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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Friday, May 2

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Christina Brown, Michelle Bernard, Jeff Ranieri, Ron Brownstein, Maria Teresa Petersen, Jonathan Allen, Howard Fineman, Brian Howey, Mark Johnson, Jennifer Palmieri, Todd Harris>

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The bully pulpit.  Can Barack Obama shake loose from Jeremiah Wright?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Well, if you‘re a baseball fan, you know there‘s nothing sweeter than winning a double header, nothing worse than losing a double header, and nothing duller than splitting a double header.  Well, on Tuesday this week, the Democrats will play a North Carolina-Indiana doubleheader.  And unless some team sweeps this one, which would be wild, we‘re looking at a race that‘s going go on and on and on.

Secondly, is Jeremiah Wright still hurting Barack Obama, or is it a bad nightmare that‘s over?  We‘ll talk to reporters in Indiana and North Carolina about that one.

A war for oil?  Did we hear this wrong, or did John McCain just admit confess, if you will today—that we‘re fighting in Iraq for oil?


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will...


MCCAIN:  that will then prevent us—that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.


MATTHEWS:  You know, if somebody else were to say that, they‘d be accused of being a communist or a radical or whatever, a leftist.  For John McCain, the war hero, to say that we‘re fighting in the Middle East to protect our oil sources is an astounding development.  Is this the kind of gaffe that can cripple a campaign, or is it what Michael Kinsley, the columnist, says is true, is gaffe is when you tell people what you really think?

And blue-collar blues.  One of the best-covered stories of this campaign has been Barack Obama‘s problem winning over working class white voters.  Ron Brownstein has a theory—in fact, he has a lot of them, actually—about what‘s behind all this and maybe what Barack can do about it.

Also winners, losers, Jeremiah Wright and racial politics all coming up in the “Politics Fix” tonight.  And in the HARDBALL “Sideshow”—it‘s always fun, just wait—we‘ve got a top five list with a familiar name in it, a very familiar name, I must say.  Trust me.  You‘ll want to stick around for this list.

But first, let‘s find out what‘s happening on the ground—I love that phrase, they say it in politics, on the ground—what, in the air—in Indiana and North Carolina how the Jeremiah Wright story is out there playing in those two states.

Brian Howey is the publisher of the Web site called

Howeypoliticsindiana.  And Mark Johnson‘s a political reporter for “The Charlotte Observer” in North Carolina.

Howey, how‘s it going in that race in Indiana, the Hoosier state? 

Who‘s going to win that thing?

BRIAN HOWEY, HOWEYPOLITICSINDIANA:  Well, I think we‘ve got a very fluid situation.  I think Obama started out with about a 15-point lead in our Howey-Gage (ph) poll in February.  It really seemed to tighten up in early April.  The last couple polls I‘ve seen have shown Hillary Clinton, you know, approaching a double-digit lead.  But I get the sense that maybe the Jeremiah Wright is kind of pulling away.  The two campaigns have really started talking about the gas prices, and the Magnaquench (ph) story I think is going to come up this weekend, too.  So it‘s a very fluid situation...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s it called?  Help me out.  Fill me in.  What‘s that?

HOWEY:  Well, the Magnaquench is a magnet maker that made military magnets, picked up, moved to China.  Hillary Clinton was very effective a couple weeks ago, along with Senator Bayh, going across the state, talking about not only losing jobs but losing military-sensitive jobs.  What‘s happened is there‘s been a memo that surfaced where Senator Bayh apparently was blaming the Clinton administration for allowing Magnaquench to go to China.  So...

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  So she‘s...


MATTHEWS:  ... hoisted on her own petard, perhaps.

Let‘s take a look at the latest poll out of your state.  This is the average.  It‘s the Realclearpolitics.  You can look it up on your own Web site, or her Web site, the Realclearpolitics, which shows the averages.  It shows that Senator Clinton is up in Indiana by about 6, on average, and Barack Obama‘s up by 7 about in North Carolina.

So let‘s go to the other person.  Mark Johnson, you‘re with “The Charlotte Observer.”  You‘re a straight reporter.  This campaign—I have a sense that North Carolina is a state that‘s becoming very much a national state, Mark, with a lot of people coming in there for business in Charlotte, academic and research community and the Research Triangle around Raleigh and Durham and Chapel Hill.  This state—well, what is it?  It sounds to me Barack‘s going to win this thing.  What do you think?

MARK JOHNSON, “CHARLOTTE OBSERVER”:  Well, he‘s seen his lead deflate.  I mean, this was supposed to be his state in a walk.  He had polls that were in—you know, up in the 20-point leads, and now it‘s shrunk down to single digits, you know, somewhere around 7 points right now.

You‘re exactly right about sort of the national reflection.  You know, this used to be a state that was tobacco, textiles and furniture and Jesse Helms territory.  It‘s changed a good bit.  We‘ve got lots of folks from the Northeast and the Midwest.  You know, now, it‘s banking and high tech and pharmaceuticals and things like that.

So it is—what you‘re seeing here is somewhat of a reflection what‘s going on nationally.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, a friend of mine, Frank Blandford (ph), I went to college with, he‘s a lawyer down in Charlotte, in banking business, et cetera, and it just strikes me it‘s a very metropolitan city, Charlotte, right now.  You had Harvey Gantt there years ago, but I hear it‘s really changed, an African-American mayor, very different city.

Let me ask you about—about—is there any chance that Hillary Clinton, with the help of—I say this with all due reverence—Bubba, her husband, going around the white rural areas—could she pull an upset?

JOHNSON:  It‘s still uphill for her.  But that is—sending former president Clinton around those areas is exactly what they need to do because, you know, the battlegrounds in this state now, they‘re sort of in two areas.  One of those areas are these rural counties that have sort of an urban center to them, a small city or a large town.  She‘s got a lot of the rural areas locked down, but some of these, you know, counties where they got a little bit of a sizable city in them, with a minority population, those are going to be where the fight is, and that‘s where they‘re sending former president Clinton, to some of those.  And Hillary Clinton was at some today.

