Guests: Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd, Howard Fineman, George F. Will, David Kuo, Tony Perkins, Michelle Bernard, Margaret Carlson, Phil Bronstein
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The gathering of the forces. The Democrats have four months to unite for change. Can they get it done?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. Tonight, home alone. Barack Obama began this week free of the challenge from Hillary Clinton and with two goals in mind, winning over Hillary‘s supporters and winning states that have been going Republican before. That‘s why he was in North Carolina today, a state Democrats haven‘t won since 1976, taking aim at John McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... because for all of his talk about independence, the centerpiece of John McCain‘s economic plan amounts to a full-throated endorsement of George Bush‘s policies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Can Obama win Hillary‘s supporters, or will some follow through on their promise—threat, perhaps—to vote for McCain or stay home? And after her concession speech on Saturday, will Hillary do what it takes to make sure her voters become Obama voters?
Also, both Obama and John McCain are hoping to expand the political map, their maps, and win states their party lost four years ago. We‘ll talk to one of the giants of American political commentary, George F. Will, about who has the edge right now to make it to the White House.
Plus, the problem Obama has with Hillary voters he needs may be matched by the problem McCain has with evangelical voters that he needs. Does McCain have a prayer in November if he doesn‘t turn those evangelicals around?
And in the “Politics Fix” tonight, why doesn‘t someone remind the Democrats it‘s the economy, stupid? Why aren‘t they pounding McCain every day on the economy?
And on the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight, exactly how big a discount are Hillary campaign souvenirs going for now? You can bet pretty high.
But first: Can Barack Obama win over Hillary Clinton‘s hard-core supporters? “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst. Chuck Todd‘s the political director for NBC News. And NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell has covered the White House, has covered the Clinton campaign. She‘s covered everything.
Andrea, it‘s so great to have you on. I want you to give me an assessment, having been out in the field with the Hillary people, having been to so many of those rallies, can you delineate what percentage of the Hillary voters are zealots for Hillary, per se, and what percent are just Democrats, who, given a choice between Hillary and Barack, chose Hillary?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think as this campaign progressed, and as Barack Obama became more popular, most of the people you saw at Hillary Clinton rallies were really passionate about Hillary Clinton because Democrats—average Democrats could find other candidates early in the process. And then, of course, Barack Obama was the one generating the huge crowds.
But the people who came to Hillary Clinton rallies really love her, have loved her for years. And they are the people that have to be won over, not the professionals, not the money people because they are already going to fall in line, many of them. A lot of the big fund raisers will, as a matter of rote, contribute the maximum $2,300 or $4,600 a couple to Barack Obama, even if they won‘t do a whole lot more.
MATTHEWS: I‘m talking about the regular people in the crowds that don‘t have 2,300 bucks to spare but come to these rallies, who vote for Hillary Clinton.
MATTHEWS: Do they have a problem with Barack Obama, or they just have a real devotion to Hillary Clinton?
MITCHELL: Well, I think that there are differences among them, and I think that some, who worry most about issues like the Supreme Court, can be persuaded to vote for the Democrat, vote for Barack Obama. There will be some who are still resistant. But I think that a lot of these people can be won over. And there are already steps—we‘re told, at least, some of the top negotiators and lawyers for Hillary Clinton are in Chicago meeting with their counterparts at the Obama headquarters, talking about what role she will have, what to do about these financial arrangements and paying off the debt.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go—I want your thoughts first, before we (INAUDIBLE) I want to know—forget the bold-face names, Gloria Steinem, Ellen Malcom, these people. They‘re going to have to work out their own institutional relationships with the campaign. In fact, the Hillary campaign people have to work them out. But the working person from Scranton, wherever else, those people that voted for Hillary because they think that she‘s better for them in terms of economic issues, women‘s issues per se, are they going to vote for McCain, the pro-lifer, the hawk?
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: No, I think the thing they‘ve got to worry about them is showing up. I mean, I think that the real fight for these folks that could find themselves not comfortable with Barack Obama is that they may stay home. They may write the name in. They may write Hillary‘s name in. Or they may vote for John McCain. I think it‘s small. I think it‘s 10 percent. You know, I think it‘s a very small...
MATTHEWS: Of the 18 million?
TODD: Of the 18 million. Absolutely. It‘s still significant. And it could be significant in—you know—I mean, look—but it‘s not as you prefaced in your opener. It‘s not any bigger of a problem for Obama than McCain has with evangelicals. In fact, I would argue it might be a one-to-one ratio.
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Chris, let me turn the telescope around and go back to my hometown, a Polish church on Polish Hill in Pittsburgh. I interviewed for “Newsweek” seven or eight ladies of a certain age who are Democrats who were dyed-in-the-wool Hillary fans. They volunteered in this church to clean it up because they couldn‘t afford the janitorial help and they were doing it themselves. They were all for Hillary.
