3:00 a.m. phone call...
OBAMA: ... that you exercise good judgment. You exercise wisdom.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: You weigh the costs and benefits of military action. You base it on good intelligence. Hillary Clinton, John McCain, they had a chance to exercise good judgment.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: And they didn‘t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: It now seems to be the political judgment of the Obama campaigns that he needs to come across as a more everyday type of guy in order to be more competitive in Pennsylvania.
So, this weekend, there was Barack Obama speaking on the campus of Penn State University and receiving a Nittany Lions football jersey, despite the frigid temperatures in College Station, this event was outside on the campus steps and attracted more than 20,000 people.
Earlier, Obama visited a university-run dairy farm. He fed an extremely hungry month-old calf. As the calf sucked on and devoured a bottle, “She chowed that sucker down,” said Obama.
Later, as you mentioned, Chris, Obama dropped by a bowling alley in Altoona. And, yes, here is an encore performance of what you saw a moment ago, the left-hander throwing a soft gutter ball. For the record, Obama bowled a measly 37 through seven frames. But 37, of course, is pretty bad. And, as you mentioned, Chris, he said that his economic plan is better than his bowling. One observer noted, it better be.
SHUSTER: Today, Hillary Clinton also campaigned in Pennsylvania. She conducted an economic roundtable in Harrisburg. Outside of her event, a dozen trunk drivers were protesting today. They were not demonstrating against Senator Clinton, just against record gas prices. Clinton said, she understands their concerns better than Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to have an election where we make a change, so that people understand, it matters who you vote for. This is not a free choice. You have a fight for what you need to get. And, you know, it‘s going to be tough. And that‘s why I‘m out here, because I think I‘m a fighter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Finally, Senator Clinton is having to deal with another news cycle focused on her claim landing under sniper fire in Tuzla, Bosnia, 12 years ago.
The little girl Clinton met on the tarmac is all grown up and has been telling newspapers she was surprised by Clinton‘s claims of sniper fire. Other Bosnians are being less dramatic—less diplomatic, and are saying that Clinton‘s claims are insulting.
The Clinton campaign is on also the defensive, today, Chris, over stories that she is facing yet another cash crunch. As first reported by “Politico,” FEC filings show the Clinton campaign did not pay health insurance premiums for campaign staff for the first two months of this year. A campaign spokesman says, however, that coverage was never interrupted—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster.
Pennsylvania Congressman Chaka Fattah is an Obama supporter.
Congressman, thank you for joining us.
What do you have to do in Pennsylvania? What does Barack Obama have to do, in terms of numbers, to do well here?
REP. CHAKA FATTAH (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, you know, one thing is for certain. We can all speculate about what might happen in the future.
But, in every single contest, he‘s been competitive. He‘s won 30 states. And we think doing what he‘s been doing, what he did in Iowa, what he did in Wisconsin and Washington State, what he‘s done across this country in states that he‘s won—and he‘s won twice as many—but even where he‘s come up short, he‘s been extraordinarily competitive. He lost Texas by 1 percentage, but he won more delegates.
He lost Nevada by two percentage points, but he won more delegates. Fifty percent of all the delegates in Pennsylvania will be gone in the Philadelphia area, because you get rewarded for past Democratic support. So, the areas that supported John Kerry will have more delegates than areas that supported George Bush four years ago.
So, by concentrating his support in certain places, he can benefit. By the six days he‘s been on this bus trip, for half of it now, he‘s been to Altoona. He was up at Penn State. I served on the board of Penn State for a number of years. The last presidential candidate we had there was George Bush‘s dad. And we had 10,000 people show up. We had twice as many for Senator Obama.
He needs to keep working hard. He—work on the bowling a little bit. But the truth...
FATTAH: ... of the matter is, is—no, seriously, he‘s a great basketball player.
MATTHEWS: I hear.
FATTAH: And, when we get him down in Philadelphia, we will get him to play some B-ball. He will do just fine.
