Guests: David Bonior, David Corn, Roger Simon, Rep. Zack Space, Rep. Jason Altmire, Phil Bronstein, Michelle Bernard, Chris Cillizza
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hillary‘s summer project: beating the oddsmakers and winning the nomination.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. And welcome to HARDBALL.
Many people in the media say it is over. Some superdelegates say it is over. A lot of Democrats wish it were over, but it is not over until one person says it is. And she‘s not saying it is over.
Here is Senator Clinton today in West Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m winning Catholic voters and Hispanic voters and blue-collar workers and seniors, the kind of people that Senator McCain will be fighting for in the general election. Now, some call you swing voters. I call you Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So, what‘s Hillary‘s strategy?
We will ask Senator Clinton‘s communications director, Howard Wolfson, just how she plans to win the nomination between now and August.
Speaking of Obama, however, he paid a surprise visit today to the Capitol, the U.S. Capitol, while courting superdelegates. Here he was treated more like a rock star—well, maybe not in this picture—than as a fellow member of Congress.
NBC News anchor Brian Williams interviewed the senator this afternoon. And we will show you what Obama said when Brian Williams asked him whether he now considers himself—listen to a word in our vocabulary—the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Plus, if the Democrats think this long campaign is hurting the party, why don‘t the superdelegates just end it? They have their chance. What‘s holding them back?
Also, is there a double standard when it comes to preachers and presidential candidates? Where is all the coverage of John McCain‘s relationship with a preacher who was going on anti-Catholic tirades? Also, a look at that in tonight‘s “Politics Fix.”
But what can did John McCain say when Jon Stewart asked him this on “The Daily Show” last night?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)
JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW”: Will you take the opportunity right now to repudiate and denounce President Bush?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Stick around for McCain‘s answer on the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight.
But, first, Hillary Clinton‘s strategy now.
Howard Wolfson is communications director for the Clinton campaign.
What‘s—which of the candidates has the momentum right now, as we go into this weekend in West Virginia next week?
HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, look,
if you listen to the media, Senator Obama does. But we have...
MATTHEWS: I‘m listening to you.
WOLFSON: Well, we believe that West Virginia is going to being a critically important contest.
It is a critically important swing state. We lost it in 2000 and 2004, after winning it in ‘92 and ‘96. Senator Clinton has flatly predicted that she would beat John McCain in West Virginia, if she is the nominee. We think we should be competitive there. Any of our candidates ought to be competitive there at the top of the ticket.
Why isn‘t Barack Obama competing in West Virginia? Why isn‘t he doing better in West Virginia?
MATTHEWS: What does Hillary Clinton have that Al Gore doesn‘t have or didn‘t have, and that Kerry, John Kerry, didn‘t have and Obama doesn‘t have? What‘s her West Virginia plus?
WOLFSON: Well, I don‘t want to denigrate any of our...
MATTHEWS: No, but you are. You‘re saying she can do something they can‘t do.
WOLFSON: No, I‘m—well, that‘s not saying anything bad about them.
It is saying something good about her.
What she has been doing is connecting to blue-collar, working-class voters in a very special way. In Pennsylvania, Ohio, around this country., Senator Clinton is speaking to their needs and concerns.
And, look, as a party, we have had problems winning these kinds of voters in the last two presidential elections. Senator Clinton is winning them in this primary. And she will win them if she is the nominee against John McCain.
MATTHEWS: Why are they preferring, by your argument, a Republican to Obama? Why would they go for McCain, rather than Obama? Why would they do that?
WOLFSON: Well, I‘m not sure that they would. I‘m saying that...
MATTHEWS: No, but you are suggesting they will.
WOLFSON: I‘m suggesting that he will have a much harder time based on what‘s happened so far of winning those voters than we do.
MATTHEWS: Why? What‘s his problem? What‘s the shortfall?
WOLFSON: Well, look, I don‘t think it was helpful when he went to California and said that these voters are choosing guns or religion as a means to get out of their economic situations. That offended a lot of people.
I don‘t think it‘s helpful when he says consumers, rather than oil companies, ought to pay the gas tax. Senator Clinton has a different position.
So, on policy, we‘re making the case to these voters. And we‘re appealing to them.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look. Here‘s Senator Clinton talking to “USA Today.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: How does Hillary Clinton win the nomination?
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Kathy (ph), you know, there was just an AP article posted that found how Senator Obama‘s support among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again and how the, you know, whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.
And, in independents, I was running even with him and doing even better with Democratic-leaning independents. I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, what‘s the point there, that she‘s better at white voters?
MATTHEWS: Well, she said it.
WOLFSON: Yes, she was referencing an AP story, referencing it accurately. But the point is that we are doing better with blue-collar voters. The point is we are doing better with...
MATTHEWS: White blue-collar voters.
WOLFSON: You know, I...
MATTHEWS: That‘s what she said.
WOLFSON: Well, that‘s what the story says. That‘s what the AP story says.
MATTHEWS: Why are you afraid to use the word she uses, white?
WOLFSON: Because race and gender have been difficult and sensitive topics in this campaign.
WOLFSON: It is a fact that we are doing better with those voters. I prefer to look at race and gender in an uplifting way. I don‘t think we obviously should be dividing...
Let me ask you about how you can do this, because it has been asked about the candidate, Senator Clinton. If she continues on this road, to say that the other candidate, who is African-American, can‘t get white votes, as she just did, she makes it very hard to open the door to backing him, if that becomes the necessity, say, a week or two or three weeks from now.
