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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Friday, April 18

Guests: Roger Simon, Jennifer Donahue, Jonathan Allen, Ron Brownstein,

Margaret Carlson, Ed Gordon, Todd Harris, Steve McMahon

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Give us your best, Obama, Bill shouts.  My Hillary can take your worst.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL, tonight from Philadelphia.  There are just four days now to go before the Pennsylvania primary, and one thing we can say for sure, Barack Obama has had one tough week.  First came the fallout from that “bitter” remark, then Tuesday‘s debate.

So what does it all mean?  Well, just as we saw a couple of polls showing Hillary closing the gap nationally because of the bad week for him, “Newsweek” has come out today—this afternoon, in fact—with a new poll that shows just the opposite—in a big way, by the way—showing Barack Obama—catch this—he‘s up over Hillary right now by 19 points nationally, according to that new poll.

So what the heck is happening out there?  We‘re going to try to break it down in just a moment.  Is this guy pulling ahead, way ahead, or is he crashing and coming down to Hillary level?

Also: Who is Barack Obama?  His supporters say he‘s new kind of Democrat who can transcend the old politics.  Others say he‘s nothing more than the 2008 model of Michael Dukakis and John Kerry.  So which is it?  We‘ll hear both points of view.

Obama got some other good news today.  Three notable Democrats have endorsed him.  We‘ll have that and more in the “Politics Fix.”

And the Democratic race has turned bitter, as I said, the past week. 

Here is what passes for the humor out there.


STEPHEN COLBERT, “THE COLBERT REPORT”:  Are you telling me there‘s no one in this theater who can fix the mess we‘re in?



MATTHEWS:  Well, the candidates have been taking stops these days at the comedy talk show circuit.  In a moment, we‘ll have the highlights of people doing this kind of thing, Hillary on Colbert, and we‘ll explain to you why Bill Clinton is suddenly interested in fine wines.

But first, the Democratic race.  Ed Gordon‘s the host of TV 1‘s “Our World” with Black Enterprise.  Ron Brownstein is the political director for Atlantic Media.  And Margaret Carlson is a columnist for Bloomberg News.

I want Ron to try to explain to me what the heck is going on.  You try.  These polls—Gallup shows it getting tight between the two of them, Democrats, Hillary and Barack.  “Newsweek” now comes out this afternoon, Friday afternoon, with this barn burner of a 19-point lead for Barack Obama nationally.

RON BROWNSTEIN, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”:  You know, there‘s so much polling in the modern campaign era, Chris, that on any given day, you can find a poll to support almost anything you want to say.  I have a hard time imagining that the Democratic that has exhibited such stability really through has suddenly reached a cliff, where Hillary Clinton‘s support has simply collapsed.  It‘s more plausible that there is some tightening, but within the basic context of each of—the coalitions that each of these candidates have attracted have been remarkably stable and distinct from the beginning, and right now, for me, there‘s very little sign of that changing.

MATTHEWS:  Well, look at this, Margaret.  And let me go to Margaret on this one.  Let‘s take a look at this poll now.  It shows—the “Newsweek” poll just out—that Barack has got 54, Senator Clinton has 35.  That‘s a 19-point spread.  Now, look.  Compare that to just last month, when they were basically even at 45-44.  These are registered Democrats out there, or leaning Democrat—Democrat-leaning voters.  What do you make of it?

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG NEWS:  Well, you know, the point that the Clintons are making with superdelegates and their fund-raisers is that it‘s not among Democrats that Obama‘s having the problem, it‘s among independents and “Obamacons,” of which there are going to be fewer because of the mistakes or the things that have come out over the last couple if weeks.  That‘s their argument for Senator Clinton staying in the race and for Senator Clinton being the nominee, that the Jeremiah Wright, the “bitter” comment, all these things are driving away independents and the Republicans that he claims to have had.

So they brush off—just the way Obama brushed off the criticism, which I don‘t think was the best gesture that he ever had, they‘re brushing off this because they‘re just now talking about the general election and his weakness as a result of the last month in that.

MATTHEWS:  Ed, could be it be that what we‘ve talked about here doesn‘t matter to many of the voters?

ED GORDON, HOST, “OUR WORLD” WITH BLACK ENTERPRISE:  That is exactly it.  I‘ve been going around the country talking with people over the last week-and-a-half, and you don‘t hear that Barack, quote, “had a bad week.”  If he had a bad week, he‘s within, if you believe the polls, 5 to 6 points in Pennsylvania.  We keep saying she has to win big there.  It does seem like he‘s brushed off the Jeremiah Wright the question—the question of Pennsylvania voters.  And it does seem like there‘s a bit of Teflon on this man, despite what the media‘s trying to put on him.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it could also be that the national trends are very different than the Pennsylvania trends, and that would not surprise me.  Pennsylvania goes its own way.

Let‘s take a look.  Here‘s Senator Clinton, herself, outside of Philadelphia, talking about Senator Obama‘s reaction to the debate.


CLINTON:  Well, having been in the White House for eight years and seeing what happens in terms of the pressures and the stresses on a president, that was nothing.


CLINTON:  I mean, I‘m—I‘m with Harry Truman on this.  If you can‘t stand the heat, get out of kitchen.


CLINTON:  And just speaking for myself, I am very comfortable in the kitchen.