FATTAH: But the Philadelphia suburbs are going to be, I think, the—the be-all and end-all of the state. That‘s where—Montgomery County, Bucks County, those are going to be critical areas. Your brother knows a little bit about that neck of the woods.
Let me ask you about this Jeremiah Wright story. You go to a church. I assume it‘s a black church. That‘s my jump to assumption there. Is this preacher problem—a real problem? I have looked at it. It doesn‘t seem to bother black voters. It seems to bother some white voters. What is that story about? How do you see that story as a political problem for Barack Obama?
FATTAH: Well, you know, Billy Graham probably was the spiritual adviser for five presidents, I think, and he said some of the most offensive things that I think have been on the record on—at that time.
Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Jeremiah Wright, we have ministers who are preaching from their theological vantage point. And, so, when Pat Robertson says, well, 9/11 was brought on by gays or all these kind of things, people listen, who—but I think they listen only in the sense of understanding that people who are speaking from a spiritual standpoint sometimes see things the way they see them.
But, in the real world, Barack Obama is someone who, for his entire life, has brought people together. He is someone who was born of a mixed racial couple. There‘s no way you can make him out to be anti-white. His mother was white. His grandmother was white. His—I mean, he talks about his family in a way I think none of this Jeremiah Wright stuff is going to attach to Senator Obama.
And the other thing I would say is that Jeremiah Wright, who was a United States Marine, who served at the bedside of President Johnson, he fought for people to have the right to say what they want to. And even when we disagree with it, he actually put on the uniform and made sure that people could speak their mind.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Hillary Clinton. She‘s got the governor behind her. She‘s got the mayor of Philadelphia behind her. She‘s got a lot of political establishment, you accepted. Maybe you‘re not part of the establishment, the way you see it. But is that going to hurt Barack‘s chances in Pennsylvania?
FATTAH: Well, look, I think the odds-on favorite would be Senator Clinton.
But there‘s something special about Pennsylvania. And part of the reason why an Ed Rendell or a Nutter or any of us have been elected, most of us got elected against the conventional wisdom. So, I wouldn‘t count Senator Obama out. He‘s having a great time out on the bus. He was in Lancaster, in Reading. He‘s in Allentown tonight.
He has joined crowds. He was in Johnstown, and they had 1,500 people show up in the heart of the Johnstown. It‘s unbelievable, the level of supports that he generates. And it is something, I think, as we approach the election, you will see the numbers change and grow closer. And I think you heard in the governor‘s comment today that he knows that the race in Pennsylvania is going to be competitive.
And that‘s why Senator Clinton is back in our state tonight. She‘s campaigning hard. Senator Obama‘s campaigning hard. And I think Pennsylvanians will make the country proud when we cast our vote on April 22.
MATTHEWS: If Hillary Clinton beats Barack Obama by 10 points in Pennsylvania, is that a win or loss for Barack Obama?
MATTHEWS: Ten points. Is 10 points or win or a loss, sir?
FATTAH: Well, it would be a loss. But Howard Wolfson said right after Iowa that this was a race for delegates.
And one thing that we got to do is, we have got to figure out what game we‘re playing. Are we playing popular vote or electoral votes? The way the convention rules work, there‘s going to be a nomination put on the floor, and then delegates are going to vote. And the person with the most votes are going to win the nomination.
And no one suggests that anyone is going to be able to overtake Senator Obama in the number of delegates on that floor that have been elected. So, I think that—I think the fact of the matter is, is that we‘re going to be competitive. We‘re going to fight for every vote. We‘re going to do our best to win Pennsylvania.
But Senator Obama, unlike any other candidate in the entire race, has campaigned in every single state, contested in every single state. He hasn‘t cherry-picked.
FATTAH: And Pennsylvania is getting all of his time and attention right now so that we can do as well as possible on April 22nd.
MATTHEWS: Bottom line, yes or no; would you support Hillary Clinton for president if she won this election, this nomination fight on super delegates overwhelming the elected delegates? Would you go along with a nomination won by super delegates over-ruling the elected delegates?