How does she go, potentially, from saying he can get white voters to saying he will be a great candidate?
WOLFSON: Well, look, we think Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee. So, I‘m not looking forward towards what we are going to do...
MATTHEWS: But she said she would back whoever the nominee is.
WOLFSON: And of course she will, and absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Well, how can she do what she said she will do if she keeps talking about the fact he can‘t get white voters?
There is no question that the differences between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are small compared to the differences between both Democrats and John McCain. And there is no question that Hillary will work her heart out for Barack Obama, if he‘s the nominee. I am sure he would work his heart out for Hillary Clinton. We will do everything we can to coalesce the Democratic Party behind one of these candidates.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the—and I‘m sure you have thought this when you go to bed at night. You have thought through the chances of how you are going to do it. Everybody knows the odds are tough.
But when you look through ahead to West Virginia Tuesday, Kentucky and Oregon, Puerto Rico, Montana, South Dakota, and you look forward to that, and then you look forward to the floor of convention come Denver the last weekend in—tell me how it‘s going to go from here to there.
WOLFSON: Good. I appreciate it.
MATTHEWS: Give me the scenario for Clinton to win.
We are going to have to do well in West Virginia. We have predicted we would win it in November. We are going to have to show West Virginians just how we would do that. People are going to have to look Tuesday night and say, Senator Clinton had a good night. Why is it that Senator Obama lost by such a large margin in West Virginia?
MATTHEWS: What‘s your marker?
WOLFSON: I think if Senator Obama loses West Virginia by 15 points, it is a problem for him.
MATTHEWS: All right. Go ahead.
WOLFSON: I think superdelegates are going to look at that.
Then we are going to have to do well in the remaining states.
MATTHEWS: Do you have to win the rest of them?
WOLFSON: No. We don‘t have to win the rest of them. We have to do well in them. I think we are going to have to put points on the board. There‘s no question about it. We‘re going to have to do well.
MATTHEWS: Are you going to play in Montana?
MATTHEWS: You have got the governor yet?
MATTHEWS: You going to get him?
WOLFSON: No, I don‘t think so. I think he said he would only go until after the contest.
MATTHEWS: You sure you don‘t have him yet? You‘re not hiding this guy? He is not corralled somewhere out there?
MATTHEWS: I think he might be. I think he might be.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go.
WOLFSON: You know something that I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: Maybe so.
Let‘s keep going now after the convention. You get on the convention floor. You go to the credentials committee. If you don‘t win in the credentials committee, will you take to it the floor?
WOLFSON: Well, let‘s make that point. So, we‘re going to have to do well going forward in the upcoming states.
Secondly, we believe that Florida and Michigan ought to be seated.
MATTHEWS: Right. I know that. So, let‘s move ahead.
You can‘t win in the credentials committee before you get to the floor. Will you fight it on the floor?
WOLFSON: I don‘t know that.
MATTHEWS: Why not? You say you‘re going to go...
WOLFSON: No, I don‘t know that we are not going to win. My expectation is that the credentials committee...
MATTHEWS: Right. But are you willing to go all the way to win the nomination until somebody gets—the other guy gets the majority of total delegates? Are you willing to fight this, as the senator says?
WOLFSON: We are committed to ensuring that those delegations are seated in the way that their primary voters voted.
MATTHEWS: But the only way to do that for sure and really make it happen is to go all the way to the floor and fight the credentials fight on the floor. Otherwise, you have given in before you have lost, because you don‘t know you have lost this fight for Florida and Michigan until you have taken to it the floor. Will you take to it the floor?
WOLFSON: We are prepared to do whatever the rules allow to ensure that those delegations...
MATTHEWS: Well, that means you‘re going to the floor. That means this thing won‘t be over until the last weekend in August.
WOLFSON: Our hope is that it will over, in terms of Florida and Michigan, decided on May 31, when the rules committee meets.
MATTHEWS: But that would require you to get what you want in that...
WOLFSON: Well, that would be nice, wouldn‘t it?
MATTHEWS: Well, you mean 73 delegates out of Michigan. And how many you won out of Florida, all of them?
WOLFSON: No, no, no, no, no, no.
We want them seated in the manner in which the voters voted. Now, we didn‘t...
MATTHEWS: Right. Take the same proportion.
WOLFSON: Yes. We didn‘t win the states 100 to zero. Senator Obama got votes there.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s talk about how you get there. You go to the floor. You can see in your mind‘s eye this campaign lasting at least three or four more weeks, right through June?
MATTHEWS: So, definitely through May 30 through the meeting -- 31st -
the meeting of the DNC Credentials.
WOLFSON: Absolutely. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: And then you can see it going through Puerto Rico.
When it comes time to fight for who‘s got the most elected delegates -
pledged delegates, and if you lose that, if you come short, which is likely you will come short, can you add Puerto Rican votes to your claim of a popularity—of a popular vote victory?
WOLFSON: Of course.
MATTHEWS: Even though they can‘t vote in the presidential election?
WOLFSON: Well, they‘re participating in our...
MATTHEWS: Right, right, right.
WOLFSON: ... in our primary process.
MATTHEWS: But are you willing to say that you have a right to the nomination based on Puerto Rican votes?
WOLFSON: Yes. Which votes are you going to exclude from the process?
MATTHEWS: No, just—just...
WOLFSON: I said yes.