MATTHEWS:  Now take a look at Barack Obama today, also talking in Pennsylvania, but in this case about bringing the party together after this fight.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Let me tell you something.  Our party will come together.  Our party will come together in August.  We‘ll come together in November.  Not only will our party come together, but we‘re going to attract independents and we‘re going to attract some disaffected Republicans into the fold because the choice is going to be so clear.  The stakes are going to be so high.  There is going to be a clear choice between change or more of the same come November.


MATTHEWS:  Margaret Carlson, how does Barack Obama get past a 10-point loss next Tuesday in Pennsylvania, something really tough, maybe higher than 10 points?  Can he—can he treat that as a bump on the road and say, I‘m on to Indiana, I‘m on to North Carolina?

CARLSON:  I think if it‘s anything up until 9, he doesn‘t need a big explanation.  Ten and over, he needs an explanation.  I disagree with Ed Gordon in Pennsylvania.  In Pennsylvania, they care about Jeremiah Wright.  Chris, you and I are from similar neighborhoods.  And it‘s not going away.  It‘s troubling to people.  And I think if it‘s going to hurt him anywhere, it‘s going to be in Pennsylvania.

GORDON:  But it‘s the notion that we‘ve put a lot on Pennsylvania, and while important, as Chris noted, on the national front, you don‘t see the same fervor that you did two weeks ago about Jeremiah Wright.  And I think the camp is counting on that, that as he suggested that day and as we saw many people say after the debate of last week, Move on.

MATTHEWS:  But Ed, what do you do if—what do you do if the national news reports—and we‘re sitting there, Keith and I, Tuesday night and the polls are coming in, it‘s a 10-point-plus spread, that‘s all—the Clintons are dropping confetti on each other.  Everybody‘s going nuts.  Eddie Rendell is actually levitating.  You don‘t think that‘s going to cause a change in the national attitude about this election?

GORDON:  It really depends.  I mean, it depends on how they come out and put the spin on it.  Certainly, there was spin coming out of the Clinton camp when he won in such a large way in South Carolina, and there‘s going to be the attack of, We expected to lose Pennsylvania.”  I think looking to Indiana—and people have conceded North Carolina already to him—I think you‘ve got to look at that and see how they play that out.

BROWNSTEIN:  Chris, I mean, the real question out of Pennsylvania, won‘t it be whether either is showing any success at breaking into the other‘s coalition?  The fact that non-college white voters, who have resisted Obama so far, outnumber the college white voters in Pennsylvania by about 2 to 1 makes it likely that Clinton is going to win the state.  But the fact that African-American voters are a fifth of the state makes it very hard for her to get to double digits, in fact.

I mean, the issue—even if she wins Pennsylvania convincingly, it doesn‘t necessarily change the underlying narrative of the race, which is that she has her piece of the party, he has his piece of the party, which seems slightly bigger.  And right now, the superdelegates on an almost day-to-day basis—you mentioned some of these other endorsements—are sort of steadily moving toward him.

She needs something that would break that pattern...


BROWNSTEIN:  ... and really I think it is a matter of breaking serve by winning a state that she is not expected to.  Simply winning Pennsylvania and establishing the same demographics we‘ve seen for...


BROWNSTEIN:  ... 20 (ph) months, I‘m not sure that changes (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  So you say it would take her to win Indiana, for example.

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, even Indiana is a state that probably leans toward her.  It‘s probably going to take a state like North Carolina or Oregon or both.


BROWNSTEIN:  And even that might not do it because, again, we are seeing superdelegates kind of steadily, incrementally, day by day, like ants marching up a hill, kind of closing this off by moving toward him.

GORDON:  And all of this, Chris, in a week that...

CARLSON:  But given—given all the...


MATTHEWS:  What‘s that?

CARLSON:  I said given the all attention we‘re paying to Pennsylvania because there‘s been such a long stretch, if she were to surprise by winning by more than 10, or you know, 11, 12, 13, then I think that is a little bit of a bump that makes superdelegates stop again and think about it.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, let‘s—let‘s talk to everybody about how this happens.  If it‘s about a 10-pointer, or if it‘s less, whatever happens, Howard Dean, the DNC chairman, is pushing these superdelegates to wrap it up, get their decisions made, the ones that haven‘t decided.  He says, Start deciding.  Let‘s listen to him.


HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN:  About 65, roughly, percent of the superdelegates have voted.  There‘s about 320-some-odd left to vote.  I need them to say who they‘re for, starting now.  They really do need to do that.  We cannot give up two or three months of active campaigning and healing time.  We‘ve got to know who our nominee is, and there‘s no reason not to know after the last primary on June 3.


MATTHEWS:  Ron, does he have enough clout to force a decision by this jury of superdelegates who haven‘t decided it yet?

BROWNSTEIN:  He doesn‘t have enough clout, but he does have a good argument.  After the last primary, there‘s really no new information that‘s out there for the superdelegates.  There really is no reason for them to drag it out over the summer.  The Democrats, I think, are paying a price for not being able to turn the focus to John McCain, although, in fact, in recent polling, both Obama and Clinton have moved back ahead of McCain.  The fact that they are focusing their enormous financial advantage on each other, rather than on McCain, is a real cost to the party.

And I think, though, Chris, we are seeing what he is talking about happening in slow motion.  I mean, superdelegates are steadily moving, and they have been moving toward Obama.  It is a challenge for Clinton in trying to find a way to reverse that kind of flow that has been slow but steady week after week.

