Guests: David Gregory, Joe Scarborough, Michelle Bernard, Jay Carney, Ed Schultz
DAVID GREGORY, HOST: Tonight, the primary preview, what Indiana and North Carolina will tell us about how long this race will go on, Obama‘s electability, and Clinton‘s staying power, as the RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE rolls on.
Welcome to THE RACE, everyone. I‘m David Gregory.
You found it, the stop for the fast-paced, the bottom line, and every point of view in the room.
Tonight, your pre-game analysis on what‘s going to happen and what‘s going to matter tomorrow.
This is gut-check time. Not simply a matter of whether you support a gas tax holiday. This is both—tomorrow is about the toughest in these campaigns and these candidates, one looking for a knockout, the other looking to survive another round.
At half past the hour tonight, the big questions, including whether Barack Obama is solving his working class voter problem.
The bedrock of the program, as you know, a panel that comes to play.
And tonight, with us, Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC‘s “Morning Joe”;
Michelle Bernard, president of the Independent Women‘s Voice, and an MSNBC political analyst. Jay Carney is here, “TIME” magazine‘s Washington bureau chief; and Ed Schultz, host of “The Ed Schultz Show,” a syndicated radio program.
We begin, as we do every night, with everyone‘s take on the most important political stories of the day. It‘s “The Headline.”
Up front tonight, Joe Scarborough. and I assess the candidates on this primary eve. My headline is about Obama.
Is he still the front-runner? That‘s the test that he faces tomorrow. It‘s not just about the math, but about whether superdelegates are convinced that he can deliver the knockout blow and in the fall.
Today, Obama argued that indeed he can do that and take a punch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you think about it, as tough a press month as we‘ve had, and as many attempts to knock us off stride as there have been, the fact that we‘re still standing here and still moving forward towards the nomination, I think indicates the degree at which the core message of this campaign is the right one. That it‘s not enough just to replace the party in the White House, but we have got to change how politics is done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: Here is the challenge for Obama. He is not playing on his terms. He‘s fighting a gas tax debate that he didn‘t start, Clinton did. He‘s spending his time trying to overcome the taint of his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and reintroduce his biography to voters.
Not since before Iowa has he faced so many fundamental questions about his candidacy, and yet, there‘s the most hopeful sign—a big win tomorrow could indeed end the debate.
Joe Scarborough, break down Hillary Clinton on this eve of the primaries.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, “MORNING JOE”: Well, David, I‘ve got to tell you, she‘s in top form. Here‘s somebody that‘s been in public service for over 30 years. Hillary Clinton has never been comfortable with the public. In fact, in 1992, she did so badly, that they sheltered her, they kept her off the campaign trail.
And yet after 30 years in public service, she has hit her stride. I think she‘s the most impressive Democratic candidate on the stump with voters one-on-one since another Clinton burst on the scene in 1992.
Now, David, you played that clip of Barack Obama. Halting speech. It was almost Letterman-like. You expected great moments in presidential speeches as he sat there grasping for his words. I want you to compare that with how Hillary Clinton sounded earlier today in North Carolina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: An economy in crisis with gas prices exploding. I had a woman tell me in Indiana the other day she gets sick to her stomach when she pulls into the gas station, because it‘s taking more and more of her disposable income to fill up her car.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: You know, and she went on. She did a whole litany of things that working class voters wanted to hear from her, and she rattled them off—no notes, no halting speech.
SCARBOROUGH: Barack Obama is back on his heels right now. There‘s no doubt about it. He‘s got the halting speech. He‘s tentative on the campaign trail, and he looks tired on the TV set. He is.
And the best thing that he and his supporters have both in the campaign and his supporters in the media is to say that any working class voter that falls for a gas tax cut is stupid. If that‘s your best outreach to working class voters, stay home tomorrow because it‘s going to get ugly in North Carolina and Indiana.
GREGORY: Ed Schultz, OK. You hit me with your headline tonight.
ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, David, I think the headline is that, are Indiana and North Carolina voters going to be hoodwinked by this ridiculous proposal that Hillary Clinton has yet to really explain who‘s behind it? And that‘s the gas tax holiday.
Nobody in the Senate is for it. Nobody on the House side leadership is in favor of it. She hasn‘t explained how the oil companies are going to pay for this thing.
And so, are the voters really going to fall for this? This is a complete farce.
And I take issue with Joe. If you think this is being on your game when you offer very little substance as to how she‘s going to get this gas tax thing through, it‘s about as Republican as it can possibly be.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes. Well, you know...
SCARBOROUGH: Maybe that explains why Democratic candidates lose every four years, because they worry about working class voters paying for gas.
SCHULTZ: We‘re not going to lose this time.
GREGORY: We‘ve got more time to debate coming up. Let me keep going with headlines.
Michelle, hit me with your headline tonight.
