Guests: Andrea Mitchell, Howard Fineman, Roger Simon, Clarence Page, Rita Hauser, Jim Leach, Jonathan
Capehart, Jonathan Allen
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: I‘m back. Good-bye pneumonia, hello “Guess who?” Who stands in the Obama “cone of silence”? Who will be the running mate that helps the Democrats actually win?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Leading off tonight, the vice presidential sweepstakes and lots of questions today on the Democratic side. First, who‘s it going to be? We‘re hearing a lot of buzz about Senator Joe Biden, but don‘t count out Evan Bayh of Indiana or Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia, or of course, a surprise, a head fake to the short list, then a deep pass to? God and David Axelrod only know.
When will Obama name his choice? Can he really wait until Saturday, just two days before the Democratic convention, or will he try to get more media coverage by naming someone in the next couple of days?
And what? As in, what about Hillary? There‘s still talk that Obama could still go with the “team of rivals” approach. We‘ll have it all in a moment.
Plus, on the trail today, both candidates criticized each other and by name. Obama hit back at John McCain, who just yesterday accused Obama of putting political ambition above national security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have never suggested and never will that Senator McCain picks his based on politics on national security based on politics or personal ambition. Let me be clear. I will let no one question my love of this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And on an oil rig today, John McCain went after Obama on energy policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama opposed this new drilling. He said it won‘t solve our problem and that it‘s, quote, “not real.” He‘s wrong, and the American people know it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Plus, will Republicans cross party lines and support Obama? A group of prominent Republicans thinks so and has formed a group Republicans for Obama. But is this a real constituency that could influence the November results?
Also, what will play bigger in this year‘s campaign, race or age?
We‘ll take a look at what the numbers say in the “Politics Fix” tonight. And it turns out John McCain should have consulted Congressman John Lewis before saying that Lewis is someone he‘d consult in a crisis. That story in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight.
And if you want evidence that the race is getting tight, look no further than the latest Quinnipiac poll. The poll now has Obama leading John McCain by just 5 points, 47 to 42. One month ago, the same poll had Obama leading McCain by 9, 50 to 41.
Well, I am back and wondering, like everyone else—just about everyone else—who Barack Obama is going to pick as his VP running mate. The question, based up all the thinking and talking out there may be bigger, by the way, than the possible answer. Who could he pick who would, A, help him nail down the usual Democratic states like Pennsylvania and the easy reaches like Ohio, B, help him win other—some new states like Nevada and New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Virginia and North Carolina, or C, is there anyone who could do both, hold the old states, bring in the new states?
So it‘s wedding time for the Democrats. The call is for something old, like Pennsylvania, something new, like Montana, something borrowed, like North Carolina, and something blue, every state that John Kerry won.
Let‘s bring in NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell and “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman, who‘s a political analyst for this network, as well. You are the pros. An easy night, first night back for me from my pneumonia, which I‘m gradually beating. I‘ve had malaria, pneumonia, diabetes. I‘m taking them all on!
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I think we need mandatory health care.
MATTHEWS: Andrea, you are great at knowing exactly what‘s going on in American politics, to the moment. To the moment.
MATTHEWS: To the moment.
MITCHELL: To the moment...
MATTHEWS: What‘s going on with the—is John—Howard, I know. I‘ve read this, the briefing notes. You think it‘s Biden. What‘s going on??
MITCHELL: I think it‘s Biden. Biden just...
MATTHEWS: Two for Biden.
MITCHELL: A couple of hours ago, Biden left his house, got in his white pick-up and said, You‘re wasting your time, guys, I‘m not the guy, to our cameras outside...
MATTHEWS: And an American politico, that means?
MITCHELL: It means—I was a little concerned—which means...
MITCHELL: It means he has not been called yet. He‘s not been told he‘s not the guy. He is trying to deflect attention...
MATTHEWS: Oh, you‘ve opened up a little noise there. Is there word going out to the losers, like they do in the Miss America contest, and the third runner-ups, you know, who didn‘t win it? Are they telling the people they haven‘t won?
MITCHELL: They have told the fourth, fifth and six runner-ups. They have not told the top three.
MATTHEWS: Who are those, fourth, fifth and sixth?
MITCHELL: There are some people who have gotten calls.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Great. So Howard...
MATTHEWS: ... your reporting was very strong, and I read your blog today, your report, actually, on line that you do believe it is Biden.
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it‘s going that way. I think it‘s been going that way. At least, that‘s what some of the contenders think. My piece on MSNBC.com was based on having talked to two of the contenders.