MATTHEWS: Just people that are not American—are not voting in the American presidential election. That‘s all.
WOLFSON: Well, the Democratic Committee has decided that Puerto Rico ought to have a voice in this process, and that‘s the right thing.
MATTHEWS: No, it‘s just interesting. No, no, I think it‘s interesting. I haven‘t heard you say this before.
So, in other words, those votes, even though it‘s people who can vote in a presidential election...
MATTHEWS: ... will be your argument for why you should have the nomination to win the presidential election?
WOLFSON: Well, they will be part of an argument.
MATTHEWS: No, no, but you—is it part of your popular vote total?
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re—that‘s one of the metrics?
WOLFSON: Yes, it is.
MATTHEWS: So, you‘re going to argue it, this case?
WOLFSON: We‘re going to argue that the popular vote total actually has a bearing, yes.
MATTHEWS: So, it‘s going to be all the Florida votes cast when the other candidates—nobody campaigned down there, all the Michigan votes, even though your candidate was the only name on the ballot, and all the Puerto Rican votes, even though they can‘t vote in the presidential election?
WOLFSON: I don‘t...
MATTHEWS: All that adds up to a popular—you guys have pretty good metrics there.
WOLFSON: I don‘t think we should be discriminating against certain voters.
MATTHEWS: No, no, no, I would never...
WOLFSON: And I‘m sure you wouldn‘t.
MATTHEWS: Don‘t play that card on me. I‘m just asking.
MATTHEWS: I‘m only suggesting that...
WOLFSON: They are—Chris, they‘re participating in our primary process.
MATTHEWS: I just think it‘s an—you smile because you guys are so devilish about this. You will come up with any metric known to man.
WOLFSON: They are—there is a primary in Puerto Rico in June.
Should we not count it?
MATTHEWS: ... Guam. I think it‘s great.
WOLFSON: Because Chris Matthews said “Cancel the primary in Puerto Rico”?
MATTHEWS: Do we still have the Canal Zone? I guess we don‘t have that one anymore.
WOLFSON: No, we do not.
MATTHEWS: I think we might.
WOLFSON: Your administration took care of that.
MATTHEWS: Let me—let me—oh, that was a good moment.
Let me ask you about it. So you can see a—you can see your candidate surviving in this fight all the way through June, certainly to the end of the season?
MATTHEWS: It‘s not going to happen? She‘s not going to throw in the towel?
MATTHEWS: And has she told you that?
WOLFSON: She‘s told me that. She‘s told her donors that. She‘s told her supporters that. She believes that she can win this nomination and she will be the nominee.
MATTHEWS: Is she willing to make a larger contribution personally to the campaign than she‘s made already, $11 million? Is she willing to go any further?
WOLFSON: She won‘t rule it out.
WOLFSON: Yes, that‘s right.
MATTHEWS: The sky‘s the limit?
WOLFSON: I didn‘t say the sky‘s the limit. We have a set of rules that govern how much money she can give.
But she is all into this. I mean, she believes that she‘s going to be the nominee. She‘s put her own money on the line, a considerable amount of money.
WOLFSON: And, you know, yes.
MATTHEWS: You know, one of the great parlor games in America is watching Bill Clinton.
MATTHEWS: He is the most fascinating—and I know, even though you‘re worked close to him, and see him every day, he is a fascinating figure. He doesn‘t really have a poker face. The great thing about Bill Clinton is, he‘s transparent.
WOLFSON: Kind of like you.
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m—yes, actually, I am transparent.
MATTHEWS: When you looked at him the other night—and everybody did
and he was very supportive, and the hug he gave of the candidate was so human. I mean, he felt for her losing—or not getting what she wanted to do in Indiana.
But it looked to me that night, for the first time, I saw a man who looked like he had gotten some bad information that night.
Terry was on our program, as Keith and I were covering it. He was doing his Irish, “Everything‘s going to be great; we got it made; you know, we‘re going to have—my score on the golf course was 58.”
WOLFSON: I can‘t do that. I wish I could do it.
MATTHEWS: OK, you‘re a little more dour. But he‘s going to get like a 58 score on the golf course. He was so up. And then when—and he said, “Tonight we got the momentum, we got the momentum.”
And then the president comes on later in the evening, after the votes are in, and it doesn‘t look like a big victory at all in Indiana, and he really looked like he had lost, that he got some secret information that nobody else.
Did he get bad numbers at the last minute? Did something come in there that night we didn‘t know about?
WOLFSON: Not that I‘m aware of.
MATTHEWS: Did he think you were going to win by a bigger majority?
WOLFSON: You know, I think a misconception about Indiana. And let‘s put this in some context.
Senator Obama‘s campaign predicted three months ago that they were going to win Indiana. It‘s a neighboring state to Illinois -- 25 percent of the state get the media market. We started out behind there, started out behind by eight points. We won a big victory in Indiana.
WOLFSON: We were moving forward in Indiana.
MATTHEWS: But you had the Reverend Jeremiah Wright tied around this guy‘s neck for three weeks, and he still managed to only lose by a couple points. He can claim he made the comeback.
WOLFSON: Well, he could claim it, but I don‘t think that‘s accurate.
MATTHEWS: OK, what do you think about Rush Limbaugh? Do you think he helped or hurt your candidate the other day?
WOLFSON: No, I think it had no impact whatsoever...
MATTHEWS: No impact?
WOLFSON: ... with all due respect.
MATTHEWS: He has no impact at all, Rush Limbaugh?