MICHELLE BERNARD, PRESIDENT, INDEPENDENT WOMEN‘S VOICE: David, my headline tonight is that Obama‘s biggest test tomorrow in North Carolina is what‘s going to happen with the black vote.
What we have seen from very early on in this campaign is that the key to Senator Obama‘s coalition has been young people, it‘s been Independents. It has been college-educated voters or people with a post-graduate degree. But also, unlike Gary Hart and Bill Bradley, of many years ago, the key to his support has been African-Americans.
The polls right now are showing us that Hillary Clinton‘s support among African-Americans is creeping up. You know, very early on, we were seeing her getting, you know, anywhere from 8 to 10 to 13 to 14 percent of the African-American vote. Right now, pollsters are telling us that it looks like Senator Clinton might bet 18 percent of the African-American vote tomorrow.
The reason why that is important is that we have got Stephanie Tubbs Jones, an African-American member of Congress from Ohio, who is saying—you know, she‘s also co-chair of Hillary Clinton‘s campaign. And she is saying Hillary Clinton is our gal.
We have also got Representative Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American member of Congress, saying that the damage that has been done with African-Americans in the Clinton campaign could be irreparable. If Senator Clinton starts to increase her coalition and increase her number of African-American votes, she will go to superdelegates and she will say, if you hand this election over to me, we will not do so much harm within the African-American community that we will lose their vote, and I can win this election.
GREGORY: Right. All right. We‘re going to get into that in the War Room as well.
Jay Carney, you‘re looking at nuclear options tonight. What‘s your headline?
JAY CARNEY, “TIME” WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, it‘s a non-nuclear option, David. My headline is Clinton‘s not-so-nuclear option.
Earlier today, The Huffington Post, the liberal popular blog site, had a blaring headline. It said, “Clinton Aides Say They Will Use a Nuclear Option.”
What are they talking about? You know, Florida and Michigan could be decisive. The rogue primary states held their primaries without the permission of the DNC early in January.
The rules committee of the DNC voted late last year to bar those results. Of course, Hillary won them, we know that. And Hillary has said, as her aides have said, they want those results to count. The story today is the fact that the rules committee meets on May 31st, and will have to decide whether or not to seat these delegation and to make that decision in time for whatever delegates are awarded to count.
Now, I don‘t think it‘s all that surprising that Hillary Clinton wants that outcome to be favorable to her. And I think the fact that the rules committee has members which sort of lean to Clinton is also not surprising.
But they cannot do this without a substantial win in Indiana tomorrow, maybe even a win in North Carolina. Without that, it doesn‘t matter how many pro-Clinton members are on the rules committee. They can‘t overturn the original rule.
GREGORY: All right. Got to get to a break here. A lot to talk about as we go forward.
Up next, we‘re going to go inside the War Room and into the trenches. Just hours before voting starts tomorrow, the ad wars are heating up as Obama and Clinton launch new negative ads against each other.
Plus, how will the African-American vote affect the outcome in North Carolina—it‘s what we were just talking about with Michelle—and Hillary Clinton‘s chances of closing the gap on Barack Obama?
We get into that. We got to the War Room next on THE RACE.
GREGORY: Primary Day in North Carolina and Indiana. We‘re inside the War Room now.
Less than 24 hours until the polls begin closing in North Carolina and Indiana. With a total of 187 delegates at stake and record turnout for early voting, the final push of course is on.
And back with us to go over it all, Joe, Michelle, Jay and Ed.
First up tonight in the busy War Room, the latest numbers heading into tomorrow‘s primary.
According to the Suffolk University Poll, among Indiana Democrats, it‘s Clinton leading Obama 49-43, six percent undecided. In North Carolina, the Insider Advantage Poll has Obama leading just 48-45 among Democrats, with seven percent undecided.
Jay Carney, what‘s happened in these states?
CARNEY: Well, clearly, Hillary Clinton has been on a roll for the last several weeks, or you could say that Barack Obama has been suffering. And these polls reflect that.
She‘s now I think the prohibitive favor to win Indiana, not just these polls that we just showed, but a series of polls have shown her taking the lead and holding on to it, probably in the 5, 6, 7-point range. I think that Insider Advantage Poll in North Carolina is probably tighter than the race really is.
If you take a collection of the most recent polls in North Carolina, Senator Obama still has a larger lead than that. I‘d be surprised if Hillary Clinton were able to close that gap. But boy, if he only wins by three points, I think because of the expectations game, that‘s translated into a win for Hillary Clinton.
GREGORY: Yes. Absolutely.
Breaking down these numbers further by race, in North Carolina, this is interesting. Insider Advantage shows Clinton ahead of Obama among white voters 59-33. Among African-American voters, Obama dominating Clinton 79-18. Insider Advantage also projecting that black voters will comprise 35 percent of voter turnout tomorrow.
