Guest: Harold Ford
DAVID GREGORY, HOST: Tonight, playing to win. Hillary Clinton argues she can win the primary and Obama can‘t win the general. We will examine the arguments and the math as the RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE rolls on.
Welcome to RACE, your stop for the fast pace, the “Smart Take” and every point of view in the room. Later, the general election map follow the candidates past the victory.
The foundation of our program, of course, a panel that comes to play, and with us tonight, MSNBC political analyst and host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America, Rachel Maddow, CNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent John Harwood, NBC News analyst and chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council Harold Ford Jr, and the host of MSNBC‘s “MORNING JOE” Joe Scarborough.
We begin as we do every night with everyone‘s take on the most important political story of the day, it‘s “The Headline.”
And here‘s my headline tonight. Hillary Clinton is picking winners. Her case for victory relies not only on super delegates, but on converting the already pledged delegates. Everyone, it seems, is up for grabs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL: There is no such thing as a pledged delegate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: Clinton also took questions about the family flap with Bill Richardson, who of course endorsed Obama. She reportedly told Richardson in a tense conversation that Obama could not win in the fall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I don‘t talk about private conversations but I have consistently made the case that I can win, because I believe I can win. And, you know, sometimes people draw the conclusion that I‘m saying somebody else can‘t win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: Richardson flap, part 2. Remember when Bill Clinton Richardson told him, the former president, that he would never endorse Obama. Well, Richardson to clear the air last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: The Clintons should get over there.
I mean I did this endorsement 10 days ago. I‘ve tried to stay above it.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Did you promise him anything that he could have...
RICHARDSON: No. No, I never did. And I never saw him five times. I saw him once when he came to New Mexico to watch the Super Bowl with me. And we made it very clear to him that he shouldn‘t expect an endorsement after that meeting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: One other headline here.
But Rachel, first reaction to this. Is this a credibility problem for the Clintons now?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It‘s a story that is being directly contradicted by the other person they say was in the room when that event was happening. So technically, this could be a problem. It doesn‘t seem like Governor Richardson is out for blood here. But if they keep pushing, if they keep using him as an example to try to threaten other superdelegates and other powers that be from endorsing Obama, he may get mad, in which case he may push back harder on this, in which case this could blow up.
GREGORY: Joe, before your headline, reaction to the case for victory Hillary Clinton is making?
JOE SCARBOROUGH, “MORNING JOE” HOST: Well, she‘s making a good case that she‘s confident. She still believes that she can. She‘s not saying she‘s inevitable like she did against Katie Couric. But you know what? The economic news keeps on worsening in Pennsylvania. I suspect that‘s going to help her in Pennsylvania just like it helped her in Ohio.
Hillary Clinton still believes she can win and if she‘s willing to fight Ellen and on week after week after week, who knows? She‘ll take it all the way to Denver, and I hope that something will happen to sidetrack Barack Obama. Stranger things have happened in politics.
GREGORY: All right. Let‘s still with you, Joe. Enough of my headline.
What‘s your headline tonight?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, my headlines has to do with John McCain. He came on our show this morning, and he hammered—and expected time and time again, John McCain is going to use Barack Obama‘s inexperience in Washington, DC to continue to make points as he moves towards the election in the fall. He believes his match-up this fall is going to be Barack Obama.
That‘s why he talked about Obama‘s plan in Iraq to have light strike forces and he seemed to mock that idea and in fact, he kept saying, if he has an idea for a strike force, let‘s see it. I‘m curious to what it is. But he always went back to experience or Barack Obama‘s lack of experience as a way to underline his point that he may not have what it takes to be the next commander in chief. Expect to keep hearing that as we move forward.
GREGORY: All right. Rachel Maddor, you‘re up. Your headline tonight.
MADDOW: My headline tonight is that Hillary Clinton is going on a little bit of a mini happy tour. She‘s going to be on the “Tonight Show” tonight. She‘s going to be on Ellen DeGeneres‘s show tomorrow. It‘s a bit of an unexpected pivot, at least as far as I‘m concerned, toward trying once again to make that personal, personality driven connection with voters in a light-hearted setting. We haven‘t seen a lot of light-hearted Hillary Clinton in the last few weeks.
GREGORY: Right. But when we have, it‘s been working for her.
MADDOW: Yes, although, you know, the April Fools‘ joke about challenging Barack Obama to the bowl off, I think it was Joe in the show who noted that even as a joke, that would have a bit of a sharp elbow to it.
MADDOW: She‘s been pretty serious and pretty somber and pretty sober on the campaign trail. I think hopefully they‘re trying to lighten her up tonight.
GRACE: John Harwood, welcome to the program. Your headline tonight.
JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: David, my headline is watch, don‘t listen. John McCain‘s actions speak louder than words. He‘s been trying to convince his base that he‘s an economic conservative. But listen to him this morning on Joe‘s program embracing this new bipartisan Senate Housing bill with federal money for housing tax credits and state revenue bonds.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL: And Americans are hurting right now. I mean, that the unemployment numbers, the job losses, so our job is to try to fix those problems, to try to get our economy going. And I think, as I said, this package that‘s winning its way—working in the Senate, I hope is an example of the way that perhaps we could work together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARWOOD: Now, John McCain says he‘s against bailouts, but make no mistake, this is the first step toward bailouts and it won‘t be the last one. So economic conservative better get used to it, David. The longer this economy stays bad and gets worse, John McCain is moving to the center on the economy.