FATTAH: First of all, I‘m going to support the Democratic nominee under the rules of the convention. As has been pointed out by the Clinton campaign, and we love them, the super delegates have a right to vote. The other thing is that, under the rules, Michigan and Florida, those delegations are going to have to be seated in a way they don‘t impact the final result of this campaign. That‘s part of the rules too.
If we want to play by all the rules, that‘s fine. We can‘t have selective amnesia and play by some of the rules.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Congressman Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania. Up next, the politics fix. Hillary Clinton says she‘ll take it to the convention floor itself, to credentials committee. She‘s fighting all the way to the last week in Denver in august too. So, who‘s got the winning strategy? This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. Joining me now with the politics fix is MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard, “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman, who is also an MSNBC political analyst, and Jonathan Allen of “Congressional Quarterly.” Chelsea Clinton was asked about Monica Lewinsky again today when she stumped for her mother at a North Carolina college. Clinton gave the same response, quote, it‘s none of your business. But the student pressed her further. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHELSEA CLINTON, FMR. FIRST DAUGHTER: It‘s none of your business. I respectfully disagree. I think that it is something that is personal to my family. I‘m sure there are things that are personal to your family that you don‘t think are anyone else‘s business either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that Howard?
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”: Well, my understanding is that she was asked isn‘t your father‘s behavior, personal behavior in office somehow the public‘s business? I think that‘s paraphrasing. That‘s pretty much it. That‘s a question that Chelsea, unfortunately, is going to have to come up with a better answer for, because after all, her father was impeached and nearly convicted in the Senate. This transfixed the country for a couple years. It really doesn‘t hold water to say it‘s not the public‘s business.
Her reaction, Chelsea‘s private reaction, the internal family dynamics I‘m sure are nobody‘s business. We wouldn‘t want to look at that. The question of her father‘s behavior in office became a national issue. I think she‘s probably going to have to come up with some other kind of answer.
MATTHEWS: Michelle Bernard, I have to ask you the same question. It seems to me that Bill Clinton was almost impeached. It‘s a matter of historic record. It will go down in his record book, perhaps in the second paragraph even, or first, that he was one of the two presidents in history impeached. If we elect Hillary Clinton president, a lot of historians will say later, how did that happen if her husband had been impeached without the question ever being answered? Do the campaign people for Senator Clinton have to answer that question one way or the other or Chelsea will keep getting asked it?
MICHELLE BERNARD, INDEPENDENT WOMEN‘S VOICE: Chelsea‘s going to keep getting asked that question. I wouldn‘t be surprised if we see people asking the question to Senator Clinton directly. It‘s a good question. It‘s an important question. I‘m sure it‘s difficult for Chelsea, brings back bad memories. What happened and how they worked out their problems is no one‘s business. But the fact that he was impeached, the fact that he lied to the American public about it made international news. It‘s very important.
Also, one of the things that we have to remember is that in 2002, when Senator Clinton was explaining her vote on the Iraq war, one of the things that she stressed was her experience from living in the White House and watching what her husband went through as president of the United States for eight years. And part of that eight-year history was the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
It‘s a question she‘s going get time and time again. She‘s going to have to figure out a better answer for it.
MATTHEWS: Jonathan Allen, it seems like the students are asking the questions. They‘re going to continue asking them.
JONATHAN ALLEN, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: Who knows where these are coming from. When you start to get a series of them in a row, you wonder if they‘re plants from one campaign, or another campaign, a Republican student group or something. She will continue to be asked this. I‘m a reporter, I think all questions are reasonable, but also all answers are reasonable.
I think she‘s on pretty safe ground with the American public saying she doesn‘t want to discuss her father‘s infidelity. It seems like a pretty ghoulish topic to ask a child, even one who‘s campaigning, even one who is 27 or 28 years old.
MATTHEWS: I think you‘re right. I think why should she have a special political perspective on a family—what was to her a family horror actually, probably? Let me ask you about this latest polling. Howard, you first this time; the latest polling shows that 59 to 30, in the latest Gallup poll that came out today, Democrats believe Barack Obama is a stronger general election candidate than Senator Clinton.