Is that a smaller vote count that‘s anticipated? And there have been some blogs today, some reporters going through this, Michelle, looking at scenarios where if Hillary Clinton can get into some of that African-American vote, take some of that away and really capitalize on the white vote, she‘s got a real shot in North Carolina.
BERNARD: Yes, I think that this is a real danger for Barack Obama. I mean, the numbers are still looking good, but if you look back to earlier primaries—for example, in Arkansas, South Carolina, Mississippi—I mean, he literally trounced Hillary Clinton when it came to African-American vote. The number of people that supported him was as high as 93 percent in some states.
She is seeing an increase in support among African-Americans. Nothing gigantic, but, you know, like I was saying earlier, if this is a trend and she‘s able to whittle down his support within this very, very key demographic, it could spell trouble for him in terms of what the psychology of the campaign that Hillary Clinton is running, because she‘s going to go to superdelegates and she‘s going to say, fear not. African-Americans will not leave the Democratic Party if you make me the nominee.
All right. Moving on, we‘ve been debating this gas tax holiday idea, which is the substantive debate between the two of them. Really, the only policy area where they‘ve been disagreeing of late.
Obama and Clinton making their final case to voters in these TV ads, the air wars, focusing on this very issue, the gas tax holiday. Clinton taking some last-minute shots at Obama in her latest ad spot called “What‘s happened?”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: What‘s happened to Barack Obama?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now we‘re living paycheck to paycheck.
NARRATOR: He‘s attacking Hillary‘s plan to give you a break on gas prices because he doesn‘t have one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The price of gas going up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s hard to fill up the tank.
NARRATOR: Hillary wants the oil companies to pay for the gas tax this summer so you don‘t have to. Barack Obama wants you to keep paying, $8 billion in all.
Hillary is the one who gets it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: Meanwhile, Camp Obama responds by playing up his Washington outsider experience in hometown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: An economy in turmoil, record prices at the pump, America held hostage to foreign oil. And what does Hillary Clinton offer? More of the same old negative politics.
Her hometown newspaper says she‘s taking the low road. Her attacks do nothing but harm. The same old Washington politics won‘t fix our problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: And let me ask you who‘s winning this debate, but let me challenge you on this point. One thing that we know is that voters respond to the idea of government actually working effectively for you. So even if she may lose the debate about who‘s solving the energy crisis, what‘s wrong, what‘s not politically effective about saying to voters, I will deliver something for you that‘s tangible in the shorter term?
SCHULTZ: Well, that‘s the whole thing, David. She‘s not going to be able to deliver it.
George Bush is never going to go along with this between now and November. That‘s the fallacy of it all.
Secondly, she doesn‘t offer a very solid way to pay for it. The windfall profits tax has been tried and died before. And for her to go out there and present to the American people in Indiana and North Carolina that she can actually do something about gas prices is horribly disingenuous.
Barack Obama is being honest. It‘s inside Washington gimmicks that the Clinton camp is playing on people.
I also think it needs to be pointed out, the first time this was presented by the Clinton camp was when she got hung up in her BS on the stump and later presented a proposal through a press release. I mean, this was never really a big plan for the Clinton camp. She was on the stump talking about it. And then found out it got a little snowball to it and had to back it up with a press release.
GREGORY: Go ahead—who wants—Joe here.
SCARBOROUGH: I don‘t know the economics of this. I mean, maybe it‘s stupid as all of Barack Obama‘s supporters and his supporters in the media say. But I do know this—if you compare and you contrast and you have somebody 24 hours before a primary promising a gas tax cut, and you‘ve got an opponent saying I‘m not going to cut gas taxes, I know how that plays. And I know how it‘s going to play tomorrow, and it‘s going to play in Hillary Clinton‘s favor tomorrow.
Now, that may make Ed and other Barack Obama supporters angry, but that‘s just politics 101.
GREGORY: All right. Jay—go ahead, Jay.
CARNEY: Well, I mean...
SCHULTZ: They think you‘re stupid.
CARNEY: ... the proposal is a crock, but that‘s irrelevant at this moment.
SCHULTZ: It is.
CARNEY: Because—I mean, Joe is right. You know, and not only does it—is it one candidate saying I‘ll give something to you and another candidate saying I won‘t, because a lot of voters are sophisticated enough to know what‘s going on here. But what she‘s doing is effectively exploiting an already existing advantage.
CARNEY: She‘s saying, I care about the working class. And he‘s saying, I want to change politics.
Well, you know what? A lot of people who are struggling simply don‘t believe the system can be changed. So they don‘t want to wait around for somebody who promises to change something they don‘t believe can be fixed. They just want some tangible benefits.
GREGORY: All right. I‘ve got to get another break in here.
When we come back, we‘re going to look at whether the Jeremiah Wright controversy has had a lasting impact on Barack Obama‘s career. We‘ll look at the numbers, some of the new numbers, and take a look at that.