MATTHEWS:  Have you caught his act yet?  I shouldn‘t say that irreverently.  He‘s a hell of a politician.  Has President Clinton got a deeper Southern accent when he travels down there in North Carolina than he does when he‘s up in New York or wherever?

JOHNSON:  Probably so.  I haven‘t seen him outside of here for a while, but I have seen the road show, and it just—he exhibits all the things for which he is both loved and reviled, depending on your perspective.  You know, so much of it is more about him than it is about his wife.  And you know, all the reflections (INAUDIBLE) of course, food—he went on a...

MATTHEWS:  I love you, Mark!


MATTHEWS:  You are a straight reporter with the straight scoop on Bubba.  It‘s so great!  He is the best politician of our time, and he has a tad of narcissism.  But he is good on the road, and I can‘t think of a better guy to be out pumping for me.

Here is, by the way, Senator Barack Obama, the new kid on the block, in Indianapolis today, knocking Senator Clinton‘s plan for what—well, it‘s a gas tax break for the summer.  She calls it a gas tax holiday.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Now, the two Washington candidates in the race been attacking me because I don‘t support their idea.  In fact, yesterday, Senator Clinton demanded that everyone go on the record on this issue.  She even borrowed one of George Bush‘s favorite phrases and said that every member of Congress had to tell her, Are they with us or against us?  Well, people have been weighing in, and you know what?  It turns out that people want to be on the side of the American people and on the side of the truth.  They don‘t want to be for something that is such an obvious election year gimmick.  They don‘t want to line up behind an idea that‘s more about trying to get a few votes than get you meaningful relief.


MATTHEWS:  Well, that was, of course, Senator Barack Obama.  You were there, Howey, Brian Howey.  Tell me about that dichotomy between what is clearly a political ploy—positively or negative, it‘s a ploy—to get people to vote for somebody—I‘m going to get rid of your gas tax this summer—and a guy comes along almost like Adlai Stevenson and says, you know, Smart-thinking people know this is a gimmick.  Who wins that argument?

HOWEY:  Well, eight years ago, we had sitting governor, Frank Obannion (ph), who suspended the gasoline tax and blew Michael McIntosh (ph), his Republican rival, out of water.  That race never closed up.  So there‘s some history about it.

But what I think Hoosiers need to be thinking about is this is history repeating itself, and it‘s terrible public policy to just talk about suspending the gasoline tax.  We‘ve got a record—Senator Lugar has been very forward on energy policy, and I think it‘s going to be critical that Barack Obama gets this message out.  And that remains to be seen right now.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the academics and the economists are out there saying that if you cut the gasoline tax, the companies that sell gasoline just raise their price and swallow up that difference.

HOWEY:  People won‘t even know the difference.  And I think it‘s abysmal public policy.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you never know.  Sometimes gimmicks work.

Let‘s take a look now at Senator Clinton in North Carolina, pushing her gas tax relief cut.  This is a gas tax holiday program.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This is the kind of choice that I believe we should be trying to make because I know where I stand and I know where my opponent stands.  You know, Senator Obama doesn‘t want us to take down the gas tax this summer.  Senator McCain wants us to, but he doesn‘t want to pay for it.  Well, I believe we should impose an excess profits tax on the oil companies.  They have record profits that they, frankly, are just sitting there counting because they‘re not doing anything new to earn it, they‘re just taking advantage of what‘s going on.  And we ought to say, Wait a minute, we‘d rather have the oil companies pay the gas tax than the drivers of North Carolina, especial the truck drivers or the farmers or other people who have commute long distances.


MATTHEWS:  Mark Johnson, is this snake oil?  I mean, the idea that Hillary Clinton all by herself, who‘s never got anything like this past the Senate, is going put through a windfall profits tax?  Is she just selling this to the people to win a primary?

JOHNSON:  Well, it sounds awfully good when you‘re going to the gas station and paying, you know, $3.60 a gallon.  The thing in North Carolina is that this—this issue could have a little bit of resonance...

MATTHEWS:  But is it moonshine?  I mean, is it just something that glitters?  Is this something that‘s real?  Does anybody believe that she‘s going back to the Senate and has 51 votes to pass a new tax on the all-powerful oil industry, or is it just talk?

JOHNSON:  I‘m not sure voters think that far down the line.


JOHNSON:  I mean, they‘re listening to this candidate.  I‘m not sure they think about, you know, Can this person get this through Congress?  And what they‘re thinking about is the price they see at the pump.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I agree.

JOHNSON:  So there‘s potential there.

MATTHEWS:  You know what?  Schwarzenegger won that fight out in California for the governorship.  He got that whole (ph) governor thrown out up there, Gray Davis, because he went out against that registration tax on cars.  You get to a person in their car two or three hours a day, gentlemen—and we all know this—you‘re thinking about nothing but the cost of travel, the traffic and anything that costs you money or hassle when you‘re there on the road.  Smart move.  I think sometimes pure politics works.

Brian Howey, thank you, sir.  It‘s great to have you with your values, as well, as well as your reporting, and Mark Johnson for your straight reporting.

Coming up: Are we fighting in a war in Iraq for oil?  Is John McCain right when he says if we get energy independence, we won‘t have to fight in the Middle East anymore?  Is that what it‘s about?  We‘re going to listen, by the way, to what he said.  Let him speak for himself and debate and think about the importance of what he‘s saying.  The whole world‘s listening.  And here‘s a guy who could be our next president saying we‘re not fighting over there for values or democracy or Israel or peace or geopolitics or ideology, we‘re fighting for something in our gas tank that‘s a little cheaper.  What an amazing statement.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Why did the United States engage in this war in Iraq?  Well, we heard many reasons from WMDs and fighting terrorism to spreading democracy, from the whole thing, the malarkey of the neoconservatives, everything.  Well, today, John McCain cleared it up.  He surprised a lot of us with this version.  Now, everybody listen.  No interpretation here, just listen to the man who‘s going to be the Republican nominee for president explaining the importance of energy independence and how it will allow us to not have to fight any more wars in the Middle East.  Listen to his own words.