MATTHEWS:  Well, as I said, let‘s wait and see, everybody, if that 10-point spread for Hillary on Tuesday night, if it occurs, slows that slo-mo flow to Barack.

Thank you very much, Ron.  Thank you very much, Margaret.  Thank You, Ed.

Coming up: What‘s the strategy for running against Obama?  Is he a new kind of Democrat that can really beat the Republicans in a new way, or is he just another version of the old, well, John Kerry and Michael Dukakis, which the Democrats have been offering, or is he different?  We‘ll find out when we come back.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The battle over Senator Obama‘s “bitter” comments might be an early indication of how Republicans will hit him if he does win the nomination.  Senator Clinton clearly thinks that‘s the case.  Check out what she said this past Sunday.


CLINTON:  Someone goes to a closed-door fund-raiser in San Francisco and makes comments that do seem elitist, out of touch, and frankly, patronizing.  That has nothing to do with him being a good man or a man of faith.  We had two very good men and men of faith run for president in 2000 and 2004, but large segments of the electorate concluded that they did not really understand or relate to, or frankly, respect their ways of life.


MATTHEWS:  So is Hillary Clinton right?  Will Republicans turn Obama into an elite, godless, cold candidate who has no appeal to the heartland?  Is that what happened on Al Gore and John Kerry?  Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist.  Todd Harris is a Republican strategist, worked for John McCain back in 2000.

Todd, is that your plan?

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I couldn‘t have said it any better myself.  You know, Chris, remember that old Charlie Rich country song, “Behind Closed Doors”?  Americans are getting a sneak preview behind Obama‘s closed doors, and they‘re not liking what they see.  When...

MATTHEWS:  Well, do you believe he‘s an elitist?  Do you believe he‘s an elitist, cold, frost-belt liberal?

HARRIS:  I think that he‘s not going to relate to blue-collar Americans as well as John McCain is going to, and we are going to not miss an opportunity from now until November, if the Democrats nominate him, to continue to point that out.

MATTHEWS:  Steve, has he—has he—has he got the rhetorical skills, or lack of them, of Dukakis and Gore?  Does he lack charisma, as those two may have lacked it?  Does he have the deficiencies that can exploited against him, or is he, in fact, something new?

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  He‘s something new.  And in fact, one of the reasons he‘s so popular is because he makes this emotional connection.  So many people in this country, including not just Democrats, by the way, but independents and people who have voted Republican in the past, are inspired by this man because he offers a hope for a different kind of politics, hope for a different kind of future and hope for a better America.  His message is positive, aspirational, and it‘s about change.  It‘s exactly the opposite message of John McCain‘s, and it‘s a message that John McCain, frankly, at the age of 72 and after 25 years in Washington, is not going to be able to deliver or compete with.

HARRIS:  I‘m sorry, there‘s just nothing that says more old school politics than going around in public, talking about change and hope, but then jetting off to San Francisco behind closed doors and talking about these people who live in small town America and saying they‘re bitter, and because they‘re bitter and because government isn‘t helping them out, they‘re clinging to their guns and they‘re clinging to their faith.  It‘s elitist.  It‘s the sort of elitist intellectualism that always trips up Democrats in general elections.  It reminds me of, you know, Adlai Stevenson, taking—who, by the way—you know, let‘s from our history, he inspired a lot of young people, too.  And look what happened to him.

MCMAHON:  It‘s—by the way, it‘s all—it‘s elitist, but it‘s also inaccurate, what Todd just said.  And the way he portrayed it certainly is elitist.  What Barack Obama was doing in that clip—inelegantly, I admit, but what he was doing was actually defending those people because the government, they believe, hasn‘t represented them, hasn‘t listened to them, has gone into a war in Iraq that‘s endless and that‘s wasting $30 billion a month.  They‘re ready for change, and they‘re going to vote for Barack Obama.  They‘re voting with Hillary Clinton a little bit more right now, but they‘re fundamentally Democrats and they‘ll come back in the fold.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go back to something real here, Dukakis.  It wasn‘t just a ride in the tank with that Rocky the Squirrel helmet on.  It wasn‘t just that, Todd.  It was when he was asked what he would do—

Bernard Shaw of CNN asked him the question down in Dallas—what would happen, what would your belief be as to the appropriate punishment of someone who raped and killed your wife, Kitty?  It was rather a personal question.  A lot of people thought it was wrong.  But it did expose something about Dukakis.  He gave a rather formulaic answer about, As you know, Bernard, I‘m opposed to capital punishment.  That apparently sunk him with the middle.

Are you saying that Barack Obama is vulnerable to that kind of unfortunate vulnerability?

HARRIS:  Well, I think there‘s no question Obama‘s rhetorical skills are better than Dukakis‘s were.  But you know, the Democrats want to frame up this election as a question, Do we want a third term of George W. Bush?  The way things are trending with Obama, the question is going to be, Do you want a first term of Michael Dukakis?  Because you look at Obama on taxes, you compare him to Dukakis.  You look at Obama on this whole range of elitist issues which always trip up Democrats in general elections.  And I got to tell you, Chris, for months it‘s been an article for faith that we Republicans wanted to run against Hillary Clinton.  I‘m starting to reevaluate that position.  I think I might rather take him on.

MATTHEWS:  Is it elitist—it‘s elitist to raise taxes on the rich?