What do you make of that number? It‘s a strong number, two to one.
FINEMAN: I think it‘s impressive. I think it‘s the dramatic version of the Gallup tracking polls, which show after that fateful couple of weeks of first the Reverend Jeremiah Wright videos and then Barack Obama‘s speech in Philadelphia and then Hillary‘s fanciful memories about Bosnia, being under fire there and all that—in that period things re-solidified in Obama‘s direction.
If you look at the tracking poll numbers, they crossed. Hillary was in the lead for one day. Now, they‘re back out, according to the latest Gallup poll, with Obama with an eight point lead. I think that‘s significant. I think this other poll you mentioned amplifies that. Democrats are trying to settle. They‘re trying to say, OK, what are we left with? What are we really looking at? Whom do we think we should choose? I think it‘s an important number. I think it‘s a very significant number.
MATTHEWS: Michelle, what, do you think is causing Hillary Clinton to lose her competitive edge here? Is it the long dry period without a primary contest? She can win all the way to Pennsylvania? She‘s got to wait about a month now to win one. Or is it the humiliation of saying that she was under enemy fire when it turns out there‘s videotape to shows she wasn‘t?
BERNARD: The best answer I can give you, Chris, is it‘s all of the above. The electorate is suffering from a little bit of Clinton fatigue. The Bosnia story was a very difficult story for her, particularly when she‘s running on her experience of first lady, the 3:00 a.m. phone call, the commercial, who is the person you want answering the red telephone in the White House when the terrorists attack at 3:00 in the morning? I think that was very difficult for her.
Quite frankly, I think Barack Obama is picking up momentum. That speech that he gave on race in Philadelphia was one of the most important and significant speeches I think most Americans have heard in recent memory, and I think it gave him some bounce and some momentum, and people are looking very positively upon that. She can‘t give that kind of speech.
MATTHEWS: Jonathan, what‘s causing her to fall off the pace here?
ALLEN: I think part of it she‘s been on her heels for a while now. We talk about the Bosnia issue and then more recently the whole discussion, the whole debate has been whether he should drop out of the campaign. Whenever you‘re fighting that battle, whether you should stay in the campaign, you‘re not on good ground. It‘s been hard for her to go on the offensive. She‘s been on the defensive. That will knock your numbers down.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back with the round table for more of the politics fix. You‘re watching it, HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the round table for more of the politics fix. Howard, I want to ask you about bowling today. I want to ask you about bowling.
FINEMAN: Just because I‘m from Pittsburgh.
MATTHEWS: No, no, no. It‘s so interesting. Here‘s a guy trying to break into the white ethnic voting crowd, so he goes and plays the sport most associated I think with regular folks in the big cities and small towns. You and I grew up doing a little bowling. We know what a pathetic score is. Neither of us have ever done a 37, I think it‘s fair to say.
FINEMAN: To fair to Barack, it was over seven frames. OK. But that still isn‘t much. I mean, he definitely needs some bowling less sense. He should do what we used to do in Pittsburgh, all night bowling for a dollar, really work on your game. I think he did get Frank O‘Harris and he did get Jerome Bettis, the Bus, to endorse him. He‘s traveling around on the bus with the bus.
If you can‘t do something like that, you shouldn‘t do it. He should have stuck to shooting hoops, which he‘s very, very good at, by the way, which translates racially too, especially during the NCAA basketball tournament. Don‘t do something you‘ve never tried before in front of a national television audience.
MATTHEWS: Michelle, this gets very ethnic, but the fact that he‘s good at basketball doesn‘t surprise everybody. The fact that he‘s terrible at bowling makes you wonder.
BERNARD: It doesn‘t surprise anybody black, I can tell you that.
MATTHEWS: Is black—I guess everybody bowls.
FINEMAN: This is killing him, Chris. Don‘t show it over and over again.