MATTHEWS: And two insiders.
FINEMAN: And a couple of insiders. One of...
FINEMAN: One of the contenders is in that top three...
FINEMAN: ... and one of them I think isn‘t. I don‘t think—I think the one who is not in the top three was strongly hinted by Obama that, You‘re probably not the person...
FINEMAN: ... but not officially told because even that person was asked by Obama, Where are you going to be late Thursday? Let us know where you‘re...
FINEMAN: ... how to reach you, and so forth.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s look at the man who you both think it is, or believe most likely it is.
MATTHEWS: A little hedge on that. Here he is, Joe Biden, on the way to play a round of golf, as Tip O‘Neill used to say, a round. Here he is, talking to the reporters outside of his driveway.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, where are you going to be on Saturday?
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Here. You have better things to do, guys. I‘m not the guy. See you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FINEMAN: He doesn‘t know. He doesn‘t...
FINEMAN: They have not—Obama has not called the top people.
MATTHEWS: This is unique in politics.
FINEMAN: So they don‘t really know. They‘re all sitting around. They‘re literally sitting around. They‘re playing golf. Evan Bayh‘s jogging. They don‘t know.
MITCHELL: I mean, Bush 41 kept the secret until the day he was about to announce Quayle, when we broke it on NBC.
MITCHELL: I mean, they have been able to...
MATTHEWS: It seems like Rosebud. I mean, everybody‘s trying—it‘s a mystery that‘s gone on now for weeks and...
MITCHELL: Now, they say they‘re going to text a message out.
MITCHELL: They might text a message on Friday night, for instance, saying, you know, Watch tomorrow. And they‘ll be in Springfield, Illinois...
MATTHEWS: But we all know the same thing. We have a common knowledge of history here. If you want to hide a story, in other words, if it‘s an embarrassing scandal coming out of some White House Democrat or Republican, you put it out around 5:30 Friday night under the theory that the Saturday papers are thin, although I‘ve always been a big Saturday fan of newspapers. And if you got something really glorious to announce, you want to embroider (ph) forward a whole four-day weekend, you put it out on a Thursday morning, which gets you all the inside opinion pages of the big newspapers for Sunday. It gets you all the columnists for Sunday. It gets you all the producers for the weekend shows, the pre-taped shows for the weekend...
MITCHELL: There‘s a difference here.
MITCHELL: That‘s why Saturday, as the Olympics are drawing to a close. You get the Sunday shows. And the better argument is that the whole roll-out of the Clinton convention Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, all that Hillary Clinton stuff, Bill Clinton stuff, will be overwhelmed with the roll-out of the vice presidential...
MATTHEWS: Would that be—would that be double-crossing the Clintons, giving them two days, Tuesday and Wednesday night, and then blowing away the press coverage with the VP nomination? Would that be considered a double-cross?
FINEMAN: There‘s still no love lost here, to say the least.
FINEMAN: Even though—I was talking to somebody who‘d just been talking to Hillary within the last few hours, I mean, Hillary wants to be used more. She thinks that the Obama campaign is not using her enough.
MATTHEWS: Well, why wouldn‘t they?
FINEMAN: Even—who knows.
FINEMAN: Event though Obama called Bill Clinton and said, Let‘s have dinner, they still haven‘t had the dinner, and both Bill and...
MATTHEWS: He can‘t get a reservation?
FINEMAN: Can‘t get a reservation in Denver. It‘s tough. You know, you can‘t get a room. So...
MATTHEWS: Why aren‘t they up at Sylvia‘s up in Harlem just today having lunch?
FINEMAN: I don‘t know. So...
MATTHEWS: I don‘t understand it.
MITCHELL: Obama‘s in Raleigh (ph).
FINEMAN: Yes. So that‘s still out there...
MATTHEWS: ... make the shuttle.
FINEMAN: That‘s still out there.
MITCHELL: And it‘s Bill Clinton‘s birthday today. He‘s 62 years old.
MATTHEWS: This reminds me of Teddy Kennedy and Jimmy Carter up on that platform in 1980? Remember, veterans among us...
MATTHEWS: ... where Teddy Kennedy kept dancing away from Carter when he wanted to have his hand held in the air? And it never quite came together, and Carter got his butt handed to him in that general election.
FINEMAN: Well, we‘re not there yet. All I know is that the two contenders I talked to say they think, based on what Obama has said, that Obama is moving in the direction of Biden.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s talk about Hillary as a running mate. I know
she‘s not on the short list, but she could be one of these deep and outside
you know, at the last minute, when he looks at how tight these numbers are between him and McCain, he may figure he needs to go to the old map, not the new map.