What they didn‘t like about Obama, they all told me, was that he was a little cocky, that he was unprepared, he wasn‘t quite ready. He hadn‘t waited his turn. Now, if that‘s their only objection to him, and if Hillary‘s out of the way and if Hillary‘s saying, You can trust this guy and vote for him, and if all the local Democratic politicians in Pennsylvania are going to be working for Obama, which they will, I would bet that five or six of those seven—they‘ll all support Obama. But Chuck put his finger on the big question.
Will they make the extra effort? Will they get in the van? Will they call somebody? Will they come down? And that‘s where the Obama organization is going to have to come through. It‘s been a superb organization. It‘s going to try to infuse the Democratic structure throughout the country with people to draw those people out...
FINEMAN: If they can do them, they‘ll get...
FINEMAN: They‘ll get those ladies in that church.
MATTHEWS: They‘ve got to get the Obama-ites to go get the Hillary-ites to vote.
FINEMAN: Right. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s take a look at—and I want Andrea to pick up on this. Take a look right now at what Obama said today about Senator Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I want to take one more minute to thank Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for the kind and generous support she offered on Saturday.
OBAMA: She ran—she ran a historic race, a historic campaign that shattered barriers on behalf of my daughters and women everywhere. What‘s more, she inspired millions of women and men with her strength and her courage and her unyielding commitment to the causes that brought us here today, the hopes and aspirations of working Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Andrea, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll, if Obama does not pick Hillary Clinton as his vice presidential running mate, 22 percent of Clinton voters say they‘ll sit out the election, 17 percent of her voters say they‘re going to vote for McCain. So she has a 40 percent problem—or rather, he does—with her voters if he doesn‘t pick her. Do you believe that‘s going to hold?
MITCHELL: No, I don‘t. I think that this is the raw emotion, the aftermath of her having dropped out of the race on Saturday, and it‘s still being absorbed by her and by her supporters.
Interestingly, John McCain also is making a pitch for those voters, though. On his Web site right now, there is a picture—first of all, there‘s a blog on his Web site about how great Hillary Clinton is, an obvious appeal to her voters.
MITCHELL: And there‘s a picture of John McCain and Hillary Clinton in a boat, on some foreign trip, presumably. When I first looked at it, I mistakenly thought it was John McCain down in the Everglades last weekend on Friday with Cindy McCain, and then I realized that the woman with John McCain is Hillary Clinton. This is the new hot couple. Obviously, he‘s making a pitch, as well, for her voters.
MATTHEWS: Your cheatin‘ heart, huh?
FINEMAN: I can‘t see him going to those—those ladies in that church. I can‘t see McCain going to those ladies in that church...
FINEMAN: ... and saying, Because I‘m strong on national defense and because I want $7 trillion or whatever in additional tax cuts, you should vote for me. I just don‘t see it. Now, Chuck still makes the main point. Will they show up for her? We don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: You know what blows my mind about the—go ahead. Your point.
TODD: No, that these national polls are going to matter in this veep thing over the next six weeks. If he doesn‘t experience a bounce, you‘re going to have a lot of Clinton people whispering, He needs me.
FINEMAN: You mean Obama does?
TODD: If Obama doesn‘t get this bounce, if Obama doesn‘t get a healthy lead, then, suddenly, his hand on the VP stuff is not as good of a hand, not as strong of a hand.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me—let me...
TODD: And he needs that bounce to try to be able to be comfortable telling Senator Clinton, Thanks but no.
MATTHEWS: This is old school, what I‘m going to say right now. This is very old school, but you‘re going to hear it from me. I don‘t understand why the Democratic Party doesn‘t do to the Republicans what the Republicans did to the Democrats back in 1980, when we had a fuel crisis. You‘ve got gasoline going to 5 bucks a gallon. Everybody knows that. It could be at $6, for all I know, by November. Why don‘t they blame it all on Halliburton, the oil industry, the Republicans in bed with the oil industry, the profits of these guys...
MITCHELL: Well, is that...
MATTHEWS: ... in the oil patch? They‘re hanging out with the Saudi princes and kings. Why don‘t the Democrats stick it to the Republicans and say, You guys are in bed with the bad guys who are reaping the profits while we‘re getting killed at the pump. Why don‘t they just be political, Howard?
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t they do that? Republicans would have done it.
FINEMAN: Well, a couple things. Obama is a radical strategist. In other words, his campaign strategy was outside-the-box thinking and very daring, very daring, and I think his general election strategy is going to be very daring tactically. But personally and politically, he‘s not a bomb thrower and he‘s not...
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t it time to throw...
FINEMAN: He‘s not...
MATTHEWS: ... a strike?
FINEMAN: But he‘s not a risk taker. So he goes down to North Carolina today, and he gives a fairly routine, fairly tepid speech about the economy, barely talks about this subject, yet alone do the things you‘re saying.
MATTHEWS: Andrea, your thought? I‘m sorry.
MITCHELL: I was just going to say...
MATTHEWS: I‘m asking...
MITCHELL: ... political process—I think he was political today. He talked about ExxonMobil. He tried to blame John McCain for the oil profits of those companies. He talked about taxing them more. He really did hammer McCain pretty hard today down in North Carolina, watching the speech. So I think he was beginning to tack that way.