WOLFSON: I don‘t believe that it had any...
MATTHEWS: Harold Wolfson says to Rush Limbaugh, “You have no impact.”
WOLFSON: Well, I‘m sure I will be hearing about it tomorrow on his show...
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, he‘ll be talking...
WOLFSON: ... as will you.
MATTHEWS: No, I don‘t mind. I get along with the guy. We like to towel-snap back and forth.
But the fact is, he claimed victory.
WOLFSON: I understand that.
And you know what? Here‘s what I would suggest. People shouldn‘t denigrate Senator Clinton‘s accomplishments, and they shouldn‘t denigrate her voters. That‘s a mistake.
MATTHEWS: How is that done? How do you denigrate her voters?
WOLFSON: I think if you‘re saying that the people who were voting for her were voting for her for some reason other than the fact that they wanted her to win.
MATTHEWS: Who said that?
WOLFSON: Isn‘t that what Rush Limbaugh is saying?
MATTHEWS: Yes, he‘s saying—but I was worse than you on that. I said anybody who uses their vote in that sick kind of way ought to be ashamed of themselves.
WOLFSON: I agree with you.
MATTHEWS: The founding fathers and all the soldiers that fought for this country‘s freedom...
WOLFSON: I completely agree.
MATTHEWS: ... did not think a vote should be a joke or a mischief.
WOLFSON: I completely agree.
MATTHEWS: Howard and I agree.
WOLFSON: Serious business.
MATTHEWS: Howard Wolfson, it is serious business. This guy—this guy—you‘re like one of these Japanese soldiers that‘s still fighting in 1953.
MATTHEWS: Up next, the campaign manager for John Edwards is on board with Barack Obama now. David Bonior joins us next to tell us why.
Plus, with her options dwindling, what is Hillary Clinton‘s plan as this race winds down? And how long does she stay in this fight? We are getting indications that she is in it for the long haul. When does she get out? Not any time soon, according to Howard Wolfson just now.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: Barack Obama is now just 174 delegates shy of winning the nomination outright. So, when will the superdelegates come forward and end the fight?
HARDBALL returns after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Former U.S. Congressman from Michigan David Bonior was the campaign manager for the John Edwards presidential campaign. He announced today that he is backing Senator Barack Obama.
Congressman, thank you for joining us tonight. We are a bit cramped in the schedule. But we want to be know, what made you move; why today?
DAVID BONIOR, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, I joined the Obama campaign because of several things.
Number one, I was very impressed with how he fought back in these last three weeks in this race for the presidency. I also support his position and leadership on taking on this war. When I was in the House, I helped lead the effort against the war, going to war in Iraq, both times. So, we have a commonality there.
I like the follow-up he had with John Edwards on the issue of struggling for working people. John Edwards was the champ on that. And he‘s been a champion on it as well, being opposed to NAFTA and CAFTA and the Colombia trade deal and being a real strong supporter for the Employee Free Choice Act, which will give people a voice at work.
So, you add that up, and you combine that with the fact that he‘s brought a movement with him into this campaign, something that I don‘t think we had gotten from our previous presidential candidates, good candidates, as they were. Obama brings something special. And I think he can beat John McCain.
MATTHEWS: Can he bring the working people aboard in November?
BONIOR: I think he can.
If you look at the votes that were cast after Ohio and Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Indiana, you will find that his vote among working-class people has gone up in each one of those races. In fact, in North Carolina, he won $50,000-a-year-or-less workers, as well as he won those without a college education.
So, I believe he can make the appeal to them, and we can be successful with a very important part of the electorate.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think Hillary Clinton is still in this race?
BONIOR: She‘s a fighter, and you got to give her credit for that. She is a determined fighter, and I think—she‘s actually been—grown as a candidate throughout this race. And I think she‘s got a following, and I think, though, there is a time in which you need to separate yourself from the reality that you‘re in, and I think that will eventually happen. And she‘ll make the decision when it‘s right for her.
MATTHEWS: Are you worried that she‘s giving white voters a permission slip to vote against an African-American candidate the longer she‘s in this race?
BONIOR: I‘m not going to comment on that issue with respect to the Clintons, or Senator Clinton. All I know is Senator Obama‘s premise in this race was to bring this country together, Republicans, independents, black, white, Hispanic, Asian. And that‘s what he has done and that‘s one of the beauties of this race, and that‘s why he has been able to create a movement of people.
MATTHEWS: Are the Clintons a unifying or divisive force right now in the fight for the nomination?
BONIOR: Well, right now, there‘s a battle for the nomination, so you‘ve got a division. But I think—I take Senator Clinton on her word. She said it the other night after Indiana, that she would be somebody who will campaign for the ticket. And I believe that they will. I believe the Clintons will come around and they will bring a lot of their supporters with them.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, David Bonior...
BONIOR: You‘re welcome.
MATTHEWS: ... backing now Barack Obama for president.
So what‘s Hillary Clinton really hoping for in the weeks ahead, and according to Howard Wolfson, perhaps the months ahead? What‘s the end game, if there is one? Roger Simon covers politics for “The Politico,” and David Corn covers politics for “Mother Jones” magazine. God, it‘s great to have you two on.
You are as good as I am at trying to figure it out.
MATTHEWS: I just referred to Howard Wolfson, who was sitting there, the great spokesman for Hillary Clinton—I said, You‘re like one of those Japanese soldiers...