MATTHEWS:  I‘m getting confused here.  What is elitist about raising -

Steve, pick it up here.  I mean, I just heard—Todd made an unusual mistake then.  You‘re saying that coming out for taxes on the rich is elitist.  It seems to me anti-elitist to do that.

Obama on this whole range of elitist issues, which always trip up Democrats in general elections, and I got to tell you, Chris, for—for months, it‘s been an article of faith that we Republicans wanted—wanted to run against Hillary Clinton.  I‘m starting to reevaluate that position.  I think I might want to take him on.

MATTHEWS:  Is it elitist—it‘s elitist to raise taxes on the rich? 


HARRIS:  I think it‘s...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m—I‘m getting confused here.  What is elitist about raising—Steve, pick it up here. 

I mean, I just heard, Steve...


MATTHEWS:  Todd made an unusual mistake then.  You‘re saying that coming out for taxes on the rich is elitist?  It seems to me anti-elitist to do that.

MCMAHON:  It‘s not like Todd to make a mistake of any kind. 

But let me exploit it here for a second, because it‘s interesting.  By that measure, John McCain used to be an elitist, because he objected to and voted against the tax cuts, because he said too much of the benefit went to the wealthiest Americans. 

Of course, to get the nomination now, and to appease the right, he‘s flip-flopped on that issue.  He wants to privatize Social Security.  There‘s a range of think where he‘s gone to the right.  The maverick that everybody thinks John McCain is not the John McCain that is running for president this year. 


MCMAHON:  He‘s actually the guy who has been on both sides of every issue. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Steve McMahon.


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Todd Harris.

Sorry.  You guys are great.  Sometimes, come on and do the whole show.


MATTHEWS:  Up next:  What is the Bill Clinton effect on the campaign trail?  We‘re talking Bill. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

So, what else is new in politics? 

Well, the Clinton campaign has had a tough time managing Bill Clinton in this election.  He was supposed to the secret weapon for Hillary, but against whom?  Obama or Hillary?  His gaffes, outbursts, and misstatements have dogged the Clinton campaign since the very beginning. 

But, as we head into the final days of the Pennsylvania primary, Hillary‘s once again trying to use the Bill Clinton years to her advantage. 

Here she is at a Philadelphia dinner yesterday. 


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, sometimes, during this campaign, my opponent criticizes the ‘90s, criticizes what my husband did.  And that‘s fair, because, after all, politics is about trying to make it clear why people should vote for you, instead of your opponent. 

But, when I hear him criticizing the 1990s, I‘m always wondering, which part of it didn‘t he like, the peace or the prosperity?


CLINTON:  Because I liked both. 



MATTHEWS:  I shouldn‘t be the one to say this, because I have a loud voice and I scream, but she should not scream. 

Unfortunately, it wasn‘t just peace and prosperity back in the ‘90s.  It was also that Clinton sitcom, as we all recall.  But the Clintons assume memory loss on the part of the voters.  That‘s perhaps the secret to their continuing success.

Newspaper death watch—as you probably know by now, I‘m a huge fan of newspapers, you know, the kind you can actually hold in your hands and read with the coffee in the morning?  That‘s why I hate stories like this one.

The New York Times Company is reporting a substantial loss in the first quarter this year, one of the worst periods the company and the newspaper industry have seen.  If we lose “The Times,” we have lost the best paper in America. 

The wondrous Peggy Noonan has an interesting suggestion for John

McCain today.  She wrote in her “Wall Street Journal” column today—quote

“It seems to me it would be a brilliant thing for him”—that‘s John McCain—“to announce he means to be a one-term president, that he means to have a clean, serious one-term presidency, in which he will do things those under pressure of reelection do not and cannot do.”

Peggy says, voters in the middle of the country politically would love it.  You get a good man, and Obama gets time to grow.  That‘s her thinking. 

The problem, Peggy, the way I look at it, is that the one-term presidents, as good as the idea sounds, are almost lame ducks to begin with.  People know they‘re going.  They don‘t have the clout because of it.

And now it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number” tonight. 

In order to have any shot at the Democratic nomination at this point, most people think Hillary Clinton needs to beat Barack Obama in the overall popular vote, because she can‘t catch him in elected delegates.  Right now, she trails Obama by over 700,000 votes, not including Florida and Michigan, which have their problems.

If she were to win the overall popular vote, Clinton might be able to make a case for superdelegates to back her at the convention.  But, in order for that to happen, she first needs a major win in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.  How much does she need to win by in Pennsylvania?  By our estimation, at least 200,000 votes.  A 200,000-vote—in Pennsylvania, by the way, could begin the uphill battle for her winning the popular vote overall.

By the way, she can do it.  That‘s tonight‘s “Big Number”: 200,000 votes.

Up next: politicians-turned-comedians—will it get them elected? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


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

Stocks rallying on some better-than-expected earnings.  The Dow Jones industrials closed this Friday up 228 points.  The S&P 500 gained nearly 25.  And the Nasdaq saw a 61-point gain, thanks in part to Google‘s huge rally. 

Citigroup reported a $5 billion quarterly loss, but that was less than what Wall Street had been expecting.  The nation‘s biggest bank also said that it will cut another 9,000 jobs.  Citigroup‘s shares rose almost 5 percent in today‘s session. 

Dow component Caterpillar also reporting better-than-expected earnings, and shares of the heavy equipment maker jumped 8 percent today. 

And, after reporting strong earnings after the closing bell yesterday, Google‘s shares soared $90, or 20 percent today, climbing to $538 a share. 