Let‘s take a look. CBS and “The New York Times” polled the Democratic convention delegates. That‘s the men and woman who are going to the convention next week. Twenty-eight percent—doesn‘t seem like a lot—said Hillary. But compared to everybody else, look at that. Now look at the superdelegates. It‘s very interesting—the ones—the big shots. Sixty-one percent of delegates said Clinton would help Obama on the ticket. Clinton‘s pledged delegates overwhelmingly support her, obviously, being on the ticket as the second best. Obama‘s pledged delegates are less enthusiastic but still for Hillary. And a majority of superdelegates.
Look at that. It‘s something like, you know, 5 to 1, these people think Hillary‘s the best bet out there. What—you know, would she help or hurt? Well, why doesn‘t he think about it? Is it Bill?
MITCHELL: It‘s Bill Clinton. He doesn‘t know what to do with a sitting ex-president. It‘s not just a peculiar or particular problems that have...
MATTHEWS: If he was sitting, it‘d be OK. They‘re wondering if he‘s going to be running around the world, doing all kinds of deals.
MITCHELL: It‘s an awkward situation.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a weird situation.
FINEMAN: It‘s because—until the last day or so, you know, Obama talks about the contrast between the growth in the ‘90s and the lack of growth in the new century, he never mentioned that Bill Clinton was president during that time.
MATTHEWS: It‘s high school...
FINEMAN: That‘s part of it.
MATTHEWS: It‘s sitting at different tables in high school.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at the map here, about the Clintons.
Now, this is the thing I really want to do tonight with you two pros here.
These are the states, I‘m guessing, that I thing—green states—look at
hold up that map, please. Keep the map up there. The green states are where I think Hillary would help him. Pennsylvania, for sure. She beat him by 9.4 in that state, and she‘s got a lot of support in Pennsylvania, in Scranton, out west. Ohio, a state that‘s something of a reach for the Democrats. With Hillary, they own it. Indiana, I think she helps there. Michigan, Florida—you know, south Florida, especially, with her support for Israel, a long life (ph) with the Clintons being very supportive of the ethnic groups down there. Arkansas, she puts it in play. Nevada, with all the woman workers out there, the unionized people.
MATTHEWS: It helps with women. OK. Here‘s where the states were—this is always troubling. People will be offended that there‘s some states where she hurts, but I think these are reasonable. Some people think she‘ll hurt in Iowa. She‘ll hurt in more conservative states like Virginia and North Carolina, cowboy states, Colorado, maybe Montana, maybe North Dakota, maybe Alaska, definitely. It‘s a more conservative state.
Pluses and minuses, Howard. If you just had to do it, if you were a cold, calculating John F. Kennedy sitting at this table, a real first-rate pol, would you put her on the ticket in a close race?
FINEMAN: I‘m not sure. I just think that Obama‘s whole message is so much about turning the page. I know it‘s a cliche, but it‘s true. It‘s just too complicated...
MATTHEWS: What happens if there‘s nothing on that page when you turn it?
FINEMAN: Yes, well, that‘s—that‘s a risk. That—that is...
MATTHEWS: ... rest of the show. “The LA Times” poll, it‘s a
squeaker. This is after all the hype of, We want change, Obama‘s the best
speaker since JFK, or Reagan, at least. And yet the people aren‘t ready to
they‘ve got these problems with him. They call him inexperienced. You know, they got all this...
FINEMAN: If he wanted to do that, Chris, he needed to—if he‘d wanted to really make that possible, he needed to have dragged the Clintons into this campaign in this century with him...
FINEMAN: ... and started working on explaining how the Clintons could be an agent of change, too.
MATTHEWS: A bridge.
FINEMAN: Could be a bridge. But they haven‘t done any of the preliminary groundwork for that dramatic thing to do at the end.
MATTHEWS: So politics today...
FINEMAN: It‘s unlikely. Who knows?
MATTHEWS: Politics is winner-take-all today. No splitting up of the spoils.
MITCHELL: Absolutely. And what he is being told very strongly to do is to go more on the attack. You‘ve seen it in the last 48 hours. His...
MATTHEWS: Is he good at that?
MITCHELL: No, it‘s not comfortable for him. And that‘s why—that‘s why Biden is a better fit.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me tell you...
MATTHEWS: Our friend, the governor of Pennsylvania, is my idea of a perfect pol. He‘s got, obviously, problems in his—you know, in his presentation, maybe, but he knows how to do the one, two, three thing. You don‘t attack a war hero like John McCain or a man who served his country so nobly, with sacrifice. You don‘t attack him personally because it won‘t work.