MATTHEWS: ... that wouldn‘t give up after the Battleship Missouri signing ceremony. You‘re still holding on out there.
DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”: (INAUDIBLE) a little more than they did. But with Hillary, I—I—there‘s no way she can win without going nuclear and having a nullification strategy, basically getting party insiders to overturn what the Democratic primary voters and caucus-goers decided. And that would take months because Barack Obama won‘t sit down for that, even if she gets superdelegates support after the primaries. I think she...
MATTHEWS: In other words, she has to beat him at the convention.
CORN: Yes. And that means three months of fighting after the June 3 finish. She‘s sitting in there now, probably thinking, Listen, who knows what can happen in this crazy race?
CORN: ... stroke of luck between now and June 3, and then, you know, I determine whether...
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t she like the pitcher trying to get the other side out, hoping her team will have a rally, that she‘ll get a big break, somebody in op research will come up with some old photo or something that‘ll humiliate Barack?
ROGER SIMON, “THE POLITICO”: Sure. And a comet could hit the planet and it wouldn‘t matter. I mean, she‘s...
SIMON: She‘s hoping against hope. But there are also—which also might have a different agenda. Maybe she stays in long enough and he offers her the vice presidency. Maybe she stays in long enough and there is a surge of fund-raising, which seems to be a little dubious, and she gets to pay herself back...
MATTHEWS: ... flagpole sitting. She‘s going to stay there just to be there come...
SIMON: Her end game is how—how she runs this end game affects her political future.
SIMON: She wants to end, I think, with as many victories as possible. She‘s going to win West Virginia. She‘s going to win Kentucky. She‘s going to win Puerto Rico. She probably figures why not end with three more victories? I can run for the Senate in 2012. If Barack Obama is the nominee and loses, I can run for the Senate—I can run for the presidency in 2012. I can run for governor of New York in 2010. I can be Senate majority leader...
SIMON: ... how she ends this race.
MATTHEWS: This argument that the votes of Puerto Rico, that‘s a huge
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m stunned. I am absolutely stunned by the argument. It‘s a huge commonwealth, a great part of the world. It is definitely American citizens all over the island. But they don‘t get to vote in our presidential elections. And Howard Wolfson sat there with a straight face, more or less, and said, Those will be our argument for getting the nomination, that we swept Puerto Rico.
CORN: There‘s a bigger point. They‘re talking now about making sure everybody gets to vote in the primaries, seating the Florida and Michigan delegates, democracy, democracy, democracy. But what‘s their...
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) off-shore.
CORN: Off-shore. What‘s the ultimate strategy? Getting insiders to vote for them because they say, You should take our argument. So they want people to be democratic until the primaries are over and then overturn the democracy with the insiders! It‘s just untenable!
SIMON: Since the popular vote doesn‘t matter anyway, since the popular vote is nowhere part of the...
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) new metric, though.
SIMON: ... is nowhere part of the rules—they say metrics don‘t count. They‘re just meaningless, metrics like how many delegates actually vote for you on the floor of the convention, I guess. Since the popular vote really doesn‘t count, you might as well count Puerto Rico. You might as well—you know, she‘s not going to win the popular vote anyway.
CORN: Democrats abroad. Don‘t forget about them.
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m just thinking chutzpah, you know, the ability to just look somebody in the face and make a case that‘s absurd. I mean, nobody in this country would say that the nomination should be decided by people who can‘t vote for president, would they? Does anybody say that?
SIMON: Isn‘t making a case absurd what politicians do when they‘re running?
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) let‘s talk about—let‘s try to do a little thing here. Brian Williams interviewed Barack Obama just today and asked him point-blank whether he‘s already wrapped up the nomination. Is it a win? Here‘s the question and the answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”: Are you the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party?
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not yet. I will be if Senator Clinton decides not to go on or if we complete these six contests and we are ahead as we are now. But nothing is certain. I don‘t want to take it for granted. Senator Clinton has been written off before and came back. And she‘s a formidable candidate.
So obviously, we feel good about the results on Tuesday. It strengthens our position, and you know, I‘m confident that we can finish this—these last few contests and be in a continuing strong position. But it‘s not yet settled.
WILLIAMS: Have you had any discussions about declaring that victory on the 20th, after Kentucky and Oregon are decided?
OBAMA: That will be an important day. If at that point we have the majority of pledged delegates, which is possible, then I think we can make a pretty strong claim that, you know, we‘ve got the most runs and it‘s the ninth inning and we‘ve won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: There‘s baseball again, Roger. He looks like he‘s very humble.
MATTHEWS: He‘s not completely humble. He‘s ready to move by this month. It looks like he‘s ready to move in two weeks.
SIMON: He should keep up with the humble thing. I think it would be a mistake for him to declare victory after the last contest because the last contest gives him a very meaningful metric, the most pledged delegates, and that will give him the nomination, in the end...
MATTHEWS: By the way, one reason he doesn‘t have to claim victory is that every commentator in America...
MATTHEWS: ... on every known network.
MATTHEWS: Well, “Time” magazine, which has the official printed matter on this, and there he is on the cover today. It‘s over.
CORN: You know, come, you know, June 3, when the primaries are done, he‘ll have a lead in pledged delegates. He‘ll also have list of committed superdelegates. The combination of those may put him over whatever the magic number is...
CORN: ... depending on Florida and Michigan...
MATTHEWS: I think he‘s acting like charming winner, we think. But I tell you, Howard Wolfson sitting there...