Finally, oil closed at a record high for the fourth time in the past five days.  Crude oil gained $1.83 in New York‘s trading session, finishing at $116.69 a barrel. 

That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to Chris and HARDBALL. 

Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

There are just four days, as I said, until the Pennsylvania primary.  I‘m there right now in Philadelphia.  But if you were watching late-night TV just last night, you might have thought that candidates Clinton and Obama were auditioning, not for commander in chief, but, rather, for comedian in chief.

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster has the report. 



STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “THE COLBERT REPORT”:  Last night‘s Democratic debate, which took place here in Philadelphia, that...


DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Last night, on “The Colbert Report,” it was more proof that candidates are fighting for votes on every front. 


COLBERT:  Are you telling me there‘s no one in this theater who can fix the mess we‘re in? 




CLINTON:  I can, Stephen. 


SHUSTER:  Hillary Clinton tried to attach humor to her theme of being ready on day one for anything. 


CLINTON:  How are you feeding this? 


CLINTON:  Through the router or the aux bus on the switcher? 


COLBERT:  It‘s an aux. 

CLINTON:  Hmm.  Try toggling the input. 





COLBERT:  Holy cow!


SHUSTER:  A few minutes later:


COLBERT:  I only wish Senator Obama could have joined us. 




COLBERT:  Senator Obama, won‘t Senator Clinton be happy that she fixed our screen? 




SHUSTER:  Obama ridiculed ABC‘s controversial approach to the most recent debate. 


OBAMA:  I want to put these political distractions on notice. 

COLBERT:  What? 


OBAMA:  Boys, bring out the “On Notice” board.

COLBERT:  What? 



SHUSTER:  And once the visual aid was set up:


COLBERT:  Distractions, I hope you‘re paying attention. 




COLBERT:  How‘s that taste?


OBAMA:  Manufactured—manufactured political distractions, you are officially on notice. 


COLBERT:  Thank you, Senator Obama. 



SHUSTER:  The irony of last night‘s comedy battle was that the Democrat who turned in the best performance is no longer in the race: John Edwards. 


JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  And that brings us to tonight‘s “Ed Word.”




SHUSTER: “The Colbert Report” often mocks cable news show talking points.

For John Edwards, point number one was white males. 


EDWARDS:  Their votes are being courted as a Democratic tiebreaker between these two candidates.  And no white male‘s vote is being courted more vigorously than this one. 



SHUSTER:  Edwards joked about being neutral. 


EDWARDS:  On the one hand, I don‘t want to be seen as anti-hope.  On the other hand, I don‘t want James Carville to bite me. 



SHUSTER:  He used one-liners to describe what it will take to get his support. 


EDWARDS:  Also, I would like a Jet Ski. 



SHUSTER:  And what else? 


EDWARDS:  But what does need to be said is that I will only support the candidate who promises to make me a spy. 



SHUSTER:  For the Democrats, the late-night laughs could soften the party‘s image and soothe perceptions about the candidates in the midst of a fierce primary battle.

On the Republican side, John McCain is also making regular late-night appearances, mostly, though, as the butt of jokes. 


JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”:  And do you know John McCain does not use the Secret Service protection?  Yes.  Yes.  He hasn‘t been using them.  He has his own team.  It‘s like you know what you call those guys who surround John McCain all the time?  Pallbearers. 





DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”:  They had an episode today in Washington.  Everybody‘s laughing about it now, but, at the time, it was not funny.  The pope, after the mass, accidentally gave the last rites to John McCain. 




SHUSTER:  McCain is trying to get in on the laughter with his own take on his age. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How does it make you feel knowing that voters may reject you because they feel you‘re too old to be president? 




SHUSTER (on camera):  For now, however, it‘s the Democrats on center stage.  And underscoring the importance of political humor, Barack Obama‘s campaign announced today that he will be going on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” on Monday, the night before the Pennsylvania primary. 

I‘m David Shuster, for HARDBALL, in Washington. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster. 

Jonathan Allen‘s covering the 2008 race for “Congressional Quarterly.”

I have got to ask you a tough one right now.  Is Barack smart to go on “Stewart” the night before a big test in Pennsylvania?

JONATHAN ALLEN, “THE CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”:  Absolutely.  I don‘t think he has anything to lose.  The demographic that is watching “Jon Stewart” are the Barack Obama faithful. 

He‘s got to try to rally support an college campuses among the liberal elites.  And those are the folks who are watching Comedy Central at 11:00 at night.  So, I think it‘s kind of a no lose.  I mean, of course, you don‘t want to say something really dumb.  But, other than that, he‘s probably got a good opportunity there to try to rally his base. 

MATTHEWS:  But Stewart‘s the guy that went on Oscars on national television, worldwide television, and told the whole world the guy‘s middle name was Hussein, and made a big joke about it.  I don‘t think that was helpful to this campaign to make that into a big large issue, like Stewart did.

ALLEN:  Well, if Jon Stewart‘s sensitive to that, it may make him a little bit softer of an interviewer for—for Senator Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  Aren‘t you heartfelt?


MATTHEWS:  I‘m not sure you‘re right.  I think you‘re a little more compassionate than that guy is.  Just guessing. 

Let‘s ask about one...


ALLEN:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, one—well, that‘s not hard a standard.



MATTHEWS:  ... Hillary Clinton appeared on “Saturday Night Live” on March 1, right after Super Tuesday.  Here it is.