GREGORY: You cannot believe in some kind of regulation or involvement. In other words, empathy is not enough in this environment. He‘s got to have something concrete to offer.
HARWOOD: Absolutely. And he has not even ruled out supporting this Dodd-Frank bill that would backstop renegotiated loans, give some of these distressed homeowners a break. He hasn‘t supported. He hasn‘t ruled it out either.
GREGORY: All right. Harold Ford Jr, what‘s your headline tonight?
HAROLD FOLD, JR., NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: North Carolina, the universities in the final four but the state will determine the finalist for the Democrats. I‘m a firm believer it‘s Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama head to Pennsylvania and will leave there and head to the battleground states in Indiana and North Carolina, that the winner of North Carolina will be the nominee for the Democratic Party come 2008.
GREGORY: But Harold, is this just about running out of political real estate for Hillary Clinton? Or is there something about the dynamic, the makeup of the voters in North Carolina that lead you to think and others that that‘s so important.
FORD: The makeup of the state, the fact that money has become critical for both candidates, and the fact that Hillary is not expected to do well there. If she outperforms the expectations or exceeds expectations, it will not only provide a greater fuel for her campaign, a greater motivation for her supporters, but I think it may give her more traction and, frankly, a chance to flip some of the pledged delegates and even flip some of the undecided superdelegates who may be leaning towards Barack Obama‘s way this evening or right now.
GREGORY: Joe, if she can win in North Carolina, does she change the dynamic of the race? Does she range expectations?
SCARBOROUGH: I don‘t know if she changes the dynamics of the race. I mean the dynamic of the race is this: superdelegates are going to decide this race. Perhaps she moves some more superdelegates her way, that are there before but she‘s still not going to be able to get the numbers she needs to win among pledged delegates, neither is Barack Obama. So yes—but it‘s like a see saw, it‘s back and forth. How far will it go? No doubt about it. If Hillary wins big in Pennsylvania, if she wins big in North Carolina, then you better believe the Clintons will have more cards up their sleeves to (INAUDIBLE) in Denver.
FORD: She would only have pledged two in a row together if she doesn‘t win North Carolina. She would have won Pennsylvania and won Indiana. If she wins North Carolina, it‘s critical only because of this point in the race. I would agree with Joe‘s point, that neither of them will have matched the number of pledged delegates to be nominated.
But if she gathers that kind of momentum, and remember, I think the entire congressional delegation in North Carolina recently endorsed her. Superdelegates pledged their support for Senator Obama.
FORD: If she‘s able to win in faith—in the face of all of that opposition, I think it will have a tremendous impact in the superdelegates...
FORD: ...at least the ones that I am talking to.
GREGORY: All right. Let me...
SCARBOROUGH: And David, very quickly. You got to look also at the money. Barack Obama outspent Hillary Clinton in Texas and Ohio, 4 to 1. She still won in the popular vote.
SCARBOROUGH: If she does that again in Pennsylvania, the Clintons are going to have a good argument. This guy can‘t even buy the nomination.
GREGORY: All right. Got to go on a break here.
HARWOOD: David, the key to this race is winning on somebody else‘s home court. And if Hillary Clinton...
HARWOOD: ...can win in North Carolina, that would be big for her.
GREGORY: Got to get a break in here.
Coming up, we know Hillary Clinton wants to be commander in chief. But who knew she tried to join the army? Stick around for the details.
And later in the program, your turn to play with the panel. Call us 212-790-2299. You see the e-mail Race08@MSNBC.com.
RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE will be right back.
GREGORY: Hillary Clinton releases another 3:00 a.m. ad but this one isn‘t targeted Barack Obama. She‘s going after John McCain. Now is it a good move?
We‘ll go “Inside the War Room” next.
GREGORY: Welcome back. We‘re heading “Inside the War Rooms” of the presidential campaigns now for a strategy session. What‘s working? What isn‘t?
Back with us Rachel Maddow, John Harwood, Harold Ford Jr. and Joe Scarboroug.
First up, a brand new ad released today from the Clinton camp airing in North Carolina resurrects Clinton‘s attempt to have a conversation with voters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Hi. If you‘re looking for a typical political commercial, switch the channel. These isn‘t an atypical election and these are not typical times. The economy is reeling, and as I talk with people across North Carolina, I hear about the crushing cost of health care from Winston-Salem to Fayetteville. I hear stories about families going into debt to send their children to college. Military families from Ft. Bragg tell me their deep concerns about how we‘re treating veterans. Teachers and parents tell me that No Child Left Behind just isn‘t working. And everywhere, North Carolinians tell me the middle class is just getting slammed.