MATTHEWS: I think he‘s still got that World War II rifle in hand, and the gas mask and he‘s ready for the incoming! Anyway, Roger Simon, David Corn, two of the best.
Up next: One thing Hillary Clinton may be hoping for is a place on the ticket, I don‘t know, with Barack Obama. Would you put her there? Would she go there?
And our “Big Number” tonight‘s proof that what might not be a bad idea is—well, we will see. The HARDBALL “Sideshow”—I love this part of the show—it‘s coming up.
You‘re watching it, HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. So what else is new out there? Is Alec Baldwin coming to a ballot near you? In an interview with “60 Minutes,” the actor says, quote, “There‘s other things I want to do besides acting. I mean, in a matter of weeks, I‘m going to be 50. There‘s no age limit on running for office. It is something I might do one day.”
Alec Baldwin, by the way, and Tina Fey are the best on-screen team since Tracy and Hepburn. By the way, she‘s Tracy.
John McCain made his 13th appearance on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart last night. He‘s practically a co-host by now. Here he is on “The Daily Show.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”: Will you take the opportunity right now to repudiate and denounce President Bush?
STEWART: Sit down! Sit down! Sit down, sir! What do you think of that, though?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There‘s technical difficulties.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The intriguing question, of course, is how much John McCain will repudiate and denounce the Bush administration‘s policies by the time we hit November.
Speaking of McCain, is the Pitkin County airport in Colorado giving him an unfair advantage in the general election? Turns out the airport had McCain himself record that public address system security announcement, you know the one that greets you as you‘re scrambling to empty your pockets in the security line. Here it is.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Hi. This is Senator John McCain. Effective immediately, the Transportation Security Administration has limited the items that may be taken through the security screening checkpoint. Please check with the TSA or airline representative for more information.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘d like to do that some time—Ground transportation now leaving for Reagan National Airport.
And now it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number.” Hillary Clinton has made it clear she‘s not ready to bow out of this presidential race. So what‘s her game? Is she hoping for a miracle? Does she want to leave after a primary win? Or is she vying for the vice presidency? Many have speculated that she wouldn‘t even want that job. But here‘s one reason why she would. The vice presidency is every bit the stepping stone to the top job. How many vice presidents have gone on to become president of the United States at some point? Fourteen. Considering we‘ve only had 43 presidents, that‘s a lot of tickets to be holding. You can‘t beat the vice presidency to prove you‘re able to fill the big chair some day -- 14, tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next: With Barack Obama just 174 delegates now shy of winning the nomination outright, and with more than 260 superdelegates still undeclared, why don‘t those superdelegates step forward and end this race? We‘ll ask two of them what they‘re waiting for.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The air here in Washington, if you can‘t tell, is thick with intrigue over undecided superdelegates. Are they about to break for Barack Obama in a big way, or will they stay neutral for a while longer, as the Clinton campaign is certainly hoping they will?
Ohio congressman Zack Space is still an uncommitted superdelegate, as is Pennsylvania congressman Jason Altmire. Thank you, gentlemen, both.
Congressman Space, let me start with you. Why, if your district went 2-to-1 for Hillary, you‘re not following them?
REP. ZACK SPACE (D-OH), UNCOMMITTED SUPERDELEGATE: Look, I‘m trying to do what‘s in the best interests of the people that I represent, and you know, I think that the policies of this Bush administration over the last seven years have been disastrous for rural Ohio, rural America. And I need to be in a position come the fall to be able to advocate on behalf of either one of these candidates.
I think we have two terrific candidates. I love them both. I‘ve met with both of them. I understand where they are on the issues. They‘re great. And I want to be able to be able to advocate for them without anyone questioning where my true loyalty is.
And beyond that, Chris, I think we‘ve got a system that, personally, I find a little distasteful. I‘d like to see, you know, all of the American people contribute to this process before political insiders or superdelegates begin to weigh in.
MATTHEWS: OK. So you‘re talking about making up your mind at the—after the first week of June.
SPACE: Possibly. I mean, we‘re going to reassess it at that time.
MATTHEWS: OK. Congressman Altmire, same question.
REP. JASON ALTMIRE (D-PA), UNCOMMITTED SUPERDELEGATE: Well, I wonder what we would think if another country had a six-month election process, there was a clear winner, and then a group of party insiders came in at the end of the process and said, Well, we don‘t like the candidate that you picked, we want to put our own candidate in there. I don‘t think superdelegates should be that group of party insiders. I want the people‘s will to be heard.
But I think Senator Clinton has earned the right through this long campaign, and she won Pennsylvania and the district that I represent, to continue the process as long as she wants to through the end. And at that point, I‘ll see what the landscape looks like and make my decision.
MATTHEWS: You know, the numbers apparently show that Barack Obama will win a majority of the elected delegates, and that seems to be your standard, Congressman Altmire, by May 20. That night, it will be clear that he has the majority of elected delegates, that he cannot be beaten in that regard. Is that enough information for you to have?
ALTMIRE: There is no question that Senator Clinton has a tall mountain to climb. It is very improbable that she will be able to win enough delegate votes and popular votes to be determined as the nominee. But I do think that I have a responsibility as a representative of a district that she carried decisively to wait and see how she performs over the next three and a half weeks and then make my decision.
MATTHEWS: Do you think we should get rid of super delegates in this process? If you say it should be decided by elected delegates, why bother with all these—these sort of superior beings known as super delegates?