But when you get back to those women and the women in that church, Howard is absolutely right. I think on some core Democratic values, they will worry about Social Security and the Democrats will try to scare them about John McCain and Social Security. That was one part of the speech today. And they can be brought home.
I think that they will worry about, quote, “experience.” Some of the older women who wanted so passionately to see a woman elected president, frankly, before the time ran out for them, the women in their 80s, and, in fact, some people I know in their 90s, who say—the older women who talk to me, they say, you know, This was our turn. We wanted it. They are the most bitter. But they are core Democrats, most of them...
MITCHELL: ... and they can be brought back.
MATTHEWS: I think those are the older women that might well have voted for John Kennedy, and he was the youngest candidate to run.
TODD: Well, let me go back to...
MATTHEWS: He ran at 43.
TODD: ... Obama‘s speech today. You‘ll notice in it, he started borrowing from Clinton. He started sounding—being a little more prescriptive...
MATTHEWS: He‘s smart.
TODD: You know, like every good nominee, you borrow from...
TODD: You borrow your opponent‘s better playbook. And what you described about the gas...
MATTHEWS: Going to people‘s needs.
TODD: That‘s exactly what the Clintons have always done very well. They go right at it, and they go right at it quickly. And then sometimes, you get pushed back, and Obama proved that you can pushed back on...
FINEMAN: Those older women voters will respond to that. Those older women core Democratic voters would respond exactly to what you‘re talking about.
MATTHEWS: I think you go at the big stuff and you go at it as, you know, Do you like the high price of gas? Do you like the fact that Social Security‘s been played with for the last eight years with different proposals and schemes?
TODD: And you can‘t use the phrase “windfall profits tax” because nobody knows what that means.
MATTHEWS: No, you just blame Dick Cheney for being paid by an oil company while he‘s in office. You do that over and over again.
FINEMAN: Obama‘s getting there. He‘ll sound like Tip O‘Neil before...
MATTHEWS: I just don‘t understand it. No, Ronald Reagan and the Republicans talked just like this in 1980. Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman. I hate to teach politics to the experts, but it‘s fun. Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell. Thank you, Andrea, as always.
MITCHELL: You bet.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, map quest. Both Obama and McCain try to expand their political maps. They‘re trying to win 270 electoral votes. Who‘s got the biggest problem, Barack Obama or John McCain? We got George F. Will, one of the giants, joining us in just a moment.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When it comes to the economy, John McCain and I have a fundamentally different vision of where to take the country because for all of his talk about independence, the centerpiece of John McCain‘s economic plan amounts to a full-throated endorsement of George Bush‘s policies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama says that I‘m running for Bush‘s third term. It seems to me he‘s running for Jimmy Carter‘s second.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s deep. Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. That‘s how the campaign‘s going to go, apparently. That was John McCain today in an interview, doing tit for tat in an interview with Brian Williams on tonight‘s “NBC Nightly News.”
Well, both Obama and McCain hammered each other on the issue of the economy just today. Can McCain separate himself from President Bush‘s economic record, and can he win over those evangelical voters who voted for Bush in 2004 without sacrificing the women he‘s apparently starting to court, those Hillary people?
Anyway, George F. Will, as everybody knows, is a political columnist. He‘s written a new book, I believe his 13th. It‘s called “One Man‘s America.” There it is. We hold it here in real life, as well as on television. George, thank you for joining us.
GEORGE F. WILL, POLITICAL COLUMNIST: Glad to be here.
MATTHEWS: You set the pace for many of us. So many nights here on HARDBALL, we talk about the dilemma of the Democrats trying to reunite after the Hillary/Barack division, the war between the states and the Democratic Party. Does the Republican Party face a similar threat of disunity?
WILL: It‘s probably worse than the Democrats because when they talk about uniting the two wings of the Democratic Party, it‘s the left wing and another left wing? I mean, what‘s the difference? They have one substantive difference, and that is mandates or no mandates on health care. Beyond that, it‘s a wash. As someone, I wish I could remember who, said, they‘re as alike, Clinton and Obama, as the Everly Brothers.
The Republicans have real cultural differences that have been played down in the heat of the others, and that is—it has to do with whether John McCain can attract the evangelical Christians. This matters because in 2006, Republican candidates got more votes from evangelical Christians than Democratic candidates got from union workers and African-Americans combined. Forty-six percent of all Republican voters in 2006 were white Christians. This explains good things like the strength of the party, such as it is, and bad things, such as the Terri Schiavo affair.
MATTHEWS: Well, how do the Republican Party, if it‘s so evangelical -
how do they vote in vast numbers, necessary numbers, for a guy who believes in campaign reform, who doesn‘t support the issues they believe in, who believes in climate change and all the issues that seem to threaten traditional evangelical values?
WILL: Here‘s how. On inauguration day, 2009, six Supreme Court Justices will be 70 years old or older. Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be 76. John Paul Stevens will be 88. It is the courts they care about and the courts are up for grabs.
MATTHEWS: How does he choose between the evangelical vote and the Hillary vote? He seems to be going for both in the same day.