MCCAIN:  My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about which will eliminate our dependence on the Middle East that will then prevent us...


MCCAIN:  ... that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.


MATTHEWS:  This isn‘t me talking.  This is the war in Iraq, why we‘re fighting this thing?  Todd Harris is a former spokesperson for John McCain who can help speak for him tonight, and Jennifer Palmieri is with the Center for American Progress.

Todd, it‘s your floor.


TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, FORMER MCCAIN SPOKESMAN:  I feel like it‘s my just desserts now, but...

MATTHEWS:  Whatever you want to say.  I have nothing to ask you.

HARRIS:  People may not always agree with John McCain‘s view of why we‘re in Iraq, which is because he believes it‘s the central front in the war on terror, but they know why he thinks we‘re there.  He‘s been very clear about this for years and years and years, point number one.  Point number two, every foreign policy expert of both parties, Republican or Democrat, agrees that if we reduce our dependence on foreign oil, it will increase security here at home.  That‘s all he was talking about.  He was talking about reducing dependence on foreign oil so we can avoid future conflicts down the road.  It‘s well established why he thinks we‘re in Iraq...



MATTHEWS:  ... but we‘re going to let him say it again, by the way. 

You can do it now.

PALMIERI:  Right.  But that‘s not what he said.  I mean, what‘s so interesting about what he said is that he left no other option.  He said that the—you know, he said the reason why we go to war in the Middle East is because of energy.

HARRIS:  But no, that‘s not...

PALMIERI:  That is what he said!

HARRIS:  That‘s not what he said.  That‘s not what he said.

JOHNSON:  That is...

HARRIS:  He said never—never again will we have to do this because we‘re going to reduce...

PALMIERI:  Because...


HARRIS:  ... under a McCain energy policy...


MATTHEWS:  ... when have we done it before?

HARRIS:  Well, you know...


MATTHEWS:  ... for oil before?  Just tell me.  When he says “never again,” what‘s he mean?  When was before?

HARRIS:  Well, we‘ll have to ask Senator McCain.  A lot of people think...

MATTHEWS:  No, but...

HARRIS:  A lot of people think the “91 Gulf war had a lot to do with oil.

MATTHEWS:  You mean when Jim Baker said, Jobs, jobs, jobs?

HARRIS:  A lot of people thought...

MATTHEWS:  The secretary of state.

HARRIS:  A lot of people thought that had a lot to do with oil.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you think?  What did John McCain think, that that was for oil?

HARRIS:  No, of course not.  We‘re in Iraq because it‘s a central front...

MATTHEWS:  Why are we...

HARRIS:  ... because it‘s the central front on the war on terror. 

He‘s been clear on that for years and years and years.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s—can we show this again?  I want to be—tell me when I‘m ready in my ear.  Let‘s take a look.  Let‘s let Senator McCain, who is quite articulate...

HARRIS:  Yes, he is.

MATTHEWS:  ... say what he thinks.


MCCAIN:  My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about which will eliminate our dependence on the Middle East that will then prevent us...


MCCAIN:  ... that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.


MATTHEWS:  My friends, we will have an energy policy which will prevent us from ever having to send—from ever having to send—our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.  In other words, if we have energy independence, we won‘t have to fight anymore in the Middle East.  That‘s what he‘s saying.

HARRIS:  But...



PALMIERI:  ... exactly what he said~!

HARRIS:  I hope that over the next several months that this election is about a debate on whether we should reduce our dependence on foreign oil because John McCain says, Yes, we should...

MATTHEWS:  Because—no...

PALMIERI:  That‘s not what (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  ... should we stop fighting wars in the Middle East because we‘re doing it for oil, is the question.

HARRIS:  And he says never again will we do something like that because we‘re going to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  He was very clear about that.

PALMIERI:  But he suggests that the only reason why we are fighting...

HARRIS:  That‘s not—no.  He...

PALMIERI:  That‘s what he said.

HARRIS:  Jennifer, for years...

PALMIERI:  And even if—even if he...

HARRIS:  Jennifer, for years...

PALMIERI:  I‘m just saying what he said here, but...

HARRIS:  ... he has been saying...

PALMIERI:  ... moreover, even if he didn‘t...

HARRIS:  ... this is the central front...

PALMIERI:  ... when did we go to...

HARRIS:  ... in the war on terror.

PALMIERI:  ... the Mideast...

MATTHEWS:  You said that, but he didn‘t say that today.

PALMIERI:  ... to fight over oil?

MATTHEWS:  Let me—let me ask you this, Alan Greenspan, the long-time Fed chairman, and I believe it‘s fair to call him a Republican, he was appointed by Republicans, he is a Republican—he said this in his book, which has sold a zillion copies, “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows, the Iraq war is largely about oil.”

Is Alan Greenspan wrong, or is he not telling the truth?  Does he really believe it‘s about terrorism?

HARRIS:  No, I was never Alan Greenspan‘s spokesman.


MATTHEWS:  You have an point defense here.  You only defend John McCain.  I think we‘ve beat this horse dead yet.  I think he‘ll have to explain this.  I believe no matter what is said here, John McCain is going to have to explain that comment because I think...

HARRIS:  There‘s no question.

MATTHEWS:  ... it is an acknowledgement—my friend, Michael Kinsley, the brilliant columnist, said years ago, In Washington, a gaffe is when you say what you believe.

OK, let‘s take a look—one more question.  I‘ve got to ask you about a tough one.  And I know we beat it to death here because it is the story of the week.  The Reverend Jeremiah Wright took the floor at the National Press Club on Monday and gave a very well-reasoned speech which didn‘t cause any trouble...