Also, another reporters‘ “Smart Take” on how Bill Clinton seemingly got his groove back on the stump.
THE RACE comes right back.
GREGORY: Back now on THE RACE with “Smart Takes.”
We‘ve got our eyes on everything in this presidential race—from the blogs, to the columns, to interviews. We‘ve combed them all to bring you the smartest takes.
And here again to talk it over with us, Joe, Michelle, Jay and Ed.
Our first “Smart Take,” a week ago today, Reverend Wright appeared before the National Press Club. So how much did it affect Obama in the polls?
Taking a look at the national match-up from Gallup, Obama takes a sharp dip. Clinton leading by seven points, 51-44.
And looking at who fares better against John McCain, Clinton now ahead of Obama 48-43.
The other side of that coin though, “The New York Times”/CBS poll shows less damage, Obama leading Clinton by double digits 50-38. And when asked how much did Reverend Wright‘s statements affect voter opinions of Obama, 78 percent of Democratic primary voters said it made no difference.
But they did say, Michelle, that it could make a difference in the fall.
What do you make of it?
BERNARD: I think that the mistake—that the problems that Reverend Wright has created for the Obama campaign are really unmistakable. I mean, regardless of who‘s poll you look at, when you did a match-up against John McCain and Senator Obama back in February and January, the numbers were much higher.
I don‘t think that this is something that‘s insurmountable, but it is a little bit of a (INAUDIBLE) for him. He‘s going to have to keep pushing and pushing and pushing and put this behind him. And the sooner he can do it, the better, because it‘s made things very difficult for him.
GREGORY: All right.
BERNARD: And people are going to be thinking about who can beat John McCain.
GREGORY: He certainly talked about it with Tim Russert. We‘ll play some of that sound a little bit later on in the program.
Our second “Smart Take” tonight, “Washington Post” reporter Eli Saslow says that it‘s Bill Clinton who has finally found his groove again in his wife‘s campaign.
To the quote board.
“After a series of awkward moments and costly missteps while campaigning for his wife, Clinton has finally discovered a role that suits him. He‘s become the campaign‘s self-proclaimed ambassador to small-town American, traveling to places where the mere arrival of his motorcade signals a significant moment in local history, where his charm and affability carry substantial weight among the voters.”
Joe, what‘s the impact here?
SCARBOROUGH: Boy, it‘s a great impact. You look at the pictures of Bill Clinton, and they have him set up perfectly.
He‘s always on somebody‘s front porch, there‘s always a column behind him. It‘s always Bill Clinton in small-town America.
Every time I see him up there with that gray hair and that southern suit and that drawl and the house on the porch, I‘m thinking he‘s a character out of Hollywood and a 1950s southern governor. It is pitch-perfect, and it works in small-town America.
And of course that‘s the image that‘s projected across America. Much better than, let‘s say, bringing up Bosnia again at a press conference.
GREGORY: But Jay, what about this? How are you going to measure it tomorrow? Where do you think it‘s value-added?
SCARBOROUGH: I‘m sorry, Jay?
GREGORY: Yes. Jay, go ahead.
SCARBOROUGH: I‘m sorry.
CARNEY: Well, I think you‘ll see it in—if Hillary manages to solidify her advantage among small-town American Democrats and working class voters. I think that has a positive effect.
And it‘s positive in the removal of the negative, because I think Joe is right. You know, Clinton—Bill Clinton was a negative, was a drag on her campaign for a while there.
CARNEY: Especially when we were looking at him as this sort of cantankerous, purple-faced, angry spouse. And now he‘s sort of back—you know, Bubba is back.
CARNEY: And Democrats, for whom there‘s a great reservoir of affection for Bill Clinton out there, you know, they are reminded now again of why they liked him.
GREGORY: All right.
Save it, Ed. I‘ve got to get to a break here.
We‘re going to come back.
Three big questions. This Bud‘s for you. Barack Obama drinking beer on the campaign trail, but is his campaign making progress with those blue collar voters?
Don‘t go away. THE RACE comes right back.
GREGORY: Back now on RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE. Glad to have you with us. I‘m David Gregory. Time now to take a step back and ask three big questions about this race. Still with us, Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC‘s “MORNING JOE,” Michelle Bernard, president of the Independent Women‘s Voice and an MSNBC political analyst, Jay Carney, “Time Magazine‘s” Washington bureau chief, and Ed Schultz, host of the “Ed Schultz Show,” a syndicated radio program.
First up, this Bud‘s for you. Barack Obama is changing his diet, cracking open a Bud and relaxing with a group of guys at an Indiana VFW. It‘s part of a larger strategy change that chief strategist David Axelrod calls the fat, trading stadium rallies from small town meet and greets. Our first question today, has Obama cracked open his problem with working class voters? Ed, what do you think?