SPACE: If I had my say, we would get rid of them. I‘m a strong advocate for the people deciding this election. I think that it runs counter to the grain of democracy. I would gladly give up that.
ALTMIRE: I agree. I hope that we don‘t have super delegates in four years. Unfortunately, we do this year. We are part of the process and will be the decisive factor. I think that‘s the worst possible scenario.
MATTHEWS: You know, if you look at this, these results, and we look at them every time we have a primary—I think you guys do, too, you gentlemen do, too. You can see a worsening of the aggravation in the party that people now, when asked coming out of the voting booth who voted for Senator Clinton, are asked would you, if you had only that choice, would you vote for Barack Obama against John McCain? It is getting almost to 50/50, where they will say I will vote for the Republican. That‘s true for the people voting for Senator Clinton and for Senator Obama. That has grown from back down in the 20s.
Are you concerned? You first, Congressman Space? The longer this goes on, the more Democratic party gets cut in half and the half that doesn‘t win is going to vote for McCain?
SPACE: It is a bit of a concern, especially when the candidates engage in what might be classified as negative campaigning. I think it is important for all of us to understand that five months, six months, maybe even three months, that‘s still a long time in politics. I think it is—those numbers are very unreliable, in terms of what‘s going to transpire in November.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Altmire?
ALTMIRE: I think it is critically important that we settle this after June 3rd. We cannot go three months before the Democratic convention with no primaries in play, nothing going on but the two candidates campaigning against each other. We need to turn our attention towards Senator McCain and win back the White House. So I do think we need to make a quick decision and we will have enough time to put the pieces back together.
MATTHEWS: It has been a fascinating interview. I just met two super delegates who think they shouldn‘t be super delegates. They should, if anybody. They don‘t think there should be super delegates. The voters should decide these things, what a Democratic idea. Thank you very much, US Congressman Zach Space of Ohio, US Congressman Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania.
Up next, Hillary Clinton says Barack Obama isn‘t winning over working families. What‘s Clinton up to as this campaign winds down? Why does she keep hit this point, white people, working families? Why does she keep grinding it in that Barack can‘t win them? This is HARDBALL, only MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix. Tonight‘s round table, Chris Cillizza of the “Washington Post, MSNBC‘s political analyst Michelle Bernard, and Phil Bronstein, the editor at large of the “San Francisco Chronicle.” Sir, thank you.
Phil, I have to ask you, all the way from California and San Francisco; we just had Howard Wolfson come on and say that one of the metrics the Clinton people have come up with is, if they lose the votes here in terms of elected delegates, if they lose here in terms of popular vote, they will use the popular vote from Puerto Rico to claim victory. What do you think of that latest development in this changing of score cards?
PHIL BRONSTEIN, “SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE”: You know, you talk about the card, and there has been a lot of talk about using the race card, Hillary Clinton using the race card, Chris; I‘ll tell you something, if a donkey walked got in a polling station and cast a vote for Hillary Clinton, she would be playing the animal card. She‘s going to play any card she can play at this point. She‘s—
I don‘t like musicals, but it is like “Dream Girls.” She‘s on the stage saying, no I won‘t leave. the curtain will come down anyway. And the question is how much scenery is she going to take with her and how many members of the audience?
MATTHEWS: Bronstein, you are something. Let‘s go to Chris Cillizza.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: I don‘t have any good animal metaphors. I think what‘s happened is that Senator Clinton, ever since she lost 12 straight races in February—from February 5th to March 4th, she loses 12 straight contests. She has relied on the good will of Democratic voters and their willingness to believe that there is a path. Now you can only make that argument for so long.
MATTHEWS: Is there still a path, Mr. Cillizza?
CILLIZZA: There is always a path. Until Barack Obama gets the—super delegates hand her the nomination.
MATTHEWS: Role of the elected delegates.
CILLIZZA: The truth of the matter, Chris, is that has been her path for quite some time now. It was very clear she wasn‘t going to overtake him in popular vote, not going to overtake in pledged delegates. It is even more stark now.
MATTHEWS: It‘s funny, Michelle, because the other night, the very hilarious Terry McAuliffe came on. It looked very good in Indiana in that early time he was on. He was laughing. He was in a great mood. He said, momentum is our new metric. It‘s not popular vote anymore. It‘s not elected delegates. Momentum. By the end of the night, I looked at the face of Bill Clinton, I didn‘t see any momentum.
Now, they are looking to Puerto Rico. I thought Harold Wolfson sitting here would laugh when I said that. Even though Puerto Rico is perfectly entitled to participate in selecting the nominee, to use their popular vote as a case for the nomination, it just seems absurd. They can‘t vote in presidential elections. They are not part of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It is absurd. I really believe that Hillary Clinton is a pragmatist and she knows that 2008 is an impossibility. I think she‘s trying to knock Barack Obama out because if John McCain wins, she has a shot at 2012. I just don‘t believe she really believes super delegates are going take this election or take the nomination from Barack Obama and give it to her. She is running for 2012.
MATTHEWS: She can‘t get it back the next time, but maybe she just wants it this time.
BERNARD: She could possibly want it this time. It is possible that she‘s willing to risk destroying the Democratic party and basically waging all-out war with a big part of the African-American community that makes up the Democratic party to get it in 2008. I think it is an absolute impossibility if she wants him out.