PALMIERI:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And then he took questions...

PALMIERI:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... and, in front of a very supportive crowd, went wild. 

PALMIERI:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that going to go away before next Tuesday, what he said...

PALMIERI:  I think the...

MATTHEWS:  ... when it goes to that?

PALMIERI:  I think the—I think the echoes are starting—are reverberating, but they‘re starting to die down. 

But I think, on Tuesday, you will probably—you know, you will what the impact of it was.

MATTHEWS:  Is he going to pay the price?  Has he got a bully pulpit, still, this guy? 

HARRIS:  Obama is starting to remind me a bit of Captain Renault from “Casablanca.”  He‘s like, I‘m shocked, shocked to hear comments like this. 


MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I would say.  If I were working the way you‘re working, if it were a spokesman for the Republicans, I would be saying, 20 years in the pews, and he finally notices what the guy is talking about.

HARRIS:  That‘s right. 


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, Todd Harris, it‘s always great, Jennifer Palmieri.

You two guys, you could take over for this side.  You could be over here.



MATTHEWS:  Up next: Barack Obama‘s...

HARRIS:  But we‘re not the number-two most prominent...


MATTHEWS:  No, you will hear more about that.

And up next: Barack Obama‘s top 10 list on “Letterman” last night, plus a top five list that comes across the Atlantic that includes someone I know very well—all ahead on the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  I love that Cheney doll. 

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.” 

Barack Obama has got a full hour coming on strong with our colleague Tim Russert on this Sunday‘s “Meet the Press.” 

But, before things get serious this Sunday, Obama had fun last night with David Letterman. 



SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  In the Illinois primary, I accidentally voted for Kucinich. 



LETTERMAN:  Number eight. 

OBAMA:  When I tell my kids to clean their room, I finish with, “I‘m Barack Obama, and I approve this message.”



LETTERMAN:  The kids will pay attention. 

Number six. 

OBAMA:  Earlier today, I bowled a 39. 



LETTERMAN:  Go get them. 

And the number-one surprising fact about Barack Obama. 

OBAMA:  I have not slept since October. 

fact about Barack Obama. 

I have not slept since October. 

LETTERMAN:  I believe it.  I absolutely believe it. 



MATTHEWS: “I have not slept since October.”  I certainly believe that one.  This whole campaign has been a laboratory test in sleep deprivation.

Oddly enough, depriving someone of sleep is an established way to get them to break down and tell the truth. 

Tomorrow is the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby.  There‘s only one filly.  That‘s only one female horse in the running.  Her name is Eight Belles.  That‘s B-E-L-L-E-S.  And, not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton wants people to bet on the filly tomorrow and on the female human in Kentucky‘s primary, which is going to be held May 20.

By the way, the track (INAUDIBLE) on Eight Belles is that she has got stamina to go the distance.  Hillary‘s track record these past two months is just as strong. 

Here‘s a blast from the past.  Massachusetts Republican Ed Brooke, the first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate by popular vote, left office 30 years ago.  But for the second time in this campaign season, he‘s making headlines. 

First, there were multiple accounts of how Hillary Clinton, at her 1968 college graduation, criticized Brooke for his condemnation of anti-Vietnam War student activism at time.  Now Barbara Walters, the great Barbara Walters, writes of her affair with the distinguished Mr. Brooke a third-of-a-century ago. 

The Associated Press reports that, in an interview set to air on “Oprah Winfrey” this coming Tuesday, Barbara Walters tells of how she was infatuated with Senator Brookes—Senator Brooke, and what exciting times they had in the Washington of the 1970s. 

Well, after spending years getting to get people to open up, here‘s Barbara Walters doing the very opening up.  And I tell you, it‘s going to be a bestseller for sure.  It‘s going to be, not too cute about it, since she‘s talking about Mr. Brooke, an overnight bestseller. 

And, finally, time for tonight‘s big HARDBALL number. 

Our friends across the Atlantic at “The London Daily Telegraph” love watching our presidential race, as everybody in the world—world does.  They also love watching us watch our presidential race, so much so that they have put together a list of the top 50 U.S. political pundits. 

Check out the top five.  At number five, the tag tame of “The Politico”‘s John Harris and Jim VandeHei, at number four, radio host Rush Limbaugh, at number three, FOX‘s Sean Hannity.  Let‘s skip to number one.  It‘s President Bush‘s brain, Karl Rove, who‘s got on inside track on all those Republican connections.

And, so, who is number two?  It turns out it‘s the host of HARDBALL, your nightly correspondent on all things political. 

My grandfather, who came here from England, would be proud.  My grandparents, who came here from Ireland, would be especially proud—today‘s “Big Number,” from London, number two.

Up next: blue-collar blues.  Can Barack Obama win over working-class voters as they try to sew up—as he tries to sew up the nomination? 

And good old Jeremiah Wright speaking from the bully pulpit—has Barack Obama made it past this crisis, or will it hurt him again in Indiana and North Carolina? 

You‘re watching it, HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


CHRISTINA BROWN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Christina Brown.  We‘re following breaking news right now.

A powerful storm system packing tornadoes roared through the nation‘s midsection, killing at least seven people in Arkansas.  There‘s widespread damage in northwest and central Arkansas.  Meanwhile, storms also battered the Kansas City area.  Hundreds of homes and businesses there were damaged or destroyed. 

Twisters were also reported in Oklahoma and Texas, tens of thousands of people left without power right now.  NBC Weather Plus meteorologist Jeff Ranieri has been tracking these storms.  He joins us now with the latest. 

Jeff, where are these storms headed now?

JEFF RANIERI, NBC METEOROLOGIST:  Well, right now, the most severe portion of this storm is just to the south of Memphis, where there are two tornado warnings, as these storms cross Interstate 55. 