WILL: Well, I think he feels that his persona, his whole, I‘m a warrior, I‘ve been here, I‘ve suffered, will appeal to these people who think they are suffering.
MATTHEWS: The women voters, as a group, who vote Democrat, tend to be pro-choice. It‘s a poor choice of words, but it means they believe, ultimately, the woman gets to decide whether to have an abortion or not, not the state. How can John McCain appeal to that point of view?
WILL: You mean those are women who believe, in the words of Barack Obama, that they shouldn‘t be punished with a baby?
WILL: Got it.
MATTHEWS: Another infelicitous comment, yes.
WILL: I suspect, Chris, that three quarters of the country at this point does not know that John McCain is pro-life. They think because he‘s a maverick, and maverick means disagreeing with your party, he probably disagrees with the party on that. They‘re wrong. And I think once the Democrats make that known, as surely they will, these people will come scampering back to the Democratic Party in droves.
MATTHEWS: What is the image of this man we‘re looking at with his—with Cindy McCain? What is the image to him to the people in the churches, in the pews, who get their politics essentially from their religious beliefs?
WILL: I think he‘s—they think, he‘s not of one us, but he‘s not one of our enemies. And they tend to think they have enemies.
And I think, again, given the choice between John McCain and Barack Obama‘s judges, this is an easy call.
MATTHEWS: So, he‘s a conservative, but not a movement conservative?
MATTHEWS: Is that enough for them?
WILL: I think so.
Here‘s what I will challenge you on, because I think it‘s—I‘m not challenging you—I think I‘m agreeing with your central point. In 2000, there was 200 -- there was 105 million voters in this country, 105 million. That blossomed up to about 122 million voters. And that differential of 17 million has been attributed to the evangelical embrace of George W. Bush.
Will that remain part of American politics in 2008?
WILL: The question is, in my judgment, did they maximize that embrace the last time around? And, this time, will the Democrats pull past them, because Barack Obama is changing, I think, A, the size, and, B, the composition of the electorate.
I think an enormous number of polls are unreliable now, because a poll is only as reliable as its template for turnout. And I don‘t think we know that. Look at the turnout, Chris, say, in the Georgia primary. Barack Obama got well more than twice as many votes as Huckabee, who finished first, and McCain, second, combined.
In Iowa, it‘s not clear how you measure the Democratic vote. We don‘t get an exact number in the Iowa caucuses. But it‘s pretty clear that Barack Obama got more votes than the combined votes of Huckabee, McCain, Paul, Giuliani—and I‘m missing someone in there—Mitt Romney, those five combined.
It seems to me that the strength of the Democratic Party, as it has grown through the primary process, puts Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina, and even Georgia in play.
MATTHEWS: America has two historic instincts. One is to take a chance during times of stress, when you have to try. In 1980, had to try Reagan. In 1932, had to try Roosevelt.
They have another instinct: caution. Who wins?
WILL: This time around? It will be Barack Obama‘s challenge to say that change and caution, risk and caution are the same thing this time, because the risk is to continue with, A, what he will say are the Bush economic policies, and, he will say, the danger of a war with Iran from a man who has said, as John McCain as, that, bad as a war with Iran would be, it‘s not as bad as their getting nuclear weapons, and since there seems to be no other way other than war to stop them.
MATTHEWS: Incredibly incisive. I will take that to heart because I agree with it.
Anyway, George F. Will.
MATTHEWS: Because, with John McCain, you‘re getting a very clear foreign policy. And Barack Obama can offer that as a risk, rather than a caution.
Anyway, thank you George F. Will.
Your book, another great book, a great columnist, of course—perhaps the greatest columnist—“One Man‘s America.”
WILL: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: George F. Will.
Up next: Do you think the price of a gallon of gas is high now? Well, wait until you hear how much it will cost Hillary Clinton to win each of her delegates. Wait until you catch this number. I know it‘s cruel, but somebody went out and figured out—“The New York Daily News”—how much you have to pay to lose in this business now.
That‘s on the “HARDBALL” “Sideshow” tonight when we return.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Time now for the HARDBALL sigh show.
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay rose to power with his hard-nose willingness to pound fellow Republicans into line, into voting the way he told them to. Well, it looks like the old hammer man has lost his manage.
“The Washington Times”—that trumpet of conservatism—asked DeLay about a prediction by former fellow endorser Dick Armey that many Republicans would vote Libertarian in House races this year.
Here‘s Tom DeLay‘s reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM DELAY ®, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I agree with that. I‘m trying to convince my wife not to do that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is going to vote for Bob Barr?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s interesting. Yes. There you go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your wife is going to vote for Bob Barr for president?
DELAY: Yes. She said it publicly yesterday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: His wife‘s going to vote for Ron Paul, not the Republican.
Apparently, the Hammer is having trouble nailing his own wife‘s vote into proper place this election.
And Mike Huckabee to the rescue—while at the Republican‘s North Carolina convention breakfast this weekend, that plausible V.P. candidate Huckabee noticed lieutenant governor candidate Robert Pittenger choking and immediately got up and began performing the Heimlich maneuver on him.