I want to hear from you, because this election isn‘t about me, it is about you. So let‘s have a conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: We‘re talking, again, John Harwood, you can hear this Clinton campaign recalibrating as she is trying to find a strategy for victory here. Will listening work?
HARWOOD: Well, I‘m not sure it‘s going to work all that well but it‘s an appealing ad. It shows Hillary Clinton in a softer kind of light, in tandem with some of the things that Rachel was talking about. She‘s doing with Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres.
HARWOOD: That‘s not a bad strategy for them to have at this point. The problem is, she starts off by saying if you want typical political talk, change the channel. Most people view Hillary Clinton as a typical politician.
GREGORY: Well, that‘s (INAUDIBLE) are re-branding strategy, Harold. I think a lot of people will be skeptical that she can pull that off at this point.
FORD: One of the reasons that Barack Obama has been so successful is this campaign is that he‘s achieved what Hillary Clinton is attempting to achieve in that ad.
FORD: Secondly, you have a state like North Carolina, and all of these states, Joe Scarborough and John and I think a lot of people appreciate particularly those who‘ve run for political office, these races are local. Tip O‘Neal said it best. All of it is local. So when she mentions Winston-Salem and Fayetteville, she connects with voters in a different way than she would connect on a national show.
FORD: It‘s a smart move, and she‘ll have to see if it pays off. Again, if she wins there in an unexpected place, the place where Barack enjoys a big lead, this will be a dynamic changer in this race.
MADDOW: I think...
GREGORY: Next up...
GREGORY: No, let me just get to our next up, don‘t ask Bill Clinton about his wife‘s one-time interest in serving her country because he won‘t tell you the right answer. He said this to a crowd in Indiana yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: I remember when we were young right out of law school, she went down and tried to join the army. They said your eyes are so bad, nobody will take you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: For Hillary Clinton the actual truth is what she told the crowd of female veterans back 1994, that she tried to join the Marines, not the army. They told her she was too old, couldn‘t see and was a woman, and suggested the army instead.
Joe Scarborough, I‘m not so interested in whether he got it right, army versus Marines.
GREGORY: I‘m interested in why they‘re bringing the topic up. It seems a little bit like the Bosnia story, that she feels like she‘s got to fill out this gap in her resume and make the argument, no, she‘s really a hog, after all, she tried to join the service.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, it‘s a fascinating approach, I‘ve got to say. That one does not ring true with most voters, I would guess, in a Democratic primary. I‘m just scratching my head wondering why I haven‘t heard this before.
GREGORY: It‘s interesting...
HARWOOD: Well, we have heard it before and you know, some reporters have looked into this, and what they concluded, David and Joe, was that there are some people at the time who felt Hillary Clinton wasn‘t actually trying to join but more trying to smoke out the recruiter and see whether they were—you know what degree of sexism existed in the armed forces. So I do think this is dangerous territory for her to get on...
GREGORY: Right. But...
HARWOOD: ...if she‘s trying to give the impression that she wanted to go be a soldier.
GREGORY: But Joe is right, we have not heard it from the campaign before. This has been reported before, and the fact that they‘re making a point of it seems rather odd.
I want to move on. Finally, Barack Obama was asked at a campaign event if he would be tapping Al Gore for a spot in his Cabinet, this is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL: I will make a commitment that Al Gore will be at the—at the table and play a central part in us figuring out how we solve this problem. He is somebody that I talk to on a regular basis. I am already consulting with him in terms of these issues. Look, climate change is real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: And Rachel, what he‘s talking about is a seat at the table to deal with climate change. Would Al Gore be in the Cabinet to honcho this particular portfolio for Barack Obama? What interested me here, and the question here is, it‘s obvious there is a play from an endorsement from Gore. Is that really an endorsement that matters here?
MADDOW: No individual endorsement matters at all really in Democratic politics. But we have seen an important alignment of Democratic powers that be around the issue of these superdelegates deciding before Denver. And Barack Obama‘s campaign, I would not be surprised to think that they would think that would be to their advantage. So that Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid all lined up behind that. The missing links there are probably John Edwards and Al Gore in terms of everybody...
MADDOW: ...coming together around that sort of idea. Him aligning himself with Gore, I‘m guessing that has something to do with that goal.
GREGORY: All right. Still to come...
HARWOOD: (INAUDIBLE) between the—nice (INAUDIBLE) between the suck-up and avoiding the unwise specific commitment there.
GREGORY: Yes, exactly.
All right. Still to come, Karl Rove weighing in. He‘s got some strong words for Barack Obama calling him arrogant and an elitist in his political analysis.
Plus, another question about Gore. Will he ultimately force Hillary Clinton out of the race? “Smart Takes” coming up next.
GREGORY: It‘s time for the “Smart Takes,” the best political takes from the Web, newspapers and magazines. Here again, Rachel, John, Harold and Joe.
Our first “Smart Takes” tonight, Karl Rove tells a “GQ” magazine Obama is driving some Democrats to John McCain.