Anyone in the Memphis area certainly should take shelter from these storms.  They are producing winds in excess of 60 miles per hour, hail, and also possibly a tornado at any time, again, crossing interstate 55.  That‘s where our most dangerous region continues to be.  And we will follow this severe weather all the way heading here to the east, as we continue through tonight.  And will have more on that at 

BROWN:  All right.  Thanks so much, Jeff.

And, again, we will continue to follow these developments and bring you the very latest. 

Now let‘s go back to HARDBALL with Chris Matthews. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back how HARDBALL. 

Hillary Clinton‘s win over Barack Obama over white working voters in Pennsylvania was significant, it turns out.  And, right afterward, the Obama campaign had explanations galore at the ready. 

But, in this week‘s “National Journal,” Ron Brownstein, who sits before me now, takes a close look at these reasons, these rationales, and whether they really hold up.  He joins me now, along with MSNBC‘s political analyst Michelle Bernard.

Let‘s take a look at these, Ron, because you knocked these down like a crow shoot here. 

Ron Brownstein outlines the Obama campaign‘s defense in his performance among white working voters.

Number one is that Obama carried the white blue-collar vote in states other than Pennsylvania. 

Is that true?

RON BROWNSTEIN, “THE NATIONAL JOURNAL”:  He carried it in a total of three out of 29 states for which we have exit polls.  And only one of them was a truly contested state, Wisconsin. 

The other two where he carried white working-class voters were Vermont and Utah, where Clinton did not compete.  You know, look, if you look at—that‘s if you look at it by education.  If you look at it by income, you could add Illinois to the list. 

Either way, the pattern has been very clear. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this a working-class voter?

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, usually, I think we describe it as a—as a voter without a college education.  You can do it by income and look at voters earning $50,000 a year or less.  Either way, the story is the same.


MATTHEWS:  But a lot of—a lot of people with technical skill make a lot more than $50,000 a year... 

BROWNSTEIN:  Right.  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... because we need those people more than we need college professors sometimes.

BROWNSTEIN:  Usually—no, usually—usually, as I say...

MATTHEWS:  I shouldn‘t say that.

BROWNSTEIN:  ... usually, we use it by education.  In that case, she‘s won white voters without a college education in 26 of the 29 states, according to, by the way, exit polls that are provided by—helpfully by your own NBC elections unit.

And, if you look at it by income, she‘s won them in 25 of 29 states, those earning $50,000 or less.

For Obama to say, as he did the morning after Pennsylvania, that he has won these voters in a whole bunch of states just isn‘t true. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s your sense of this, Michelle, that he‘s just losing among white working class?

MICHELLE BERNARD, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  He‘s—I mean, there‘s no doubt about it.  He‘s losing among white working-class very early on in this election cycle. 

MATTHEWS:  Regular people is another way to put it, by the way. 


BERNARD:  Regular people, of which he sprang.  But, for whatever reason, they‘re not—they‘re not quite seeing that, you know.  And it looks like this election is going to amount whose coalition is stronger than whose. 

And if you—you know, our Tim Russert has said that Hillary Clinton likes psychology, rather than numbers.  And if people continue to ignore the numbers and look at the psychology of this, and you have white working-class workers looking at Barack Obama and saying, can he beat John McCain, this could continue to be a problem for him, from the vantage point of superdelegates...


MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘re talking about a lot of people, maybe the majority of Americans, are white working class.  They‘re regular people.  That‘s almost by definition.  The average income in this country for a family is about 40-something. 

BROWNSTEIN:  Actually, in a general election now, white voters without a college education are a little less than half of the total electorate. 


BROWNSTEIN:  They fall in under that.


BROWNSTEIN:  But it is a big...



MATTHEWS:  Is it getting any better?  You say it‘s not getting any better for him.  

BROWNSTEIN:  No, it‘s not getting any better.

He said—he said that—after Pennsylvania, one of the things he said was, well, look, we did better in Pennsylvania than Ohio.  Yes, in Ohio, we got 27 percent of non-college white voters.  In Pennsylvania, he got 29 percent. 

In fact, both of those are weaker performances than earlier in the election.  And when you look at states outside the South, like New Hampshire, like Connecticut, Missouri, Maryland, New Mexico, even New York, he had done better earlier in the cycle.  He is sort of drifting down.  Overall, until Pennsylvania, his cumulative vote, 30 percent among the white non-college voters. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the argument, the third argument that they make, is that it‘s really younger people are still on his side?

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, in fact, that is one that has a germ of truth, but on that.

If you look, again, cumulatively at the exit polls through all of these 29 states, he does lead among white voters without a college education who are younger than 30.  But that‘s it.  It‘s not just seniors, as he said, that is the problem. 

When you look at the middle-aged voters, 30 to 44, he trails by about 20 percentage points.  That gap widens to about 33 from 45 to 64.  So, the answer, age compounds his problem, but it doesn‘t create it. 

MATTHEWS:  What about—last point, and I want to get back to Michelle.  The last point here is that those voters are already lost.

Now, I don‘t buy that argument.  But I don‘t know what—is anybody out there saying—maybe Axelrod may have said it for his campaign.


MATTHEWS:  Are they suggesting that working-class people, which they might dismiss as Archie Bunkers or Reagan Democrats—which I don‘t like the Archie Bunker part—are they—are they lost to the Democratic Party?  It seems to me the Democratic Party is finished, if they are lost to them.

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, Axelrod said that, in fact, that these voters have not voted Democratic in the last several cycles, presidential. 

MATTHEWS:  But labor unions are all Democrat. 

BROWNSTEIN:  True to a point, but not entirely true.

Look, Democrats have not won a majority of these voters in quite some time in the general election.  They have been averaging—the range has been between 38 percent at the low point and 44 percent at the high point in the last five elections, although Bill Clinton did twice get a plurality among them, because (INAUDIBLE) siphons them off.