MATTHEWS: This is a killer. Look at this killer. It isn‘t the most macho form there.
FINEMAN: He can‘t challenge Hillary. I think he doesn‘t dare challenge Hillary, because Hillary‘s from Chicago. She might actually be able to get over triple digits.
MATTHEWS: I‘m waiting to see if Hillary challenges him to a bowling match. It might be a thrilling—you know what, what would get a higher poll, a higher rating do you think, Jonathan, a higher television rating, a bowling match between Hillary and Barack or another debate?
ALLEN: The bowling match absolutely would, because everybody would be watching to see when they went in the gutter.
FINEMAN: You got to do HARDBALL bowling, Chris. You got to do it.
BERNARD: He gave a good response today when he was talking about his failures as a bowler. I think he probably picked up some points from people who felt sorry for him who didn‘t know what he was doing.
MATTHEWS: If you for the Knights of Columbus vote, you ought to get your bowling down a little better than that. Let me ask you about John McCain. I had a whiff of a theory today. I want to try it by all three. John McCain could win the general election, not by defending the last eight years of economic policy or the war in Iraq as its been fought, but triangulating the way Bill Clinton once did, in his case saying, we should go to war with strong alliances, not going it alone like President Bush, that we need a different economic policy.
Could he, Howard, triangulate this campaign and win a state like Pennsylvania? I‘m talking John McCain.
FINEMAN: No, I understand. I totally agree with you, Chris. That foreign policy speech he gave was a mirror image on the right of a Clinton triangulation on the left. That‘s exactly what it was. He said wait a minute, I‘m McCain, but I‘m not a war-monger. I want to do the alliances. I want to adopt the Democratic view of the need for diplomacy and alliances, even the one that predated George Bush. I‘m with Bush on the war, but only the war.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask the same question of Jonathan. Can he triangulate? Can John McCain offer himself as a third alternative here, not to the current policies, and not to the left policies, which he could portray the Democrats as having, but something different down the middle.
ALLEN: John McCain is the nightmare candidate for Democrats because he can talk to Democrats like a Democrat. That‘s exactly what he is going to do on any issue he thinks benefits him. He‘s good for Democrats on climate change, on deficit reduction perhaps, also on ethics issues. And that‘s what he will do in this campaign. He‘s going to try to find a good point between George Bush and whoever the Democratic nominee is and settle right there, and pin the Democrats to the left.
MATTHEWS: He‘s going to be very strong for Israel. I think he is going to look where he sees weakness on the other side and go for it. What do you think about his triangulation abilities?
BERNARD: I think his abilities to do this are excellent. He is a centrist. I agree with everyone speaking tonight. He is the Democrat‘s worst nightmare, particularly if the general elections turns out to be one of Senator McCain versus Barack Obama. They‘re going after the same voters. They‘re going after moderate Republicans. They‘re going after independents. They are going after voters who are just slightly right of center and slightly left of center and it will be a very rancorous debate if it‘s between the two of them.
FINEMAN: Bowling notwithstanding, if Barack is the nominee, he has some triangulation abilities as well that have not yet quite been tested. We‘ll see.
MATTHEWS: I wouldn‘t want to have to defend a recession. I wouldn‘t want to have to defend 100 year occupation in Iraq, even if it was reportedly to be peaceful. Anyway, thank you, Michelle Bernard. Welcome back. Howard Fineman, welcome back. I missed you both. I missed Howard a long time. He is my favorite. Anyway, Jonathan Allen, thank you sir for joining us.
Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern. We are getting ready for the big one. On Wednesday, the HARDBALL College Tour returns. Barack Obama is our big guest, live from Westchester University in Pennsylvania, right outside of Philly. That‘s Wednesday at 5:00 and 7:00. Then the HARDBALL college tour continues with John McCain at Villanova on April 15, tax day. That‘s also to 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern.
And we reached out to the Clinton campaign to see if Senator Clinton will join the HARDBALL college tour. We want a triple play in Pennsylvania. Right now, it‘s time for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE with David Gregory.
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