The quote board. “There are Democrats, particularly blue-collar Democrats, who defect to McCain because they see McCain as a patriotic figure and they feel Obama as an elitist who‘s looking down his nose at them. Obama is coolly detached and very arrogant. I think he‘s very smart and knows he‘s smart, but as a result doesn‘t do his homework. The Democrat primary vote is becoming younger, more affluent and more liberal. And that means blue-collar Democrats, whatever‘s left o them, are on their out of the Democratic Party.”
Joe, do you think he‘s right?
SCARBOROUGH: I think it‘s a “Smart Takes.” If you look at the past as a prologue, then they‘re going to try with Barack Obama then Republicans the same thing they tried with John Kerry that worked as, you know, saying he‘s an elitists, he‘s an affluent, a snob that summers on Nantucket. That‘s the same thing they tried to do with Al Gore. It works. At least it‘s worked in the past. That‘s going to be a big challenge for Barack Obama, especially since he does very, very well with affluent, progressive and more liberal members...
SCARBOROUGH: ...of the Democratic Party.
GREGORY: But the question, Rachel, is whether the party, the Democratic Party is getting smaller or whether Obama can, in fact, make it larger with young people, African-Americans already a key part of the base, getting young people than whether there are independents and cross-over voters who respond to his message, rather than just the more liberal affluent aspect of the Democratic Party?
MADDOW: Well, there can‘t be enough rich people to explain Democratic turnout in the primaries and caucuses thus far. There just aren‘t that many, you know, professors in the country to explain the kind of crowds the Democrats are getting and the kind of increase in voter registration that we‘re getting on the Democratic side. I mean looking ahead even to places like Montana, where they are expecting, you know, thousands of Montana Democrats...
MADDOW: ...to turn out to see Clinton and Obama before that primary. The Democratic numbers and the size of the Democratic Party belie this idea that it‘s some tiny, elite, liberal professoriate who‘s going to vote for either of this candidate. It just doesn‘t work—it isn‘t bore out with the facts.
GREGORY: All right. The second “Smart Takes” tonight, John McCain wraps up his biography tour tomorrow. His campaign counting on the former POW story to make a big impact with the voters.
The Atlantic ‘s Marc Ambinder reports the following.
To the quote board. “The polling and the developing strategy hinges on McCain‘s convincing those Obama-loving independents that McCain is a known commodity who embodies change and that Obama‘s story is just that—a story that—his rhetoric is mere words. Obama may run on his biography, but McCain will run as biography. He is who he says he is. You know him, you trust him and you‘re comfortable with him. McCain is an open book. Obama is, well, more of a mystery.”
John, is he a mystery?
HARWOOD: No, he‘s not a mystery. But he needs to deepen the public appreciation for who he is and what he‘s done, where he‘s been in the course of his career. And Marc‘s exactly right, that is the transaction that John McCain is going to try to make with some of those independent voters.
Karl was also right to the extent that some blue-collar Democrats are going to vote for John McCain because of security issues. But let‘s step ahead and look at the larger picture. The party that‘s growing right now is the Democratic Party.
HARWOOD: Look at self identification when you pull voters. Democrats now have a double-digit lead there. That‘s a much different story than you had in the fall of 2004, when party identification was even. So Democrats are the ones that are growing. The problems that Barack Obama has in the fall against John McCain are problems that a political party would like to have.
GREGORY: Harold, quick comment on the dueling biographies, Obama, McCain.
FORD: Political campaigns are one based on which you want to do going forward. Biographies are critical to give the American public a sense of where you‘ve been, what you stand for.
But if John McCain wants to fight the past, Democrats should fight for the future, whether it‘s Obama or Clinton, they‘ll have an advantage there.
GREGORY: All right. Our final “Smart Takes” tonight. “Times‘” Joe Klein says patriotism is Obama‘s crucial challenge now.
“His aides believe that the Wright controversy was more about anti-Americanism than it was about race. Michelle Obama‘s unfortunate comment that the success of the campaign had made her proud of America ‘for the first time‘ in her adult life and senator‘s own decision to stow his American flag lapel pin. Plus his Islamic-sounding name have fed a scurrilous undercurrent of doubt about whether he is ‘American‘ enough. Now, to convince those who doubt him, Obama has to make the implicit explicit. He will have to show that he can be as corny as he is cool.”
Smart take, Joe?
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, you know, it will offend a lot of people, but it is. There‘s a reason why we Republicans tear up every time they try—Lee Greenwood out at the end and he‘s saying I‘m proud to be an American, it offends elites. But you know what? That those of us in red-state America, we like corny. And, the thing is, Barack Obama has been cool and detached. I see Rachel shaking her head no.
MADDOW: I‘m not offended when you cry, Joe. I never am.
SCARBOROUGH: That—you know what? There are a lot of people who thought Gorge Bush was too corny, too stupid, too everything to win...
SCARBOROUGH: ...and guess what? He beat Democrats twice.
GREGORY: All right. I got to get a break in here. Got to get a break in here.
Up next, everybody has their weaknesses. How will the presidential hopefuls overcome theirs, and win over the voters? We‘re coming right back.
GREGORY: Welcome back to RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE. I‘m David Gregory. Time now for our three questions. Still with us, MSNBC political analyst and host of the “Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America, Rachel Maddow, cNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent, John Harwood, NBC News analyst and chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, Harold Ford Jr., and Morning Joe himself, the host of MSNBC‘s “MORNING JOE,” Joe Scarborough.