Look, a Democrat does not have to win a majority of voters to win, given what their coalition is.  But they can‘t get wiped out.  They have to be competitive.  They have to do better than the 38 percent that John Kerry did in 2004.  And that really is the question if Obama is the nominee, not is he going to win them, unlikely for either Clinton or Obama, but can he stay in the ball game?

And maybe we will come back to this in a moment.  Some general election polling clearly shows that he has—he may have more of a problem against McCain than Clinton does.

MATTHEWS:  Well, and Jeremiah Wright, it seems to me, just worsens this.  It makes it—it ghettoizes him.  It puts him back in the hood, if you will.  It makes him not the transitional, not the crossover appeal that he‘s had all these months.  It puts him in the neighborhood that puts him in the old turf war of white against black, whites against blacks. 

BERNARD:  That is exactly what is happening.  And he‘s really got to -

it is so—it is so difficult for him, as a black candidate, to walk this very slippery slope and not get ghettoized. 

But part of the problem he‘s having, particularly as we move towards Indiana and North Carolina on Tuesday, he also can‘t forget his base.  When we look at these numbers...

MATTHEWS:  He did in Philly, though, didn‘t he? 

BERNARD:  He—well, he forgot his base in Philly.  He‘s forgotten his base in North Carolina. 

He is beginning to assume that the African-American vote will be with him.  And, largely, it will be, he needs them to come out in very strong numbers. 


MATTHEWS:  I want to stay with Michelle. 


MATTHEWS:  So, it‘s not just percentage of the black vote.  It‘s turnout.  And, for example, as we watch the results coming in from Gary, Indiana, from Raleigh, North Carolina, next Tuesday night, we better look for numbers, right? 

BERNARD:  We absolutely have to look for numbers.  He cannot afford to have anyone in his base lose.  The thing that differentiates Barack Obama from other candidates that have people that vote for them that have college educations, post-college educations, young people, was that they didn‘t have the African-American vote with them also.

And Barack Obama has that.  Hillary Clinton has women.  He‘s got African-Americans.  He cannot afford to lose them.  He cannot afford to lose any part of his base. 

MATTHEWS:  Has he underplayed his base?  Has he been too standoffish from people living in the inner city?

BROWNSTEIN:  I don‘t think so. 

I mean, first of all, I would resist the idea that his principal problem with white working-class voters is his race.  I mean, this follows a pattern.


MATTHEWS:  Well, what is it?


MATTHEWS:  Elitism?


BROWNSTEIN:  Yes, or that perception, yes.

I mean, this is a pattern we have seen with other candidates like Obama, with a reform message and kind of a cool, reserved persona, whether it was Gary Hart or Bill Bradley.  They had similar—they had similar problems.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the part of the party you and I talk about all the time...


MATTHEWS:  ... the idealistic, intellectual wing of the party.

BROWNSTEIN:  Yes, right.  And that...

MATTHEWS:  And you‘re saying that won‘t sell with working people. 

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, but, look—and that‘s right. 

But if you look at him as a general election candidate, and you see the polling that is out there now, even this week, Obama still runs better than Clinton does among independents, especially these upscale, better-educated independents.  But, look, three polls out from Quinnipiac University last week—this week—in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and in Florida, and, in all three of them, she ran at least 10 percentage points better among white non-college voters than he did.  So, that is the question that he‘s going to face.

MATTHEWS:  You just made the best possible case for the superdelegates to upset the numbers and pick Hillary Clinton as the nominee, because they...

BROWNSTEIN:  Different coalitions.

MATTHEWS:  Can they win without Florida, without Pennsylvania, without Ohio?  Can they win without those states?

BROWNSTEIN:  Not without Pennsylvania.  Without the other two, yes. 

But it is—look, it is a different coalition.  He is still strong with

independents, but he has more...


MATTHEWS:  I hear the Republicans—no matter what John McCain said on HARDBALL at the College Tour at Villanova a couple weeks ago, Tom Ridge is back in the mix, because they know, if they can take Pennsylvania...

BROWNSTEIN:  Very hard for the Democrats, very hard.

MATTHEWS:  ... away from the Democrats, they can break their heart. 

Ron Brownstein, thank you.


MATTHEWS:  You‘re the smartest guy around.

Michelle Bernard, as always. 

Up next:  It‘s the final weekend of campaigning before North Carolina and Indiana.  Can Obama close the deal and win both of these things and knock her out?  Will Jeremiah Wright hold him back?  Can Hillary keep the race going? 

The “Politics Fix” and all about politics—coming up next. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Can Obama close the deal and win both of these things and knock her out?  Will Jeremiah Wright hold him back?  Can Hillary keep the race going?  The politics fix and all about politics coming up next.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix.  Our round table tonight, Jonathan Allen of “Congressional Quarterly” and Maria Teresa Petersen of Voto Latino.  Simple question; we‘re going into Tuesday, and you, first, Maria Teresa—this question, can Hillary win both?  Can she win in North Carolina?  Can she pull the upset and break open this campaign fight between her and Obama, exploiting the Jeremiah Wright issue? 

MARIA TERESA PETERSEN, VOTO LATINO:  Well, I think—first of all, thanks for having me on, Chris, I think she‘s doing quite well for herself.  It‘s impressive.  I think she‘s broken up the debate long before for this coming Tuesday.  What she‘s been able to do quite well is really put in this lingering doubt, is Barack tough enough?  Is he tough enough?

And in the beginning, when she kept going after him, she was a little scruffy, she kept going after him and fighting; people were saying, I don‘t like that shrill Hillary.  Now it‘s not a shrill Hillary.  Now it‘s someone who is strong, who knows her angle.  She‘s doing quite well.  She definitely has a strong possibility of keeping that momentum. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know how to react.  Every time I see the shot and beer picture, I say she‘s capable of anything.  Anything.  She will do it anywhere. 

JONATHAN ALLEN, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”:  I think that‘s right.  But that‘s part of the American election experience in a national election.  You got to appeal to a lot of people in a lot of different places.  That‘s what both of the candidates try to do.  If you can do it well, you win the presidency. 