Huckabee told ABC News this is the third time he has saved someone from choking by using the Heimlich, saying—quote—“I was trained as an EMT”—that‘s an emergency medical technician—“while in college. It‘s a very simple procedure that everyone ought to learn,” he said, “especially if they have kids.”
As an old pal of mine used to say, today‘s peacock, tomorrow‘s feather duster. Check out this scene at this hotel gift shop in Richmond, Virginia, where McCain held his fund-raiser this weekend -- 75 percent off Hillary souvenirs. That‘s the free market for you, 75 percent off—already—on Hillary gear.
And there are even more eruptions over this month‘s “Vanity Fair” profile about Bill Clinton. While detailing Clinton‘s—Well, how should I say this? -- questionable company he‘s been keeping, the “Vanity Fair” article had this item—quote—“Clinton has been seen visiting with the actress Gina Gershon in California”—end quote.
Well, the “Rescue Me” actress had this to say today on “Live With Regis and Kelly.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LIVE WITH REGIS & KELLY”)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have got to ask you, what‘s with the craziness with the “Vanity Fair” article linking you with our former president, Clinton?
GINA GERSHON, ACTRESS: Yes. Yes. That is kind of crazy.
You know, I haven‘t really talked about this, but...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
GERSHON: ... you know, it was my day off. And, all of a sudden, I read this thing. You know what? It is such a crazy, outrageous lie that really has nothing to do with me at the end of the day, you know? It‘s more...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you even know him? Is he a friend of yours or...
GERSHON: I have met him three times at events at the White House or,
you know, different places. And you know what‘s disgusting to me? These -
these journalists, these irresponsible journalists, they are not accountable for anything. There‘s no accountability. And I don‘t know. I just think it‘s wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well,” Vanity Fair” says it stands by that story.
And it‘s time now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”
According to today‘s “New York Daily News,” Hillary Clinton spent more money to lose a primary election than the other candidate—any other candidate in Democratic Party history. In what emerged as a protracted five-month fight for delegates, just how much money did the Clinton campaign end up spending per delegate? -- $109,823 -- $109,823 per delegate. It‘s over $100,000 per, a costly battle that has now left the Clinton campaign $30 million in debt -- $109,823, that‘s tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Speaking of the “Sideshow,” I spent this weekend riding horses and talking politics out in North Dakota. What do you think? There it is.
I think I look pretty good.
Anyway, up next: keeping the faith or trying to—why McCain and evangelicals my not be the match that was made in heaven.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
COURTNEY REAGAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Courtney Reagan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks closing mixed this Monday, after Friday‘s bit sell-off, the Dow Jones industrial gaining 70 points, the S&P 500 picking up one point, but the Nasdaq falling 15.
Oil prices slipping—after big gains last Thursday and Friday, crude fell $4.19, closing in New York at $134.35 a barrel. Meantime, Saudi Arabia is calling on oil-producing and oil-consuming nations to hold a summit on soaring prices.
Some positive news from the home front: Pending sales of existing homes unexpectedly rose more than 6 percent in April from the previous month. However, pending home sales were still down more than 13 percent from a year ago.
And Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled a next-generation iPhone with faster Internet access and satellite navigation capabilities. Apple is also cutting the price of the entry-level units in half to $199.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Christian conservatives have been a reliable voting bloc for Republican now—Republicans for years, particularly George W. Bush. But this group appears to be giving John McCain a lukewarm reception.
Can McCain win them over, or can Obama peal away some of them?
I‘m joined by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, and David Kuo of LibertyWire.com, who used to work for George W. Bush in the office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
So, just an overview now, Tony. The question is, how‘s he doing with church people, John McCain?
TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: I think he has a lot of ground to cover.
I think there is—I heard George Will earlier talk about how they recognize he‘s not one of them, but he‘s OK. OK is not good enough. I think there—there‘s no intensity in the base. You compare 2004 to 2008. In 2004, as I was traveling the country, and people were saying, what are we going to do, as in, what are we going to do to get George Bush reelected?
Today, the question is, what are we going to do? And it‘s a big difference.
MATTHEWS: Those 17,000 votes that—or 17 million votes that showed up in 2004 that hadn‘t showed up in 2000, will they show up in 2008?
PERKINS: But those were not—those were not all evangelical voters.
Those were value voters that were drawn to the polls based on the value issues that George Bush embraced. Now, remember, in Ohio, a key state, George Bush doubled his African-American support.
PERKINS: A lot of these voters were crossover voters, and even independent voters.
MATTHEWS: Because of the marriage vote in Ohio.
So, the idea to say that all independents are moderates or they‘re liberals is simply a misunderstanding. And to say that all value voters are evangelicals is also a misunderstanding. There‘s a large section out there that connects on those type of issues, which he‘s missing by not talking.
MATTHEWS: So, evangelicals are a subset of a larger values group?
DAVID KUO, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF FAITH-BASED AND
COMMUNITY INITIATIVES: No, he‘s right.