First up, get out your markers—Joe, you were talking about this morning as well. NBC News has put out its first list of 2008 battleground states. With his parties nomination wrapped up, John McCain is looking at how he can get the 270 electoral votes need to win the White House. That‘s as Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton fight over who is more electable in the fall.
Our first question tonight, what is each candidate‘s path to victory in the general election. Let‘s start with John McCain. Here‘s Tim Russert on “The Today Show” this morning, describing McCain‘s path to victory in November?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: He says I am going to win Florida. Bush won it twice. I‘m going to win Ohio. Bush won it twice. I am only 29 away. Where do I get those 29? They look at these states, Meredith. They look at Virginia, 13, Colorado, nine, Nevada, five, and then back to New Hampshire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: John Harwood, let‘s take a look at the math. How do you see it?
HARDWOOD: Well, look, I think Ohio and Colorado are both going to be tough for John McCain. But John McCain is an interesting nominee for the Republicans, because he complicates the Democrats‘ hopes of gaining electoral votes in the southwest. Arizona goes off the board. The question is, how does that affect New Mexico, Nevada, the states in that region, because John McCain can run as a westerner.
But I do think John McCain has got to try to figure out some other places to go. I do think Virginia is a place for them to hold serve. George Bush held it twice. Democrats have been coming on. It‘s one place where Barack Obama might be able to target.
GREGORY: Harold, it‘s interesting that Hillary Clinton‘s advisors today were arguing on a conference call that if they look at a map, that she has held more of her base states or even toss up states in the primary calendar so far; she has done better in that regard than Barack Obama.
FORD: If the economy remains as dominant of an issue as today, and if Joe is to be believed that Iraq will be as critical an issue as it is today in the fall, you would have to think states like Virginia, Colorado, and Ohio would be leaning Democrat, particularly since they elected a Democratic senator in Virginia. You have the former governor, Mark Warner, on the ballot this go around. Ohio, you have Ted Strickland.
So if you just look at Tim‘s methodology and the equation he‘s laid out, I have to think Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, particularly Hillary because she performed well in the state—Barack won Virginia—you have to think they are sitting back and saying, we can to compete, not only compete, but do well in many of these states.
GREGORY: Before you weigh in, Joe, let me look at the Democrats, so you can see the full board. Here is Tim talking at Obama‘s and Clinton‘s path to victory.
RUSSERT: She can win Ohio, that she can win Florida, states that Gore and Kerry could not win. Even if she wins all those states, she‘s still a little short. Where does she pick it up? She says, I can win Arkansas. I was the first lady there. Obama can say, OK, I don‘t win Ohio; I don‘t win Florida. People say, well, then you can‘t win. Kerry didn‘t win. Gore didn‘t win.
Obama says, not so fast. What about Virginia. I won that primary big. I have an appeal to independent voters and to young voters. Also, what about Colorado, the changing demographics. I can win there. I can win without Ohio, without Florida, because I broaden the electoral map.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: It‘s a great parlor game. Joe, how do you see.
SCARBOROUGH: It really is, but Democrats can‘t win without Ohio or Florida, especially in John McCain—get this—especially if John McCain picks Mitt Romney as his vice presidential candidate. This morning, Tim was talking about Romney, because of a lot of Mormons in Nevada, put that in the Republican camp, because of a lot of Mormons in Colorado, put that in the Republican camp. And John McCain is near legendary in New Hampshire. That‘s a state also. You put that in the camp, Republicans are looking very good in a Democratic year.
That‘s why Democrats are going to have to figure out a way to win Ohio and/or Florida. And I personally think Hillary Clinton has a much better chance of winning those states than Obama.
GREGORY: Isn‘t it interesting as well—you talk about Obama‘s strength out in the west, whether it‘s Montana, or Minnesota, or the Dakotas. He would have a very difficult time in those states in a general election, despite the fact that he may be doing well with independents.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, ain‘t no way he‘s going to win Montana or a lot of those states that he won in the primary process. Listen, Democrats have to figure out how to win Ohio this time if they want to beat the Republican party. McCain is going to be so strong in Florida, because of those retired military guys and women. The same thing with Virginia. I have got to say Virginia tilts towards Republicans, because I was stunned how military people and military retirees lined up and gave John McCain Florida in just a convincing and overwhelming way.
HARWOOD: Joe, you‘ve got to look at the flip side of Mitt Romney and that Mormon factor in a general election. What then happens among a lot of those conservative evangelicals in a place like Missouri, which could get on the board with Democrats if you‘ve got Mitt Romney. The with Ohio, and some other places in the border south.
FORD: I would say the Pan Handle, where Joe is from, down in Florida. I think if you look at that kind of ticket that Joe is outlining, you might advantage a Hillary Clinton in Florida. You would certainly—
SCARBOROUGH: By the last primary, when you looked at the internal numbers, Mitt Romney was doing just as well as Mike Huckabee among Evangelicals, 33 percent.