SCHULTZ: I think that being able to shoot a 15 foot jump shot certainly isn‘t going to hurt him in Indiana. I really believe that he‘s probably made some headway. But keep in mind, we‘ve seen a lot of race and gender throughout this entire process. Indiana is 94 percent white. I don‘t know, is Barack Obama supposed to do well in Indiana? I think the big question for Barack is this point, in the totality of it—he has to get either Indiana or North Carolina. He has to get one of the two to get a victory in this post-Reverend Wright victory, so to speak. He has to prove that he can win after the controversy. If he does that, that will as much put the Reverend Wright thing aside. Look, I think the fact that he played a little basketball doesn‘t hurt in Indiana and he‘s shoring that up a little bit.
BERNARD: David, can I add something?
GREGORY: Go ahead, Michelle.
BERNARD: Really quickly, because Ed mentions a really good point. Barack Obama, if you think about it, he‘s done well in the whitest of the white states. Indiana only has an eight percent African American community. If you look at Iowa, for example, and some of the other states that he‘s won that are very, very white, he‘s done very well. It will be interesting to see if the poll numbers that we‘re seeing today end up looking a little bit different tomorrow after the election.
GREGORY: Joe, a lot of people say this is more of a rust belt match up, rematch like Pennsylvania. So gauging progress with this working class group matters.
SCARBOROUGH: It really does matter. The thing is, Barack Obama is probably not going to do well in Indiana tomorrow among blue collar voters. But the important thing is, as David Axelrod said, we‘re going to cut the fat. We‘re going to get out of the big stadiums. We‘re going to get him going head to head with these blue collar voters.
Harold Ford, who ran a great race in Tennessee, African-American, that guy was in VFW bars, drinking beer with his hunting cap on. What he said was—what Barack Obama needed to do after the Pennsylvania loss was roll up his sleeves and get in front of those voters and let them know that he cares and he understands, and he‘s going to fight for them. This is a good first step, even though a lot of elites will say, he shouldn‘t have to do that. Guess what, he does. If he wants to be a professor, be a professor. If you want to be a politician, roll up your sleeves and get in front of the voters that count.
GREGORY: Next up, in less than 12 hours, two more states are going to get their say. As we‘ve been reporting all night, this marathon Democratic primary, two more states getting their say. A total of 187 pledged delegates are at stake, the biggest prizes left in this contest, but not enough to give the candidate the coveted 2025 mark.
So second question today, on the eve of these primaries, tomorrow determines what, exactly? Jay Carney?
CARNEY: Well, obviously, it depends on the outcome. If Obama manages somehow to squeak out a victory in both states, in Indiana and wins solidly in South Carolina, I think the race is over. On the other hand, if Hillary wins in Indiana, as now expected, and pulls out a surprise victory in North Carolina, I think then the bottom could fall out for Barack Obama. The race is not over by any means. Then we go on to the bitter end.
If it‘s a split decision, it‘s status quo and we press on, slog forward.
GREGORY: Ed, do you think people within the Obama camp realize it can‘t just be about the math? You said it a minute ago. He has to win after this Reverend Wright controversy, demonstrate that he‘s a front-runner, or else it all sudden becomes even odds. If it‘s a split or if he were to lose two here, as to whether he can pull this thing out.
SCHULTZ: Well, there is a psychology to it. If he loses two, it‘s three straight. The psychology of it for the Clinton camp would certainly be in their favor. But to get a post-Reverend Wright victory I think is paramount right now for Barack Obama. I also think that it‘s been pretty heavily stated that he has to shore up blue collar working white folks in this country. I think Hillary Clinton has some work to do with the under 35 crowd. I also think that the African-American community, according to Jim Clyburn—who told me the other day the damage has been done—they are going to have to resurrect themselves in more than one state. I think both camps have got still some distance to go on this.
GREGORY: Joe, we‘re not talking about it a lot, but Hillary Clinton also has her back to the wall in this sense: she did win in Pennsylvania. She kept the race going. This still continues to be the worst period of Barack Obama‘s campaign. If she‘s going to capitalize, this is the time. She‘s simply running out of time and real estate to do that.
SCARBOROUGH: There‘s no doubt about it. She has to win in Indiana, win convincingly. She‘s got to keep it close in North Carolina. If Barack Obama stays close in Indiana, if he wins by double digits, which a lot of people expected him to just a week ago, then that‘s a terrible loss for Hillary Clinton. These days, tie goes to the runner.
I will say this, following up on what Michelle said before though, that 18 percent of African-Americans that are talking about voting for Hillary Clinton—if Hillary Clinton gets close to 20 percent tomorrow in North Carolina among African-American voters, that‘s an important change for a southern state that has held Hillary to single digits among African-Americans. That will be a big win for Hillary.
GREGORY: Michelle, do you think there‘s fall out for Barack Obama among African Americans now that he‘s really cut ties with Reverend Wright?