This was quite an effective performance, I think, we think. 


AMY POEHLER, ACTRESS:  Oh, well, my ears are ringing. 



CLINTON:  How are you? 

POEHLER:  Good.  Thank you. 

CLINTON:  Well, I‘m...


CLINTON:  I‘m glad to be here.  Thanks for having me. 

POEHLER:  Oh, I—oh, yes, thank you for coming.  I love your outfit. 


CLINTON:  Well, I love your outfit. 

POEHLER:  Why, thank you. 

CLINTON:  But I do want the earrings back. 



CLINTON:  Do I really laugh like that? 




POEHLER:  So, how‘s the campaign going? 


CLINTON:  Oh, the campaign, it‘s going very well, very, very well. 

POEHLER:  Great. 

CLINTON:  Why?  What have you heard? 

POEHLER:  Nothing. 





MATTHEWS:  Jonathan, I thought that was one of her best performances. 

What do you think?

ALLEN:  I think absolutely, not only that appearance, but there was another appearance—or not an appearance, but “Saturday Night Live” kind of bailed her out a little bit with a skit it did about the media. 

I think Hillary Clinton in that case was showing that she can laugh at herself.  And that‘s important for her, because a lot of people look at her as a tough, hard politician that doesn‘t laugh a lot at herself, laughs thank sometimes at other people, with bad intentions. 

So, I think it was a good moment for her.


ALLEN:  And, as my wife might suggest, anyone who is willing to appear in the same dress as someone else much younger than...


ALLEN:  ... herself is taking a courageous step. 

MATTHEWS:  Well said.

Let me ask you about these guys, all of them, and women who come on and read brilliant sort of Hollywood-written jokes, I mean, really funny snappers.  And we know they didn‘t write them.  Whey do they get credit for their humor when it‘s written for them?

ALLEN:  You know, we will never know the answer to that, Chris.  Most of these folks are not funny.  And, you know, “toggling the input” is something that you will never hear come out of the mouth of a president...


ALLEN:  ... a presidential candidate, a gentleman, or a lady again.  I don‘t know what it means, but it doesn‘t sound good.

MATTHEWS:  But, I mean, there, she was—well, she‘s very brilliant, obviously, in many ways, Hillary Clinton.  She knows her stuff.  She‘s a won, I mean, for better or rose.

But why would she want to demonstrate that she was electronically brilliant, that she understood the business we‘re in right now, television technology? 

ALLEN:  Well, I think she‘s trying to make the argument that she can -

she can fix problems, and she gets in on the ground level, understands the inner workings of things, whether it‘s public policy or I guess, in this case...


ALLEN:  ... electrical work.  I‘m sure the communication workers of America and the electrical brotherhood were happy to see that. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I think all these comedians are funnier and smarter than most of the politicians. 

Anyway, that‘s my view.


MATTHEWS:  Stewart, Colbert—I think Colbert—I bumped into him on the train today, the coolest thing.

I‘m getting off the train in Philadelphia.  There‘s a guy with a baseball hat coming down, ready to get on the train, regular guy.  He says:

“Hi.  Good show.”

And then I go, “Hey, it‘s you.”

It was Steve Colbert...


MATTHEWS:  ... anyway, when he was out of character.

ALLEN:  Well, don‘t forget, he was going to run in South Carolina.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s right. 

ALLEN:  So, don‘t forget, he may also be a politician. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe you‘re right.  You never know.

Anyway, Jonathan Allen, thank you. 

ALLEN:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next: “The Politics Fix.” 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the “Politics Fix.” Our roundtable tonight, MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard; Roger Simon of the Politico; Jennifer Donahue of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. 

Here‘s the conundrum we face at the end of this program tonight.  What the heck is going on?  We‘ve got a new Newsweek poll that shows Senator Obama leading Hillary Clinton now by 19 points, a huge lead, nothing like this seen before.  It‘s among registered Democrats and those leaning Democrats who we expect will vote Democrat in the general.  It is hardly neck and neck anymore. 

At the same time in Pennsylvania, it looks like Hillary is coasting toward something like a double-digit win there.  Roger, explain the disconnect between Pennsylvania trends and national trends. 

ROGER SIMON, POLITICO:  Well, because it‘s not true as Pennsylvania goes so goes the nation.  I think Barack Obama is in a zone, a very good zone for him.  He can do almost nothing wrong.  He can survive Reverend Wright.  We can survive clinging to guns and the Bible.  He can survive a bad debate.  This party likes Barack Obama.  He‘s the front-runner and he‘s well on his way to the nomination.  And that‘s what the Newsweek poll seems to be picking up.

MATTHEWS:  Michelle, why isn‘t it penetrating Pennsylvania, this national euphoria for Barack? 

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes, I don‘t know if it is a combination of the negative advertisements that we have seen.  It might be—have something to do with Hillary Clinton has been absolutely brilliant and fantastic as pointing—you know, as portraying herself as a daughter of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and is really, you know, the underdog, the whole Rocky Balboa thing. 

I think it has picked up traction in Pennsylvania, and I do think though that there are a lot of Pennsylvanians in cities like Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Bucks County, they are sort of scratching their heads and saying, what‘s the rest of the state seeing that we don‘t see?  You know, those people seem to be firmly in Barack‘s camp.