MITCHELL: But you defend yourself.
MATTHEWS: But you say, He was wrong on this, he‘s wrong on the fiscal policy, he‘s wrong on social policy, he‘s wrong on choice. And the you make people go, You‘re right, I do like John McCain, but I can‘t vote for him. And then you win as a VP nominee.
FINEMAN: OK. Obama is struggling to get there. He was...
MATTHEWS: He doesn‘t know how to do that.
FINEMAN: He was a con law professor for 10 years. He‘s used to at least crediting the argument of the other side before he carefully and somewhat gingerly demolishes it.
FINEMAN: OK. He doesn‘t get the three-point-punch thing. He‘s trying. I was...
FINEMAN: I was watching him the last couple—I was out with him the last couple days. Yesterday, in Albuquerque, in the high school gym, he was really good. He was beginning to get there because “The New York Times”—I think Frank Rich described his campaign as excessively genteel and...
FINEMAN: ... “The New York Times” said he should use more action verbs. And that got through to him, and so he‘s using more action verbs.
MATTHEWS: Let me tell you, he‘s up against a guy who‘s popular. People like McCain. And then—going against a popular candidate—I remember Howard Metzenbaum, who wasn‘t the coolest guy in the world, beat Robert Taft out in California—out in Ohio. One, two, three. He‘s wrong on consumer protection agency, he‘s wrong on gas deregulation, you can‘t afford to vote for this guy.
MITCHELL: Let me just suggest something that is going on, is percolating right now. The McCain people are considering—McCain is seriously considering Lieberman, so seriously...
MITCHELL: ... that they have asked state party chairs, Can you, in your states, legally...
MITCHELL: ... according to the rules, put a non-Republican on the ballot?
MATTHEWS: Initiate me. Why can‘t he pick a pro-choice Republican, like Tom Ridge, a war hero, down-the-line Republican...
MATTHEWS: ... because he‘s pro-choice, but you can pick a Joe Lieberman even though he‘s pro-choice? Explain.
MITCHELL: Because if you talk to people like Rich Lowry of “The National Review,” it would shake it all up. You would come out and you‘d say, I‘m a one-term president. It is a coalition ticket. We‘re going to shake up and change Washington. We‘re going to get something done.
MATTHEWS: That sells in...
MITCHELL: And then turn it back to the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: Where‘s the place in Ohio you got to ask if it sells in?
Peoria. Will that sell in...
MATTHEWS: Illinois. Will that sell in Peoria?
FINEMAN: Well, I don‘t know. First of all, I think a lot of conservative activists, including Rush Limbaugh, wouldn‘t take Joe Lieberman, either. They respect him. The same with Sean Hannity. But they...
MITCHELL: They wouldn‘t take him. They‘ve already said (INAUDIBLE)
FINEMAN: They said they wouldn‘t take him...
MATTHEWS: Because he‘s wrong on Title 20, full funding for higher education, or what?
FINEMAN: They say that he‘s...
MITCHELL: He‘s wrong on choice.
FINEMAN: ... except for the war, he‘s wrong on cultural issues. But if they go that way, it‘s a play for Florida. And by the way, that‘s why Obama is spending two days in Virginia and North Carolina. As one of the Obama people told me yesterday...
MATTHEWS: By the way, Lieberman couldn‘t—Lieberman could not deliver Florida for Al Gore.
FINEMAN: No, and Lieberman‘s not that popular among...
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) pol, when it comes down to it.
FINEMAN: And by the way, not all of the Jewish American voters in Florida think the way Joe Lieberman does about the war in Iraq or—by any means.
MITCHELL: I think he...
FINEMAN: By any means.
MITCHELL: I think he could be very potent in Florida.
MATTHEWS: They‘re not still reading “The New York Post.” They‘re reading the old “New York Post.”
MATTHEWS: Dorothy Schiff‘s (ph) newspaper. No, the old way of voting straight liberal is still in the hearts of a lot of people down there.
FINEMAN: Yes. And that would include the liberal position on the war.
MATTHEWS: OK, bottom line, I ask you to review your decisions. It is now time. You have no lifeline, right? You have no lifeline, although you‘re great reporters and you are fabulous minute-by minute-reporters. Joe Biden—probably better than 50/50 chance it‘ll be Biden by Wednesday or Thursday.
MITCHELL: Or Friday. Yes. Yes.
MITCHELL: But I think he‘s got to get comfortable with it because they are—the chemistry‘s not there.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is—Biden‘s out playing golf. How‘s the chemistry going to get any better between him and Barack?