MATTHEWS: Phil Bronstein, if you believe—I know you‘re not a pollster, but you do look at the Field Poll and other polls out there. Is it possible that this internecine, this intermural battle between Hillary and Barack can get bad enough that it could cost the Democrats California?
BRONSTEIN: You know, that would be a pretty bad circumstance. But for now, anyway, people like the chairman of the California Democratic party, Bob Mullholand (ph), who is an adviser to the Democratic party, they are loving thing. They are super delegates. They are uncommitted. They say this is great for the party. The level of interest that it has brought to the table—you know, there is a question about John McCain. Is John McCain getting an appropriate amount of scrutiny? Of course he is not because everybody is focused on this.
So I think that, you know, there will be a little bit of the Monday morning blues after it is all over, thinking like where is all the excitement? I—
MATTHEWS: Pastor Hagee doesn‘t get as much attention as Jeremiah Wright. Pastor Hagee is the guy that calls the Catholic Church, of which I‘m a member, the big fat whore, or whatever he calls it. He gets away with that.
BRONSTEIN: He—you know, McCain was not a member of the church for 20 years. They are not close.
MATTHEWS: Too close.
BRONSTEIN: It is true that there is a different standard. There is a different standard.
MATTHEWS: Yes, that‘s a problem of journalism. We can only cover one of the big rings. The front ring that was burning for a while was Jeremiah Wright. I want to ask you something about the turn of fate. Something happened Tuesday night. It was called the results, not punditry, not anything Tim Russert or anybody else said. What happened Tuesday night is a turn in the electorate, that all the numbers going into the past weekend, Phil and everybody, were looking towards a swamping and perhaps a double win for Hillary Clinton. Because her own numbers were leaking out. She was two points ahead and gaining in North Carolina. She was rolling up to maybe double digits or close to it in Indiana.
Something happened that was real. Was it that the story of Jeremiah Wright jumped the shark, as we like to say; people were just tired of hearing it? Was it that her plan for giving people a tax-free summer on federal taxes on gasoline looked like a stunt? What changed everything?
CILLIZZA: Let me say two things. One, I think what you point out, Chris, what changed in some ways and why it was so powerful is the over-turning of expectations. Remember, Senator Clinton—
MATTHEWS: That‘s what I‘m talking about.
CILLIZZA: -- saying, all we are going to have to do is split Indiana.
MATTHEWS: What changed?
CILLIZZA: I think, in part, the gas tax. I will tell you why: in Indiana, Senator Clinton—I think they thought this was going to be a silver bullet for them. It seemed like such an obvious political winner.
We are for giving you relief now. Barack Obama is saying well, in a dream
in an ideal world, we would like to solve this energy problem. It seems like in politics that makes sense.
The problem was, you look at the exit poll, honest and trustworthy, again we come back to it, 53 percent—just 53 percent of people in Indiana said Senator Clinton was honest and trustworthy. They just didn‘t believe that what she was selling them was the right bill of goods. If made Barack Obama‘s argument, which, if you watch it, was not on the merits of his own proposal. It was simply that this is political pandering. This is old politics. This doesn‘t work anymore. Voters are ready to hear that. And therefore, the political efficacy of the—
MATTHEWS: Do you buy the fact that the voters thought it was flim flam? They said this is gimmickry. If you look at our numbers, which I always believe faithfully, for the first time Hillary Clinton did not roll up an advantage on those voters that care most about the economy. Something settled it back to 50/50. She didn‘t gain on the issues she‘s always used as her trump card.
BERNARD: I think Barack Obama struck back hard. I think people thought of it as political pandering and said, we are smarter than this. We know you can pass a gas tax in three months.
MATTHEWS: By the way, here is Hillary Clinton talking on “USA Today.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How does Hillary Clinton win the nomination?
CLINTON: Well, there was just an AP article posted that found how Senator Obama‘s support among working—hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how the, you know, whites in both states who had not completed college are supporting me. And in independents, I was running even with them, and doing even better with Democratic leading independents. I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Mistake for Hillary to say white voters, to be so raw about it?
BERNARD: She is stating what some of the polls have showed. But basically, what she is saying is he can‘t win the nomination because white people won‘t vote for him. We know that‘s wrong.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Chris Cillizza. Thank you, Michelle Bernard. Thank you, my buddy, Phil Bronstein from San Francisco. We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: I‘d like to say something now about the founding of the state of Israel 60 years ago. The first time I visited that incredible country was in 1971, when it was still in the afterglow of its wondrous victory against all sides in the Six-Day War. I remember sitting in a restaurant—it was really more of a bar. There was as an older fellow, who had had a few, loudly proclaimed his pride in a group of young soldiers who had just entered the room. How exciting to be in such a little country that had just taken on such tough odds and won.
Being a movie buff, I spent a lot of time in movie theaters in Israel, where everybody is a movie buff. I remember looking down at the Uzi lying on the seat next to me, that had been brought along by a young woman member of the IDF, the Israeli Defense Force, sitting near me. Talk about a self reliant country, where some guy‘s date is carrying along an automatic weapon along for the date. Yes, I‘ve been back a trio of times since and I have loved the mix of the old and the new in Israel, the mix of the three great religious sites side by side in the old city of Jerusalem, where I, as a Christian, love to visit the old church of the Holy Sepulcher.
I feel at home in Israel and have nothing but joy and goodwill and Shalom to wish to this great and gutsy country on its 60th anniversary.
Join us again tomorrow night for more HARDBALL. Right now it‘s time for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE with David Gregory.
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