I mean, actually, if you go back and look at the Pew typologies that were done after the 2004 midterms, you have this group called upbeats that, in some ways, they‘re sort of the modern Reagan Democrats. And what it showed is, some of them were highly religious. A lot of them weren‘t.
But I think you go back to what you‘re talking about here with McCain and evangelicals. I think McCain‘s success with evangelicals will depend completely on Obama‘s success with evangelicals, because, at the end of the day...
KUO: Hold on a second.
At the end of the day, John McCain‘s issues may be in line with what evangelical voters believe. Obama sounds like an evangelical.
PERKINS: That is true. I mean, it sounds as if the Democrats have gotten religion, and the Republicans have become agnostic and run off with the church organist.
MATTHEWS: Tony, you‘re a conservative. When you hear John—when you hear Barack Obama speaking, do you hear a religious person?
PERKINS: I hear someone who understands the dynamics of faith.
I mean, let me just say, in a conservative church this weekend, a man came up to me. This guy‘s a police officer. So, he would be well-informed, I would consider. He asked me. He said, look, I would like to ask you a question: John McCain or Barack Obama? Which way do we go?
And I said, well, let‘s look at the issues and where they line up on the issues. Once I went through that process, he says, that‘s what I thought, but I just wasn‘t sure.
You know, when you go at that superficial level of simply the political conversation or political rhetoric, there‘s no question that Barack Obama is sounding those—the right notes.
MATTHEWS: You mean the music is right?
PERKINS: The music is right. He‘s got different words, but—and he‘s still at risk of having his faith defined by Jeremiah Wright. That‘s still an issue...
PERKINS: ... that‘s going to plague him for some time.
KUO: You know, what‘s interesting, though, is, if you hear—if you listened to what he said Tuesday night, even when you listened to his words about global warming, he said, you know, and the waters will recede, all right?
The way he‘s talking, you know, he‘s using these sort of political buzzwords that say to evangelical voters, to all religious voters: I‘m one of you. I know who you‘re talking about.
KUO: And he‘s learning from George W. Bush, who did that in 2000 and 2004.
And think about this. George Bush talked about God, mentioning God less than most other presidents in the last 50 years. But he used the sort of buzzwords and code words to really mobilize evangelicals. Obama is learning...
MATTHEWS: Here‘s McCain. Here‘s McCain‘s—I want to ask you guys about McCain. Here‘s McCain, who appealed in the Florida primary with pro-choice Republicans. In other words, people who identify themselves as supporting abortion rights for women voted for John McCain, who the record shows is pro-life, says he‘s pro-life.
Can he get those women to vote for him by maintaining that sort of ambiguity, and, at the same time, win the passion of the religious right? Can he do that?
PERKINS: I don‘t think people get excited about what‘s in the middle.
I mean, I think God‘s not the only one tired of lukewarm.
MATTHEWS: But he is in the middle.
PERKINS: I mean, no, I think that people—in order to get strong support, the intensity that he needs, he‘s got to stand on one side or the other.
He does have that record. He has a pro-life voting record. The only difference that he has right now with pro-lifers is the embryonic stem cell research issue. But he doesn‘t talk about it. It‘s like he doesn‘t want people to know where he stands on that issue.
MATTHEWS: That‘s like in bed at night; somebody‘s got to pull the sheets and blankets when it gets cold. Somebody gets them and somebody doesn‘t. How can he continue to be seen as a pro-choice Republican and appeal to your people? You‘re saying he can‘t continue to do that.
KOI: Part of his problem is success is success is his problem. Any other Republican than John McCain right now would be in the deepest world of hurt, right? His independence is what‘s making him a viable presidential candidate.
MATTHEWS: He‘s appealing to the pro-choice women, the Ellen Malcoms of the world. He‘s out there appealing to the pro-choice, militant women who voted for Hillary and didn‘t win with her. He‘s trying to get them.
KOI: Obama is the one on offense. If we‘re going to take the sports metaphor, in this game Obama‘s on offense.
MATTHEWS: Really? What‘s McCain doing poaching with the Democrats, trying to win women voters?
KOI: He‘s trying to take the momentum from Obama. At the end of the day, not to use the hackney phrase, it‘s all about Obama. Right now, it‘s mostly about Obama.
PERKINS: There‘s this idea that the 17 million and the evangelical base is going a go to him because they‘re going to be so scared about Barack Obama that they‘re going to vote for him. He over reaches them to go to the independent voters.
MATTHEWS: Because of Mitt Romney, for example.
PERKINS: This has been the election cycle miscalculation.
MATTHEWS: If he picks Mitt Romney, you think that‘s a big mistake, right?
PERKINS: I think because of the concerns that many conservatives had about the authenticity of Mitt Romney, that would be an issue. I think he needs someone who speaks the conservative language and who is understood to be a conservative, who can rally that base so that he can reach independents. You cannot take for granted that the social conservatives are going to be there and they‘re going to vote.
They‘re going—are they going to—is going be a mass migration to the Democratic side? No, I don‘t think there will be. What we‘re talking about ambivalence, a lack of enthusiasm.