BERNARD: No, from the e-mails I‘m receiving and people that I talk to, I don‘t really think there‘s any serious fall out whatsoever. I said it last week, I‘ll say it again today; I really believe that the vast majority of African-Americans who support Barack Obama feel that Jeremiah Wright has been a Judas in this entire fiasco and has sort of derailed the chances of electing the first viable African-American candidate.
For those African-Americans who support Hillary Clinton, it doesn‘t matter what so ever. They enjoyed watching the feast that Reverend Wright provided us with last week.
GREGORY: Finally, there‘s been a lot of talk about the so-called Operation Chaos, Rush Limbaugh calling on Republicans to vote for Hillary Clinton in order to prolong the Democratic fight. Many Democrats have scoffed at the idea, but a new poll may give credence to the chaos theory in Indian. The latest Suffolk University Poll has Hillary Clinton beating Barack Obama 49-43. It also has 38 percent of voters saying they will vote for John McCain in the fall if their candidate doesn‘t win the Democratic nomination. The director of Suffolk‘s political research center told the “Boston Globe” this: “38 percent is a statistical sign that Republicans are meddling in the Democratic fray, knowing full well they will vote Republican come November.”
Other Republican voters have said they move to vote Democratic because of the war, the economy or just because they want to participate in a historic primary. Third question today, whatever their reasons, do Indiana Republican voters hold the key on primary day? Jay, it‘s not just about moderate Republicans who may want to vote for Obama or Clinton. Could they be meddling here?
CARNEY: I think, based on what we‘ve seen, there is some meddling going on. The risk here is that Republicans who are trying to meddle, Rush Limbaugh included, ought to be careful what they wish for. Hillary Clinton could very well be a much more powerful candidate in the fall than Barack Obama. It‘s certainly plausible. I know the McCain campaign has no idea anymore which candidate they would rather face. They know they would like to prolong the race as much as possible because that‘s to McCain‘s advantage. I think it‘s a toss up right now whether Clinton or Obama is the stronger candidate in the fall.
GREGORY: Ed, take it on.
SCHULTZ: Well, I think that this baby is made for talk radio and Rush is doing everything he can to have fun with it. It‘s not just Rush. It‘s all of the conservative talkers. They are blanketing the air waves. They want to run against Hillary Clinton. They would have more fun running against Hillary than they would Barack Obama. I also think that the conservative talkers are a little bit nervous about how many new people Barack Obama has brought into the process. He would probably, in my opinion, tougher to beat than Hillary Clinton.
SCARBOROUGH: David, I follow up on what Jay said just a minute ago. A month ago, the McCain campaign wanted to run against Hillary Clinton, even if they didn‘t tell you that publicly. Now, you talk to them, most of the guys I‘m talking to on the inside of that campaign think Barack Obama is looking awfully weak. So they would probably tell Rush Limbaugh, if you want to meddle, vote for Barack Obama.
GREGORY: Why do they think he‘s now weak? What is it that‘s making him weak?
SCARBOROUGH: Because Republicans win every four years by getting working class voters to vote against what many would suggest is their economic interest by going through a variety of social issues. Hillary Clinton, along with Bill Clinton, are the only two Democratic candidates since 1964, let‘s say, that have taken social issues like faith, guns, taxes off the table.
Democrats are so easy to knock around. Again, the best example, 1988, George Herbert Walker Bush makes first generation Michael Dukakis look like an elitist. This is what Republicans do. You can‘t do that to Hillary Clinton. She‘s beating Republicans at their own game. That‘s why the McCain camp is thinking maybe we don‘t match up so well against this woman. She‘s the Terminator. She just keeps coming back to life.
GREGORY: All right, we‘re going to take another break here. Coming up, a special edition on this primary-eve of the war room. Obama goes off about Clinton‘s threat to obliterate Iran and Clinton makes a pit stop at a local Dairy Queen and takes a shot at elitists. It‘s all coming up as we look at the Sunday showdown on talk TV and how it all played out and where it goes from here. Inside the war room coming up next.
GREGORY: Back inside the war room. Now the Sunday showdown. No doubt, you heard and saw Barack Obama with Tim Russert on NBC‘s “Meet the Press” yesterday. Hillary Clinton appearing with George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.” There is a war of words, both candidates going on the attack on these shows, giving us a good glimpse of what‘s to come following tomorrow‘s primary.
Back with us to go over it all, Joe, Michelle, Jay and Ed. First up, from the Sunday show down, the battle over Iran. Clinton asked to clarify her comments about obliterating Iran if they attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. Analysis from First Read today points out that in Clinton‘s defense of using the word obliterate, she took special pains not to use it again. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Why would I have any regrets? I‘m asked a question about what I would do if Iran attacks our ally, a country that many of us have a great deal of connection with and feeling for, for all kinds of reasons. Yes, we would have massive retaliation against Iran. I don‘t think they would do that. But I sure want to make it abundantly clear to them that they would face a tremendous cost if they did such a thing.