GREGORY: Rachel, you‘re on deck here. I want to get up to the second question. What are the candidates‘ biggest weaknesses. Gallup asked voters and here were their answers: Obama‘s biggest weakness, inexperience;
Clinton‘s biggest weakness, trustworthiness; McCain‘s weakness, support for the war.
Take a closer look at each candidate. For Obama, 39 percent said experience, 15 trustworthiness, 12 said belief that he is a Muslim. Let‘s go inside the numbers on Clinton; 24 percent trustworthiness, 18 percent her husband, 16 percent said unlikeability. For McCain, 27 percent said the war, 25 percent said similarity to President Bush, 23 percent said his biggest weakness is being a Republican.
Question number two, how can the candidates overcome these weaknesses?
MADDOW: There is such a start divide between the two Democrats and the Republican on that one, because what you are going to see is the Democrats run away from or try to redefine all of those individual items identified as weaknesses. John McCain is actually going to run with all of those things that are defined as his weaknesses. He is going to run hard on his support for the war. He is going to run hard on the issue that he is tied to George W. Bush.
His Republicanism—in order to try and energize the base, which is something he‘s going to need to do to win places like Ohio and Florida that we‘re talking about; he is going to have to really stress his Republican credentials, identifying himself not so as a moderate or a maverick, but as a true conservative Republican, who has always been somewhat, at least, loyal to the party.
He is going to run with all of those things that are defined as weaknesses, in which case, if he is successful in doing that, and redefining those things as strengths, how is he vulnerable?
GREGORY: But, Harold, is it really going to be so easy for Democrats
do they think that people are going to forget McCain‘s maverick past, forget how deeply he disagreed with the president on a host of issues, and just think about how close he is to him on the war.
FORD: That will be the fault line in his race. Whichever campaign, whichever party can most quickly define the parameters and most quickly define the fault lines in this race will be the campaign that will have the advantage. I have been slightly surprised that John McCain has not taken a move more to the middle now that he‘s alone in this race and he obviously doesn‘t have a primary any longer.
I‘ve been slightly surprised that he‘s not taking—The tact he took this morning on “MORNING JOE” is a tact I thought he would have started taking two weeks ago. If he continues down that path, he will be a more formidable foe. But once a Democrat is selected, the fault lines will be drawn. McCain will represent the third term of Bush. I am sure that John McCain will try to paint the Democrats to returning us to high taxes and retreat when we face terrorism.
GREGORY: Finally, tonight, the Mountain States could be a key battleground in November, as we have been talking about. Democrats have made major gains in this one solidly red territory. Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming all have Democratic governors. Montana has two Democratic senators. And Nevada is home to the Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid. Third question, how does the West get won? John?
HARWOOD: Well, the West gets won for Democrats, if they are going to win in a place like Colorado, is they are counting on demographic change, growth of the suburbs around Denver, in particular, the growth of Hispanic voters, and the fact that Hispanics have turned so strongly away from Republicans, although John McCain has got a better record than other potential Republican nominees with those Hispanics on issues like immigration.
The same is true in Nevada. You have a lot of people who have moved from California into Nevada, resettled there, upper income voters, or middle class voters, suburbanites who could vote Democrat this fall.
GREGORY: It‘s interesting, Joe, if Democrats think that the Rocky Mountain West is a possible pickup area, they want to look to Obama, who has more strength there than Hillary Clinton does?
SCARBOROUGH: Still, if Democrats are going to make gains in the west, it ain‘t going to be this year. They need to put their money in western Ohio, and northwest Florida.
GREGORY: Is that because of McCain?
HARWOOD: Do you think Barack Obama can‘t carry Colorado? Are you kidding?
SCARBOROUGH: I don‘t think that they are going to do—maybe Colorado is in play. But I just don‘t think Democrats are going to do as well against a John McCain as they would against somebody like George W. Bush. John McCain is a westerner. He‘s independent. I think he will do very well out there. Again, depending on who his vice presidential candidate is, I just don‘t—
Let me say this, if Democrats win Wyoming, if they win Montana, if they win Colorado, you know what, duck, because Barack Obama is going to be the Ronald Reagan of 2008. He will win 49 states.
MADDOW: If Hispanics are the key to the west and the Mountain States, you have to look at the fact that the proportions of the Latinos identifying themselves as Republicans has dropped 28 percent in the last two years. The immigration problem on the Republican side has turned Latinos against Republicans, wholesale.
SCARBOROUGH: John McCain is the one guy that has gone against Republican orthodoxy, and he has been the guy that fought with Ted Kennedy to give what a lot of Republicans called amnesty to illegal immigrants.
MADDOW: But he learned his lesson and changed his mind.
FORD: Whomever the nominee of the Democrats better pick somebody like me who is a member of the NRA, because one way you‘re going to make inroads in Montana, one way you‘re going to make inroads in Colorado, like that great governor did, is to resemble and look like those people there.
SCARBOROUGH: Where is your hunting cap, Harold?
FORD: I will come over during break.
HARWOOD: Forget Wyoming, forget Montana, but Democrats can compete in Colorado, even though John McCain has a better argument to make to his followers.