MATTHEWS:  I think she has figured out a way to brilliantly hide behind his problems.  Barack‘s problems are so big in the eyes of the voters there thanks to Hillary and his own problem, because he created the problems, they don‘t see Hillary‘s problems anymore. 

They see her as a fighting, sort of Marcy Kaptur ethnic neighborhood politician, not the elitist from Wellesley.  She has brilliantly made herself almost working class.  It is an amazing piece of work, politically, I think. 

Jennifer, do you buy that?  Did Hillary Clinton transform herself into the working class regular person from the neighborhoods, the girl from Scranton with a gun and shots and beers every Friday night? 

JENNIFER DONAHUE, NEW HAMPSHIRE INSTITUTE OF POLITICS:  Well, she has done as well as you could possibly do being her and conveying that message.  But I think the other thing going on reminds me of what was happening in New Hampshire before the primary.  She went negative and she went down so deep, cutting, cutting, cutting, and it was sort of based on fear, and racial fear, and it was, she‘s a woman, and he‘s a man, and everybody is piling on.  And it worked.

And she cried and it worked.  She left herself the weekend to buoy up and be positive.  She‘s leaving herself some room right now.  Let her husband do the dirty work.  She will be rising above it.  So I think strategically this is her last chance.  If she doesn‘t win in Pennsylvania, this is over.  She knows it. 

And it has got to be by more than a point or two.  I actually think it will be closer than what you‘re suggesting.  I think it could look like New Hampshire right down to the end.  It could be like a 2-point win.  But it still gives her a case, if not a strong case, a case that perhaps she goes on to live another day. 

Although I agree with Roger that the superdelegates are favoring Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  I think she wins by 10.  But here‘s Bill Clinton defending her, his wife, effectively here in this speech. 


BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, they‘ve been beating up on her for 15 months.  I didn‘t hear her whining when he said she was untruthful in Iowa or called her the senator from Punjab. 


B. CLINTON:  And you know they said some pretty rough things about me too.  But, you know, this is a contact sport.  If you don‘t want to play, keep your uniform off. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, there he is with the secondary characteristics.  What

is this about—Roger, what is this about reaching for the ear?  Is this -

what is this, method acting?  What is he always—when he‘s saying something he thinks is working, he grabs the ear.  What is that about, Roger? 


SIMON:  It‘s a secret signal to Hillary, saying, I‘m doing a good job.  You know, if there is any story of this campaign, there are several, but one I can‘t wait to read when the books are done is the fall of Bill Clinton as a beloved figure in the Democratic Party.  I mean, he really was beloved. 

Where did I read the other day that his negatives are now, like, 51 percent in his own party?  That‘s really a change.  Although I think he defended her effectively there.  Although—a second although, I don‘t think you can make the case that the Hillary Clinton campaign has never whined or that Bill Clinton has never whined. 

I think there‘s a pretty good record that they‘ve whined all the time, especially on how caucuses are undemocratic, something they didn‘t whine about until they started losing them. 

MATTHEWS:  Michelle, I think this is an amazing statement of our lack of memory.  I mean, Hillary Clinton has complained about the media from day one, complained about everybody, including me.  She complains all the time. 


MATTHEWS:  She has got these people out there like Howard Wolfson that are just out there biting at your ankle all the time, asking for apologies, suspensions.  If you say anything against the Clintons, you‘re in trouble.  You‘re not allowed to criticize them.

And it goes on and on.  And now Bill comes out with these secondary—this sort of show he hut puts on.  You know, I think sometimes Bill Clinton ought to be, Friday night, like the Borscht Belt comics, Roger, after years of working on the road, they end up doing like “Treasure Hunt” with Jan Murray on Friday night. 

I think Bill Clinton ought to be doing “Treasure Hunt,” doing Mogen David commercials around Friday night at 9:00, like Jan used to do.  He‘s just—this act is so old, Michelle? 

BERNARD:  Well, I don‘t know if you‘ve noticed, Chris, but also there are some clips today of Senator Clinton speaking today and yesterday, and she‘s doing the same thing with the left ear as well.  I‘m kind of wondering if they‘re speaking some sort of Clintonian sign language to.


BERNARD:  To one another, and it sounds like whine, whine, whine, whine, woe is me.  When he said that he—you know, where was he and how he didn‘t hear this, I actually thought to myself, well, you know, you‘ve claimed earlier this week that your wife is losing her memory because she‘s 60.  And now I think maybe you need a.


MATTHEWS:  OK.  I know.  He said, give her a break, it‘s after 11:00, and she‘s 60, damn it, I mean, she‘s losing it.  What a statement. 

Let‘s take a look at MSNBC.  This is the debate where she complains, Senator Clinton.  I think we served this wine before its time.  Here‘s Hillary Clinton complaining about getting the questions first. 


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Can I just point out that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time, and I don‘t mind.  You know, I‘ll be happy to field them, but I do find it curious and if anybody saw “Saturday Night Live,” you know, maybe we should is Barack if he‘s comfortable and needs another pillow. 

I just find it kind of curious that I keep getting the first question on all of these issues. 


MATTHEWS:  You know, I‘m not sure about this.  Maybe she‘s right.  What do you think, Jennifer, arbitrate this, because we had Mitt Romney on one of the debates, early debate that I moderated at the Reagan Library, and he was thrilled to get the first question.  Thrilled to be out there and get all of the attention, like the first kid gets in the family.  The first kid gets all the attention.  Why not the first answerer?  It seems to me it‘s an odd complaint. 