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GREGORY: Meanwhile, on “Meet the Press,” Obama condemned Clint‘s statements, linking her to President Bush.
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OBAMA: It‘s not the language that we need right now. I think it‘s language that‘s reflective of George Bush. We have had a foreign policy of bluster and saber rattling and tough talk. In the meantime, we make a series of strategic decision that actually strengthen Iran.
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GREGORY: Joe, what‘s interesting about this is it goes back to your analysis right off the top. There is a real contrast in style here.
Hillary Clinton is pushing all these hot button issues and pushing them hard. Barack Obama will not go there. He‘s not abandoning his brand of saying, no, that‘s Bush talking when she talks about obliterating Iran. We need a smarter foreign policy. We don‘t want a gimmicky, domestic policy when it comes to energy affairs either. What‘s going to work?
SCARBOROUGH: I tell you what, maybe Barack Obama goes ahead and wins the Democratic primary, but I just can‘t believe he‘s going to run this campaign throughout the fall. I‘m reminded—again, he is no Michael Dukakis. But the fact that he sometimes seems too aloof to roll up his sleeves, get his hands dirty and get in there and fight reminds me of Dukakis in 1988 and that moment during the debate when Bernie Shaw asked him what would he do if his own wife were raped or murdered. Of course, we all cringed when they asked the question. Michael Dukakis, too reserved, too elite to go in and answer that question, instead left everybody gasping.
You can be, again, too above it all and too aloof for voters. Right now, he has to figure a way to toughen up. He‘s not doing it.
CARNEY: David, I agree. He‘s reinforcing a negative stereotype for him now, which is that he‘s an egg head. He can be so right in what he says—and he is right. But there‘s no percentage in not making the point first that Iran is a bad actor. It is nothing like an ally. And we have to be tough in our foreign policy against Iran, which does not have American interest in its heart. Then say, talking about obliterating a country is fool hardy and sounds like Bush.
Every time Obama does something like this, I think he reinforces a weakness and Hillary score as win.
SCARBOROUGH: Again, it‘s not policy—
If I could say really quickly though, it‘s important to underline this fact that it‘s not the policy. His policy can be correct. But it‘s just like when he‘s asked a stupid question about his flag pin and he stammers around. These are easy questions to answer. The question is: why isn‘t he answering them in a way that gets his positive policy over, but in a way that doesn‘t make him look aloof? He‘s running for president of the United States.
GREGORY: Michelle, comment here?
BERNARD: David, I was just going to say two words, security moms. This is a lot more about Iran—has a lot less to do with what Hillary Clinton is going to do in Iran. Everybody knows that this policy is assenine. Remember that 3:00 a.m. ad. She‘s speaking to women. She‘s speaking to mothers. She‘s speaking to people who are worried and want to be secure. We have a male candidate and we‘ve got a female candidate. In this instance, Barack Obama cannot appear to be more dovish than Hillary Clinton.
GREGORY: Let me just move on. Ed, you‘re on deck here. Let me move on to this question over elitism. Clinton fighting for the title of the populist candidate now, making a pit stop for ice cream at a Dairy Queen in South Bend, Indiana over the weekend. She continued her charge of elitism to those criticizing her gas tax holiday on ABC yesterday. Listen to this.
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CLINTON: I think we‘ve been, for the last seven years, seeing a tremendous amount of government power and elite opinions, basically behind policies that haven‘t worked well for the middle class and hard working Americans. From the moment I started this campaign, I have said that I am absolutely determined that we are going to reverse the trends that have been going on in our government and in our political system. Because, what I have seen is that the rich have gotten richer.
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GREGORY: You can be a populist, Ed, but this is really a potential problem for her. I thought the knock against George Bush was that he didn‘t rely on expert opinion. She‘s saying that she‘s not going to cast her lot with the economists here and that she‘s tired of all those elites trying to dictate policy. She does sound like George Bush. Comments?
SCHULTZ: I think Senator Clinton better be very careful when she starts labeling elitists. She can‘t pump gas or she can‘t pour coffee. How does that play in Indiana. She‘s out there saying she can do everything for the working folk, but she sure doesn‘t act like the working folks. I think I compare that moment of not being able to pump gas and also pour coffee to what Bush 41 did years ago in the grocery store when he didn‘t know about the electronic swipe.
GREGORY: Let me get in one more here, Obama‘s battle over Reverend Wright. Is it over? He explained why he decided to denounce Reverend Wright and what he learned about all of it. Take a listen.
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OBAMA: I think me denouncing his words without denouncing him was, at the time, the right thing to do. Clearly, one of the things when you‘re running for president is that you don‘t have—all this stuff is happening under a spotlight and you have to deal with it quickly.
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GREGORY: Talking with Tim Russert yesterday on “Meet the Press.”
Real quick, Michelle, is that working?