GREGORY: Coming up, John looks into his crystal ball and predicts when the race for the Democratic nomination will be over. Don‘t miss that. It‘s not too late to play with the panel. Call us, 212-790-2299. The email, RACE08@MSNBC.com. We‘ll be right back.
GREGORY: We are back, and it‘s your turn to play with the panel. Still with us, Rachel Maddow, John Harwood, Harold Ford Jr., and Joe Scarborough. First up tonight, Brandon in New York thinks the Clintons might be at it again on the issue of race. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think Hillary is playing the race card again by saying Obama cannot win in November?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: Rachel, I‘ve been wondering the same thing. If this was the way the conversation went with Bill Richardson, essentially, he can‘t win; you know it; I know it. Is she talking about race?
MADDOW: No, not explicitly. It may be that that‘s the implication. She ought to be questioned about that. But it can‘t be that every time you degrade the idea of your opponent‘s electability that you are attacking them on the basis of their race, the same way that if Obama said, Hillary can‘t win, it wouldn‘t necessarily be sexist. I don‘t think that you can read that into any generic criticism of the opponent. You just can‘t.
GREGORY: Harold, what‘s your take?
FORD: I agree with Rachel. I don‘t expect her to say, go ahead and vote for him, because I think he can beat me and beat John McCain. This is a competitive race. These things happen. Hillary Clinton believes she is the strongest nominee for the party, and she may end up being that.
GREGORY: Let‘s not be naive either. She is not saying he can‘t win because he is wrong on health care. There is other attributes here that she‘s talking about.
FORD: You raised an issue earlier about patriotism. I happen to think that‘s one area where the Republicans will go after Barack. And there is some evidence there. I‘m not saying he believes that, but they will go—when I say there‘s evidence, there‘s a body of work out there, a work product out there that they can use. So I think there are a number of things. I wouldn‘t accuse or believe that Hillary Clinton is playing the race card here.
GREGORY: Another viewer from New York wants to know, if a simple VP choice will solve some problems from Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Heidi from New York. I was wondering, what do you think about Barack Obama, if he is the Democratic presidential candidate, if he picks a general as a vice presidential running mate, which could co-opt the question of military experience.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: Is that what he needs, Joe?
SCARBOROUGH: Boy, I‘ll tell you what, it sounds like a good fit, but generals are dangerous to get out on the campaign trail. You can ask Ross Perot. You can also ask people that thought there was a certain general four years ago that would do a great job, but Wesley Clark got out on the campaign trail and found out very quickly, it doesn‘t matter how sharp you are in the military or in business, when you get out on the campaign trail, it is a different thing. I just don‘t know that there are many generals, other than Colin Powell, that would be ready for what it takes.
GREGORY: Here is my question, does Barack Obama need an older figure in the party like a Dick Cheney. There may be some blow back to Dick Cheney‘s years in office. Somebody who might be perceived as less ideological.
SCARBOROUGH: Like a Sam Nunn? That would be a winner, I think.
HARWOOD: You hear a lot of talk about Sam Nunn, some from Obama camp. He definitely needs somebody to help reassure voters that he has got good help with him. You know, inexperience is his biggest problem. That‘s why I don‘t think Hillary Clinton can be accused of playing the race card when she says he can‘t win. Inexperience is his issue. He can solve it with somebody like Sam Nunn. He could solve it with somebody like Joe Biden, maybe Evan Evan Bayh.
MADDOW: The problem is that we have not elected a senator to be president since 1960, and having a two-senator ticket isn‘t going to necessarily help.
HARWOOD: Bayh gives you a governor though. He was a successful governor of Indiana.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, Bayh was, and also, Sam Nunn puts Georgia back in play. If you make Republicans spend money in Georgia and the south, you really gain advantage.
GREGORY: All right, Shelly in Indiana is tired of all the phone calls, particularly the ones at 3:00 a.m. She writes this: “This 3:00 phone call ad has reached the comical stage. If Hillary has all this financial experience, why can‘t she manage her own presidential campaign finances or produce her tax returns. If the phone actually does ring, it‘s probably one of her bill collectors. In that case, would she answer it or let it go to voice mail?”
There is a bit much here with the 3:00 a.m. ad. I think everybody is
why is everybody—Joe, it‘s like, when you watch “the West Wing,” you wonder, why is everybody doing all the business in the middle of the night. Do they do anything during the day?
SCARBOROUGH: Don‘t any scandals or any problems break in the middle of the day. It‘s interesting, especially talking about foreclosures; what banks call at 3:00 a.m. I will say, John McCain came back with his own 3:00 a.m. ad against Hillary Clinton, and it was probably more affective than Hillary‘s. But at this point, I think she needs to retire the pearls and glasses at 3:00 a.m.
HARWOOD: Remember David that both Hillary Clinton and John McCain Are broke compared to Barack Obama. So they will recycle some of the same gags over and over.
GREGORY: It is interesting—Rachel, there‘s new information about this, in terms of new money. He has plenty to spend here.