MATTHEWS: Another Bob Dole?
KOI: I think the fact that you have Evangelical leaders who are deeply ambivalent says something else, which is Evangelicals are increasingly trying to declare a certain measure of independence from the Republican party. They‘re to the Republican party, you can‘t count on us automatically. We‘re not just—
MATTHEWS: I have never seen two political parties in such disrepair, where both are struggling to hold their unity.
PERKINS: Because they‘re moving away from their base. They‘re moving away from that which attracted people as --
MATTHEWS: Thank you for joining us. Thank you David. Thank you Tony Perkins.
Up next, the politics fix. It‘s the economy stupid, right? So why aren‘t the Democrats making that point? Why aren‘t they demagoguing this issue, to be blunt about it? This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix. Tonight‘s round table, MSNBC analyst Michelle Bernard, Margaret Carlson of “Bloomberg,” and Phil Bronstein” of the Hearst Newspapers and the “San Francisco Chronicle.”
I want to start with this question of gas. I made this point before. I do not understand why the Democrats are so slow off the mark at exploiting the normal conditions that change governments. When the economy sucks, when you have a recession on the front pages of the newspapers and on the unemployment lists, the numbers again this Friday, you have recession. When you have gas that‘s going up maybe five or six dollars a gallon, when people don‘t have any money left, why don‘t the Democrats run on the economy and keep it simple, stupid?
MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree with you. It‘s the economy, stupid.
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t they just keep is it simple? Just do it.
BERNARD: Both of these candidates are trying to turn the nation‘s discussion to Iraq. The only thing Americans care about right now are pocketbook issue, gasoline, food prices, being number one and number two on the list. Frankly, the Republicans and the Democrats need to make this their big-ticket item. That‘s what the American public wants to talk about.
MATTHEWS: Dick Cheney is getting income from an oil company. He had private meetings with industry oil people to fix the energy policy of this country. Oil is making a fortune, big oil. The president‘s dancing around with Saudi kings. Everything says they‘re the bad guys. I‘m talking politics. Why don‘t the Democrats do the obvious?
MARGARET CARLSON, “BLOOMBERG”: Well, isn‘t Obama doing the obvious?
MATTHEWS: I don‘t hear it.
CARLSON: He‘s switching the topic to the economy. He‘s off doing the economy. Now, he doesn‘t seem unafraid when it goes back to national security. But it‘s so well known that when the subject is national security, women vote for Republicans. It‘s what confuses Freud‘s question, what do women want? When it‘s about food on the table, gas prices, health care or education, women vote Democratic.
He should stay away from national security. He should stick where he is this week on the economy and wrap himself around the gas pump.
MATTHEWS: Phil, I remember the chief economic adviser to President Bush said, if we fight this war in Iraq, we‘ll get cheaper gas.
PHIL BRONSTEIN, “SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE”: The reality is, first of all, the only person I heard lately say they don‘t know much about the economy, other than me, is John McCain. He is pretty thin on the economy. He flip-flopped on the Bush tax cut. But are we talking about a distinction without a difference here? Is the economy really about foreign policy? Is it about oil-producing countries and their stability? Is it about the price of oil and a little bit of law enforcement?
Is there really a difference here? Is there the economy over here and foreign policy over here?
MATTHEWS: And so your point is that, what? That the Democrats should
BRONSTEIN: My point is that what you‘re going to do on foreign policy, what you‘re going to do on Iraq, a billion dollars a day, really has a huge impact—sprinkle in a little immigration—has a huge impact on what happens with the economy. Turning away from Iraq and to the economy, I don‘t know, is that really a smart move? Doesn‘t the public also understand that Iraq has something to do with the economy, that the price of oil has something to do with the economy.
MATTHEWS: We had a five trillion dollar projected surplus coming into this administration. We now have a three trillion dollar projected deficit. We have a three billion dollar a week war. Do they affect the value of the dollar, Margaret Carlson from Bloomberg? Aren‘t you people supposed to know this stuff?
CARLSON: I can barely reconcile my checkbook?
MATTHEWS: You‘re with Bloomberg, and therefore I expect you to know that three billion dollars a week has an impact on the economy, and the fact that our deficit has gone from a five trillion dollar projected surplus to a three trillion dollar projected deficit over ten years. That has got to affect the value of our currency, what we pay for oil with our currency.
CARLSON: If I weren‘t at Bloomberg, I would get the connection. And what Phil says is just slightly one off, if what a Democrat should do is be wrapping himself around a gas pump every day, because we want to get to the thing that‘s out there, which is gas prices, and work your way back. That gets people‘s attention. Every time I see a news story where the gas pump is going, I kind of look at it to say, oh, yes, it says 4.25. Yikes.
So, yes, we have to get straight in the Middle East. McCain is not going to do that for us. The guy who thinks that we didn‘t make a mistake by going in, given where we are today on oil production, is not going to win an election.
MATTHEWS: Your thought, Michelle?