BERNARD: Time will tell. That‘s all I can say. He had to denounce him. Time will tell. The next couple of weeks are going to be difficult for him.
GREGORY: He did talk about this in a fairly forthright way. I thought it was interesting when he said, you can‘t pull the band aid off slow. If you have a problem that needs to be dealt with, the mistake is trying to do it over time. He had to do it directly when it really reared it‘s head this week. We‘re coming back. Predictions next.
GREGORY: We‘re less than 12 hours before the polls open in Indiana and North Carolina. This is primary preview night. What‘s going to happen tomorrow night. We put it to our all star panel, Joe, Michelle, Jay and Ed. Michelle, you‘re up first.
BERNARD: David, my prediction is Obama loses Indiana, but he wins North Carolina.
GREGORY: The impact of that; how will that be seen? How will we hash through it?
BERNARD: You know, again, with the elected delegates, it‘s no big deal. He‘s still going to be winning it with the elected delegates. It‘s the psychology of the election that we have going forward. There‘s another primary a week from tomorrow going into West Virginia and some other states. Hillary Clinton is going to hammering home that she is the person most electable in November against John McCain. From here on out, they are going to be going after the super delegates. The super delegates, I think, are beginning to question the wisdom of who they should vote for.
GREGORY: Jay, what do you see?
CARNEY: Similar, except I‘m going to be more specific. I think tomorrow the Democrats roll sevens. I think Hillary Clinton wins Indiana by seven and I think Barack Obama wins North Carolina by seven. What you have then is basically status quo ante. Hillary reinforces the perception that she‘s strong among working class and blue collar Democrats and white voters in particular. Obama gets the win he needs in North Carolina and it‘s just large enough not to cause panic in his campaign.
GREGORY: Will we then look at the exit polls and see if either one of them break out of their voter base and attract any new voters?
CARNEY: I think that‘s what we begin doing immediately tomorrow afternoon and into Wednesday.
GREGORY: Joe, what do you see?
SCARBOROUGH: I‘m swinging for the fences. I think Hillary is going to stun the political world tomorrow by sweeping. I think she‘s going to win Indiana going away, like she did Pennsylvania and Ohio, by double digits, probably ten or 11 points. I think she‘s going to squeak past in North Carolina. It‘s not going to be because of Reverend Wright. It‘s not going to be because of that elitist speech is San Francisco. It‘s going to be because of the gas tax. Barack Obama is right; these campaigns move very quickly. If you‘re fighting last election‘s war, you lose. Right now, she‘s on top of her game.
I don‘t think that‘s going to be the end for Barack Obama. It‘s going to be a wake up call and he‘s going to finally learn that he can‘t run a presidential campaign like a Harvard professor.
GREGORY: All right, that‘s bold. “MORNING JOE” is bold on this program. Ed, how do you answer it?
SCHULTZ: Well, Joe is the only one saying it. All right, so Hillary Clinton is going to win Indiana. I‘m OK with that. But I think Barack Obama is going to win North Carolina by seven to ten points. I think within 48 hours after that victory, you‘re going to see an avalanche of super delegates saying OK, he‘s weathered the Wright story. He‘s a winner. We‘re going to make our decision. I think you‘ll see at least a dozen super delegates follow up after a victory for Obama in North Carolina.
GREGORY: Why? What will be the trip wire about North Carolina to make them do that, when we‘ve seen that these super delegates want some kind of political cover and let this thing play out a little longer?
SCHULTZ: I think the post Reverend Wright victory is going to tell them a lot. I think also, North Carolina is a lot like Virginia. I don‘t think there‘s going to be much difference in the vote. I think he‘s going to do real well in North Carolina. I think the media has been working over Barack Obama time and time again in the last three weeks. He‘s weathered the storm. I think the super delegates are tired of this fight and they‘re just looking for some cover as to be able to say, this is why we‘re going go with him. I think North Carolina is going to give them that reason.
I think at least a dozen super delegates will follow up when he wins in North Carolina.
SCARBOROUGH: David, pour Barack Obama. The press is just ganging up on him. Boy, he has so many enemies in the press. How does he do it?
SCHULTZ: You‘ve been especially fair to him, Joe. You‘ve been especially fair to Barack Obama.
GREGORY: Jay, real quick, I have about ten seconds here. Does anything happen tomorrow that forces some kind of super delegate slide to Senator Clinton?
CARNEY: If she wins both, it freezes the super delegates in place who haven‘t committed. It might have some previously committed super delegates beginning to rethink their decision. Obama has been picking up super delegates steadily more than she has. She wins both, I think that changes.
GREGORY: Thanks to a great panel. I‘m David Gregory. We‘ve got to go. Thanks so much to a great panel. Tomorrow, RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE is part of our panel on our election coverage on MSNBC, starting tomorrow night. We‘ll be there all night. HARDBALL is next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.