MATTHEWS:  When you put the Indian head dress on, you don‘t say you‘re an Indian.  You don‘t say you‘re an Indian chief.  You just say you‘re doing it for sportsmanship.  She was taking that shot and beer as if she actually does that. 

ALLEN:  Well, that‘s what you‘ve got to try to do.  It sounds like breakfast to me. 

MATTHEWS:  Your answer, can she win both? 

ALLEN:  No.  Can she?  Sure.  Will she, probably not.  North Carolina is a really steep climb for her.  The demographics don‘t match up. 

MATTHEWS:  Why?  Not just because of African-Americans, but because of the highly educated crowd around the research triangle and the business crowd in Charlotte? 

ALLEN:  You‘ve got Asheville in western North Carolina, which is essentially San Francisco in the middle of North Carolina. 

MATTHEWS:  It is. 

ALLEN:  There are a lot of wealthy, white, educated liberals, who are the type --  

MATTHEWS:  You‘re giving the allure of one of these—so it is sort of an interesting cosmopolitan area?  It‘s not deep south or anything like that?

ALLEN:  That‘s right.  There are a lot of places in North Carolina that aren‘t like that.  It‘s an interesting state.  If Hillary Clinton were to win Indiana and North Carolina, Barack Obama would be in deep, deep trouble. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Maria on this Jeremiah Wright—My suspicion is that he‘s causing trouble, that I don‘t know whether Barack has shaken him loose or not, but he‘s causing trouble in this sense: voters don‘t quite know Barack Obama.  Now they know who his minister is.  They don‘t like the minister.  They think he‘s a radical.  They think he‘s angry.  And they‘re worried that Barack Obama is like him in some way that they don‘t know about and they‘re worried about. 

PETERSEN:  You know what, Chris?  I think you‘re right, but I think what the fact was that the nation didn‘t know Wright a couple of weeks ago, with the exception of the excerpts from Youtube.  And during that time, Barack Obama kept saying, he‘s my pastor, but he‘s more like my crazy uncle.  We saw what happened at the National Press Club.  Barack was right, he‘s kind of that crazy uncle. 

Some of the stuff may be right, but the delivery and the message is not.  I think this was actually—given that opportunity—folks may disagree with me, but the fact that you were able to give Reverend Wright that platform, where folks actually saw them for themselves, saying, you know what, Barack maybe not the best judgment to stick around with him so long, but you‘re right, he‘s kind of that crazy uncle. 

MATTHEWS:  I have learned from experience that the trouble they get in is usually during the question and answer period.  You can give a really good speech, but if you get in that Q and A, you don‘t know which way you‘re going it to go.  Let‘s take a look, by the way, at a comment made by John McCain today, which I think is going to have a lot of reverberation, where he seems to say we fight in the Middle East for oil. 


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will—that will then prevent us—that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into an conflict again, in the Middle East. 


MATTHEWS:  Jonathan. 

ALLEN:  It certainly seems like he‘s drawing the specific connection between an Iraq invasion and oil and future invasions and oil.  I think there are probably a lot of Jewish Americans and a lot of Israel supporters who aren‘t Jewish who think there are other reasons to fight wars in the Middle East. 

MATTHEWS:  The whole argument for democracy in the world and peace, and all those good arguments we heard from the neo-conservative people, the philosophy of the Bush administration, the Bush Doctrine, he sort of ignored there.  What do you think, Maria Teresa, that John McCain seems to have said something interesting there today. 

PETERSEN:  Well, I mean, look at the crowd.  They started clapping but they didn‘t finish clapping with what he just said.  I think it‘s very telling.  For a long time, people have protesting, no blood for oil.  And he came out and said, that‘s exactly why we‘re there.  As someone who has a family member serving in the Middle East, it‘s very heart wrenching.  And as an American, regardless of whether your an independent, a Democrat or Republican, I think it really takes you a step back and say, we don‘t want politics as usual.  You‘ve told me that‘s what we‘ve been doing. 

MATTHEWS:  What does he say to squirm out of this?  I think you both probably are saying—you first, Jonathan.  He has to find some way of saying, I don‘t mean what I said.  The language is so strong.  He said, prevent us from ever having to send our young men in the Middle East again.  In other words, that‘s the reason we go in.  That‘s the reason we fight Iran.  That‘s the reason we fight Iraq.  That‘s the reason we fought to liberate Kuwait.  It‘s all about oil, because he saying, we wouldn‘t ever have to do it again. 

ALLEN:  What you‘ll probably see him try to do is make an argument that the United States oil interests and all of the things that come from that, including a lot of money going to the oil-producing states, who then fund terrorism, force us to go back into the Middle East.  I think that‘s the direction you‘ll see them take.  I think that quote—

MATTHEWS:  He‘s saying we won‘t need the oil, so we won‘t have to fight for it.  It isn‘t about the petro-dollars going to support terrorism.  He‘s saying we won‘t need the oil here, so we won‘t have to fight for it there.  Maria Teresa, your thoughts?

PETERSEN:  I agree.  I think he‘s going to have a very difficult time walking away from this.  Everybody heard it.  It was very clear.  And he was supposedly at an event that was supporters of his.  And, again, you see the very end, at the very last part of the clip, and no one is clapping for him. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s luck he‘s not saying this is front of a debate.  If this were said at a presidential debate in October, this would be up there with Gerry Ford saying that we‘ve liberated Eastern Europe about 20 years ahead of time. 

ALLEN:  The Democrats are editing and filing tape and this and the Sunni and Shia stuff.

MATTHEWS:  This gets repeated. 

ALLEN:  It‘s not a big thing right now, but it will be before the election. 