BERNARD:  I remember.  I remember that when Romney seemed like he had just been given a gift, and where with Clinton, she did see it as a negative.  But you know, if anything, what happened in that debate this week is that the moderators were overcorrecting anything that in the past has made the media seem like they might be for Obama.  They decided, well, let‘s just poke a hole in that. 

And every voter that I‘ve talked to—and granted we‘re in New Hampshire.  But I think that there are plenty of things that are true to voters everywhere.  They said, why did it wait until I went to bed to talk about the issues?  I mean, that was ridiculous.  I had heard bitter enough.  I had heard about all of this stuff enough. 

And it was really—I thought it was really bizarre to be honest with you. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of that, Roger, old pro? 

SIMON:  I think actually—although I have a few quibbles with a couple of the questions, I could have done without the flag lapel pins, especially since Hillary doesn‘t wear flag—sorry, Senator Clinton doesn‘t wear one, and she didn‘t get questioned on it.  And I could have done without the Ayers stuff.  But overall, you know, I thought they did a fine job, to tell you the truth. 

I know that‘s a minority opinion.


DONAHUE:  That‘s because you‘re in the game.  That‘s because you‘re in the industry.

SIMON:  No, I‘ll tell you.


MATTHEWS:  I refuse.  I‘m not a media critic.  I‘m a political critic. 

I criticize politicians, not the media. 

SIMON:  Let me tell you two reasons that the candidates did both whine in that clip and on—during the debate.  Reason number one is, it‘s always smart to attack the media.  It‘s the only segment of the population less popular and politicians. 

BERNARD:  And lawyers, don‘t leave out lawyers. 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Michelle?  Michelle, who‘s right on the—who serves the worst whine here?  I mean, the bottom line is, there are so many new tests, I mean, serve the good wine first.  I can‘t stop here.  Let me ask you this.  Has Hillary Clinton got a case here, in all fairness, that she didn‘t complain about being attacked and now Barack is complaining, is that a fair retort? 

BERNARD:  Well, no, it‘s not fair, because she did complain about being re-tacked (ph).  This is—you know, Senator Clinton has put us in an age in this election cycle where now you must renounce, denounce, and repudiate every single statement that is made about Hillary Clinton or anyone else that she thinks you should engage in that type of act about. 

So it‘s absolutely not fair, she has been whining since day one, and quite frankly, Senator Obama probably whined a little bit too much about this debate also.  I might be in the minority.  I agree with Roger.  I think every single question was fair.  Whether some of us who, you know, are addicted to watching this on television are tired of hearing about it, the American public wants to know who he is and they deserve to get answers to those questions. 

MATTHEWS:  Well said.  We‘ll be right back with the roundtable for one last segment on this Friday night. 

By the way, this Sunday on “MEET THE PRESS,” the chief strategists for the Obama and the Clinton campaigns face off for the first time.  David Axelrod and George Garin, the new leader of the Clinton campaign, on “MEET THE PRESS.”  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.



H. CLINTON:  Just knock on the door and say, you know, she‘s really nice. 



H. CLINTON:  Or you could say it another way, she‘s not as bad as you think. 



MATTHEWS:  I have to tell you, guys, that was the most endearing thing I‘ve heard from Senator Clinton.  She can be a tough cookie, but that is a great line.  She‘s not as bad as you think, Michelle.  How can you fight with that one?  I mean, that covers all the bases, doesn‘t it? 

BERNARD:  It really humanized her.  She looked great, the smile looked genuine, and I think was genuine.  I don‘t think it will work.  I think people either love Senator Clinton or they hate her.  I don‘t think that that statement was going to change the polarity, but it was a good moment for her. 

MATTHEWS:  She is not as bad as you think.  And that‘s—I don‘t know how anybody can talk about themselves that way.  But what do you think, Roger, she‘s not as bad as you think?

SIMON:  Well, I think it was humanizing, but what does it say about your campaign if your main talking point after 15 months is, she‘s not as bad as you think?  Why do you think she‘s bad?  Has something gone wrong?  We didn‘t convey the best message? 


MATTHEWS:  Mark Penn.  Mark Penn.  She‘s blaming the PR guy.  Let me go to Jennifer on that.  She‘s not as bad as you think.  This could go down in history as one of the most amazing bumper stickers I‘ve ever heard. 

DONAUE:  Yes.  Well, you know what‘s amazing is that last—you know, during the debate, when Obama was not doing a very good job defending himself and he just wasn‘t getting out there and hitting back, what she was doing was basically saying, I know you don‘t like me right now, voters, I know you think I‘m really mean because I‘m hitting hard as though he was my general election opponent, I‘m trying to dig him a grave, but you know what, that‘s how hard I can fight because I‘ve been fully vetted. 

She hasn‘t been fully vetted.  I mean, part of the reason that the media doesn‘t explain what it is they‘re so suspicious of is they had to cover her throughout the ‘90s.  The baggage is pretty heavy, right?  And so she‘s operating in that mode and I think it really could hurt her.  That‘s why I say that gap could narrow further. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.  Great group tonight.  Great.  Have a nice weekend, everybody. 

The Pennsylvania Primary is big time.  Next week I‘m up here in Philly.  Michelle Bernard, thank you.  Roger Simon, Jennifer Donahue.  Join us again Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.

Right now, it‘s time for “RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE WITH DAVID



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