BERNARD: I think this is a sticky widget for either of them. I think both of the candidates are going to have to run against George Bush and they‘re going to have to find a way to talk about the economy without talking about supply and demand, because that‘s when most of the American public is going to tune out.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back with the round table for more of the politics fix. We‘ve all agreed this is a plus for the Democrats if they know how to talk. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the round table for more of the politics fix. Let‘s start with Phil Bronstein on this thing, the Hillary Clinton voter, all 18 million of them out there, ready to be grabbed by either McCain or Barack. How do you see if from out west, Phil?
BRONSTEIN: Well, it‘s sort of Hillaryville here in San Francisco, so we‘re in a good position to say. I think that Hillary Clinton is going to fight very hard to get those votes turned to Obama. Why? Not because she necessarily believes in Obama, but because she‘s looking ahead, you know, possible secretary of state. She‘s got decades in the Senate, Supreme Court. Her daughter‘s talking about politics. I think she‘s highly motivated. That‘s going to help. I think she‘s shown a lot of strength.
I don‘t want to hijack the question. Am I the only one who noticed this incredible—I got whiplash watching the change in press coverage from the day before she made the speech until the day after. From the time Obama got the magic number, she was eviscerated in the press. I still didn‘t believe in the conspiracy theory until the next day, after her speech Saturday, and suddenly the pros were heroic. Then I started believing in the conspiracy theory.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think it‘s called mathematics. Mathematics.
CARLSON: Maybe if something to do with the speech.
MATTHEWS: I think it had to do with mathematics. A lot of press coverage is studying the score card. When Barack Obama did get the requisite number—You know, we live in a world, Phil and everybody, where it‘s rare for the candidate to actually get the majority number way ahead. You have to wait until you get to the convention to get the actually number. Barack got the actual number in June.
BERNARD: He got the actually number. He got it early. Frankly, despite the negative press that Mrs. Clinton was getting, she still got all the press coverage. I think that looking at all the networks, we saw lots of people talking about the historic value of Barack Obama‘s campaign. But most of the press coverage was about Hillary, what does she want, what is she going to do next. I think the historic significance of what he has done is still lost on a large part of the nation.
CARLSON: It stepped on his story. The Clintons will never leave the building. They will always command a lot of our attention because they‘re so larger than life in all their various ways and appetites and even the way they lose.
MATTHEWS: You know, in all of this concern about gender politics, which is still hot in the land—Margaret, you first—had Hillary Clinton taken a direct position against the war in Iraq in 2002 and sustained that position, and/or corrected her vote later on and become a person who believed the war vote was wrong in 2002, do you think there would have even been an opening for a Barack Obama to come along and say he was the change candidate?
CARLSON: He might have come along. She would have captured the attention of the left wing of the party.
MATTHEWS: She would have won Iowa.
CARLSON: She might have won Iowa. Remember, Iowa, there was this underground movement by Barack Obama. He organized the state in a way she didn‘t organize it. Hillary Clinton‘s position is not that different from John McCain‘s, which is I voted for it and I‘m not taking it back.
BERNARD: Here‘s the interesting point; in voting for the Iraq war policy, Mrs. Clinton almost ran like a Republican and she really ran like a man. In the end, it could be said that‘s what did damage to this historic campaign by a woman.
MATTHEWS: She ran almost like a man?
BERNARD: She ran as a man. Most people would expect a male candidate to the person who was going to vote pro-Iraq war policy, and for a female candidate to vote against it. It was absolutely the reverse here and that‘s what hurt her in this campaign.
CARLSON: Any woman thinks she has to prove that she‘s as tough as a man and she did that early and it turned out to be to her detriment.
MATTHEWS: I‘m not touching this. Phil, you want to get in here? You can have a piece of this.
BRONSTEIN: I‘m not touching it.
MATTHEWS: Back to my original question, which I think is easier to handle politically, which is the candidate who was anti-war, I believe, would have won those early primaries, especially in Iowa, because the Democratic base is anti-war. Hillary had fudged that had issue and therefore lost the chance to be the candidate of change.
BRONSTEIN: You know, I think, here‘s another question that‘s related, and that is, was it the issue or was it the strategy of the campaign? The fact is, what was most shocking about the Obama victory was that he overcame the Clintons. As we heard a minute ago, the Clinton‘s are pretty permanent fixtures in Washington. How many times has Bill Clinton been called the smartest politician of era?
The fact that strategically he whooped them was a fascinating thing.
CARLSON: Chris, we‘re not going to answer your question. Let me say, Obama may have been able to outflank her on the war question because he was against it at the time. She was having to apologize for a vote.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me keep it simple. If she opposed the war, she would be the nominee for president?
MATTHEWS: I think so. I totally—you—I think so.
CARLSON: Michelle, we‘re wrong. The tough guy has said we‘re wrong.
MATTHEWS: No, I allow you to be—
MATTHEWS: -- as opinionated as I am. Anyway, Michelle Bernard, thank you. Margaret Carlson, thank you. Phil Bronstein. Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now, it‘s time for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE with David Gregory.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Content and programming copyright 2008 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2008 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.
Watch Hardball each weeknight