MATTHEWS:  We live in the halls of mirrors, gentlemen.  We live in the hall of mirrors, where you get repeated over and over again.  Thank you, Jonathan Alan.  Thank you, Maria Teresa Petersen.  To requote Michael Kinsley, the great Michael Kinsley, a gaff in politics is when you say what you believe.  When we return, our own Howard Fineman, author of the new book “The 13 American Arguments.”  A couple minutes coming up.  This is going to be the hottest part of this show.  We‘re going to talk about race and whether this country‘s got its glass half full or half empty with the Obama campaign.  Right now, this weekend, where do we stand?  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  MSNBC‘s political analyst Howard Fineman has written a great new book, a great new book, “13 American Arguments,” which conveniently serves as a guide to this fight we‘re in right now.  Thank you, Howard. 

I‘ve got to ask you about race.  We grew up in a country—you and I are both white—in which five people, African Americans, have ever won those big state-wide elections for governor or senator, two of them in Illinois, Carol Mosely Braun and Barack Obama, Ed Brooke in Massachusetts, and Devall Patrick and Doug Wilder in Virginia.  That‘s it.  Since the Civil War, that‘s it. 

And now we have a guy with an African name, Barack Obama, with the middle name of Hussein, with a real shot to win the Democratic nomination, and a real shot, therefore, to be president.  Is the glass half full on race in this country for including people as Americans who have been here longer than either your family and my family.  I‘m a hell of a lot more recent that African Americans in this country. 

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  I think it‘s more than half full.  And I think you and I saw in Springfield, Illinois, when Barack Obama launched his campaign, a significant moment.  What he was saying there in the same environment where Abraham Lincoln had began his crusade against slavery—

MATTHEWS:  Stirring moment to be out there.

FINEMAN:  It was very stirring.  He was saying, in effect, that in the biggest arena possible, the race for the presidency, we were going to finally say that African-Americans were persons fully, in the sense that race would be put behind us.  It was paradoxical.  He was black.  He was saying, we‘re going to get past race.  It was a stirring moment.  I‘ll never forget it.  I lead my first chapter in this first argument --  

MATTHEWS:  I read it.  It was beautifully written.  The question is, who‘s an American?  It was never resolved in the Constitution.  You had that weird two thirds thing about slaves, and then, of course, you had the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments for citizenship and voting. 

FINEMAN:  It took the second civil war—excuse me, the second civil rights movement to make it happen in the ‘60s. 

MATTHEWS:  This guy couldn‘t to a bathroom when we were teenagers in a good part of America.  He couldn‘t go into a bathroom.  He couldn‘t drink at a fountain.  Right?  And now he‘s got a shot at the presidency. 

FINEMAN:  That‘s what‘s so wonderful about it.  That‘s what‘s so uplifting and stirring about it.  At the same time, we‘re not done, it seems, looking at people in racial terms.  And his campaign got involved in it, too, in South Carolina, which became a kind of racial thing, black versus white, in terms of voting.  And now the problem that he had with Jeremiah Wright was partly religious, but also partly racial.  Because even if Obama is saying, I am color blind and I want the world to be color blind, Jeremiah Wright‘s message from the pulpit is, no, no, no, the world is not color blind and we are still behind.  We, as African-Americans, need to look at the lens of faith and the lens of America through a racial prism. 

It conflicted with Obama‘s message, until finally, finally, finally he had to cut him off. 

MATTHEWS:  I love the way you go back in your book to the Declaration of Independence, which I think is a finer document than the constitution.  It doesn‘t govern us as much.  But Lincoln, as you pointed out, when he said four score and seven years ago, he meant go back to the Declaration of Independence, which began with that wonderful statement; “we hold these truths to be self-evident”—“endowed by his creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and—among them, all men are created equal” (sic). 

Unbelievable statement.  Then we have to test that this time. 

FINEMAN:  That‘s what we‘re testing in a sense.  Obama is not saying vote for me because I‘m an African-American.  But his message has been, let‘s get beyond it.  Let‘s get beyond it once and for all, and that‘s his appeal.  It‘s also  something he‘s still battling again in this campaign.  Because the place where he chose to make his spiritual home and his political home on the south side of Chicago—Chicago is Chicago and things in that city are still seen in ethnic and neighborhood and racial terms right now.  He‘s trying to get past the history. 

MATTHEWS:  Suppose we‘re looking at—We‘ll be there, hopefully, in November and October and September when they have the big debates on national television.  We‘ll probably be in the city where it‘s being held.  We‘ll see, perhaps, this older American white guy, if you will, veteran of the wars, respected for his service, and this young—in many ways, brilliant young guy, in great shape, resilient and buoyant even, with his enthusiasm and his life.  Here is standing next to the guy, one guy is black and one guy is white.  For some people, is it as simple as that, and they‘re going to vote for the white guy?  The black people just vote for the black guy too?  Is it that simple? 

FINEMAN:  It‘s not quite that simple.  But for some people, that will still be a factor.  The fact that they would view it that way means that they have not really finally gotten over the last hurdle, in terms of defining who is an American person.  That has to get past race if we‘re going to really get to the heart of what the Declaration was all about. 

By the way, I should add parenthetically, women weren‘t considered persons either in many sense, legally, in this country.  There was a suffrage movement as well.  That was later on.  Hillary Clinton—I mean, it‘s an amazing thing and a sign of the glass being much more than half full that we‘ve made so much progress, that the two candidates in the Democratic party are an African-American and a woman.  The founders could not have envisioned it, although, in theory, they required it.  That‘s the vision they put forth, not only to America, the world.  We‘re still arguing about person-hood in a lot of ways too. 

MATTHEWS:  Read his book, “13 American Arguments,” if you care about America and our history and what we fight about here every night, what we really do fight about, these issues, the role of the individual against society, the role of religion in our public square, the role of—who gets to play a role in American life?  We‘re talking about that.  Race, it haunts us still. 

Howard Fineman, sir, great American document.  Join us—it‘s one of the founding documents, a little later than the other ones.  Join us again Monday for 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now, it‘s time for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE with David Gregory.


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