MADDOW: That‘s right, 40 million dollars is what he is bringing in. Hillary Clinton, interestingly—I thought this was fascinating—is not going to release her totals, her fund-raising totals for last month until two days before the Pennsylvania primary, pushing it to the very, very end, because part of the electability argument to the super delegates, of course, is how you can raise money and how you can manage the money that you have got.
Disclosing your cash on hand and how many new donors you‘ve been able to attract could be a political piece of dynamite heading into that Pennsylvania vote.
FORD: We are still talking about this 3:00 a.m. ad, so she must be doing something right here.
GREGORY: Yes, OK. We will take your comments here every night on RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE, RACE08@MSNBC.com, the email. You see the phone number, 212-790-2299. Up next, it‘s prediction time. I‘ll have a final note on always giving credit where credit is due, sourcing your inspiration.
GREGORY: Prediction time. Back with us, Rachel, John, Harold and Joe. John Harwood, what‘s your prediction tonight?
HARWOOD: David, Democrats are going to cross the nomination finish line by the 4th of July. Hillary Clinton says she is in it to the end. Some party leaders are tearing their hair out. But this thing is not going all the way to the convention, unless Hillary Clinton can string together victories not just in Pennsylvania, but places like Indiana and North Carolina as well. Her position is going to continue to erode among super delegates and among donors. This things ends by Independence Day, no later than that, possibly as early as May 1st.
GREGORY: Do you see a super delegate convention?
HARWOOD: I do not. You are seeing a trickle of super delegates to Barack Obama. If something does not upset the apple cart, cause his numbers to collapse, that will continue.
GREGORY: Harold Ford?
FORD: Congress has only scratched the surface with this housing compromise bill they‘ve put together. It‘s a small amount of money for counseling, a small amount of money for state revenue bonds, and some small amount for cities and states. They are going to have to come with a larger backstop. It will be the biggest issue in Congressional races. The fact that Denny Hastert‘s seat went Democrat in a two to one Republican area is a strong sign that Republicans in Congress and the Senate will have problems on their hands if they don‘t do something more dramatic and bold, bolder than what they did just now.
GREGORY: It‘s everybody‘s single biggest asset, and Americans have lost billions of dollars collectively.
FORD: It‘s the only thing that will inject confidence back into the markets and into the economy.
GREGORY: Rachel Maddow, hit me with it?
MADDOW: I think that John McCain finally signs on to the new G.I. Bill. He is wrapping up his biography tour, which has all been about military service, about his own military service. Today he was in Jacksonville, talking about where he came home to after being held as a prisoner of war. Of course, the question looms large for him, and groups like VoteVets.org and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America are hitting him with the question of what he has done for vets as a politician.
The new GI Bill has 50 co-sponsors and John McCain is not one of them. I think he is starting to feel that, and I think we may see him sign on to that bill.
GREGORY: Joe Scarborough, what do you see tonight?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, word just came out that, while the economy is getting worse, nowhere is it getting more worse than in Pennsylvania right now. The economy continues to sag. New numbers came out that showed that that state is hurting as much as any state in the country. What does that mean of the Democratic party? That means the worse things get for people in Pennsylvania, the better Hillary Clinton‘s poll numbers gets, just like Ohio. It will be the working class. It will be the people that are squeezed.
It won‘t be talking about dreams or hope or things that a lot of Barack Obama supporters are talking about. They will be wanting somebody that will go to Washington, D.C., roll up their sleeves and fight for them. They won‘t be able to take a chance on a dream. They will, instead, support somebody like Hillary Clinton, as so many other blue collar voters in Ohio have already done. Expect Hillary‘s numbers to go up.
GREGORY: An important point there; she made the case today that she is the only one—she called herself Paulet Revere, who is crying a recession is coming, as if she is the loan voice out there. That really could resonate with those voters. Don‘t you think?
SCARBOROUGH: No doubt about it. Again, if you look at the people that have been supporting Barack Obama from the very beginning—and Rachel brings up a great point. The numbers are overwhelming in Iowa and a lot of other states. It‘s not just professors. It‘s just not rich Democrats. But the wealthier people have been supporting Barack Obama in the Democratic party. Blue collar workers, making less than 50,000 dollars, have been on Hillary Clinton‘s side. Those are the people that are going to be disproportionately impacted in Pennsylvania with the down turn in the economy.
MADDOW: I think to that point and also to Harold‘s point about what is going on in Congress, a big part of this makes—it depends on whether votes believe that political action can fix the economy. They need to be sold on the idea that what politicians do is going to matter. The politician who can tell the best story about it may win them.
FORD: Barack has got to connect his rhetoric with changing lives. If he does that, he will make that race closer in Pennsylvania. If does not, Hillary will run away in Pennsylvania.
GREGORY: I will leave it there. Thanks to a great panel. One final note tonight, always important to attribute your inspiration. I like to say on this program that the RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE rolls on. The idea of it rolling on is something that I got originally from Pat O‘Brien of CBS Sports, now of “The Insider.” He always used to say about the road to the final four rolls on. I always liked it, and that‘s my homage to you, Pat, who contacted me today. We will see you tomorrow.
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