MITCHELL: Obama knows what it is.
MITCHELL: He‘s spent time with him. He‘s got to decide, Do I want to live with him?
MATTHEWS: I think that inexperience thing that he‘s been tagged with now, I think for some people, it‘s an excuse not to vote for Barack. But one way to deal with inexperience is to put somebody with experience on your ticket.
FINEMAN: Here‘s—here‘s the thing, though.
MATTHEWS: Because he can‘t get experience in two months.
FINEMAN: Here‘s the thing, though. Obama is a prideful guy. He doesn‘t like to be told that he doesn‘t have the right stuff on his resume.
FINEMAN: Psychologically, it‘s something he‘s got to get with.
MATTHEWS: He didn‘t have any incompletes at Harvard law.
FINEMAN: Right. Now, he‘s—if it‘s just personal chemistry, it‘s Tim Kaine because they‘re very good personal friends. But if it‘s not that, it‘s—it‘s drifting in the direction of Biden. At least that‘s what the other contenders think.
MATTHEWS: I think they look right together. It‘s so hard to figure these things out. Does the ticket look right when it‘s together? Is the whole greater than the sum of the parts? That is the key question.
FINEMAN: Oh, you‘ll see...
MATTHEWS: Al Gore and Bill Clinton were better than either one separate.
FINEMAN: A couple of quick—if it‘s Biden, you‘ll see all the children and grandchildren. And also Biden‘s son, Beau, who‘s the attorney general of Delaware, is going to be posted in the National Guard of Delaware to Iraq in September. And he‘s going to be in Iraq in the fall, which is a big deal.
MITCHELL: It‘s a great personal story.
MATTHEWS: That means having some skin in the game.
MITCHELL: This is a guy...
FINEMAN: Yes. Exactly.
MITCHELL: ... who takes a train home every day. He has not been part of Washington in that extent. He‘s a blue-collar guy. He was out with the firefighters last Thursday...
MATTHEWS: ... not on your A-list.
FINEMAN: If it‘s Kaine—if it‘s Kaine...
FINEMAN: If it‘s Kaine, it‘ll be because...
MATTHEWS: OK, there they are!
FINEMAN: ... Obama...
MATTHEWS: That‘s the ticket maybe. That‘s the bet here. Thank you, Andrea Mitchell. Thank you, Howard Fineman. Reporters‘ bets are not pundits‘ bets.
Coming up, how John McCain has pulled closer in this race. How did he do it? We‘ve got a couple of new polls out today that show how tight this race really is, tight as a drum, and it‘s only August.
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SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... some of these labels. And we don‘t like to label children anyway, because all children are children of God, and all of them are special.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: But the...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: But, substantively, you know, one of the—one of the great victories of the last 30 years has been a change in attitudes towards disabilities. I mean, it used to be that...
MATTHEWS: OK. Welcome back.
That‘s, of course, Barack Obama in a live town meeting down in Raleigh, North Carolina, one of the states that he hopes to carry, a state normally carried by Republicans—if he gets the right running mate, that is.
Anyway, both Obama and John McCain criticized each other all day today by name. And the new polls out show why they are attacking each other. This election, despite the fact it‘s only August, has gotten as close as you would expect it to be in late October.
We‘re going to go right to those polls with my guests. They are Roger Simon of “Politico,” the hot new political news magazine—actually, daily newspaper—and Clarence Page of the old...
MATTHEWS: ... “Chicago Tribune,” the rugged, old...
MATTHEWS: ... the grand, old Midwest newspaper
MATTHEWS: Here it is. The latest Quinnipiac poll has Obama—this is today—leading McCain by five, 47-42. Last month, the same poll was nine points.
Let‘s take a look at the next one. We will look at them altogether.
The “L.A. Times” poll just out today—it‘s an “L.A. Times”/Bloomberg poll
it has Obama leading by a scant two points, obviously, within the margin of error.
Two months ago, Obama was ahead by 12 in those polls. What does this mean now? I don‘t want to be like Jack Germond. These early polls don‘t mean anything. But they are going in a direction.
ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THEPOLITICO.COM: In showing a narrowing, but I think the Obama people, if one word describes their attitude about polls and about everything else, it‘s unflappable. They are not worried about thee polls.
These polls were taken during the Russian invasion of Georgia, when we had pictures on the TV every night of tanks moving through burning cities. And, naturally, foreign policy experience and qualities like strength are going to be emphasized. I think they care about much more about the Electoral College polls, which still show Obama with a nice lead.
CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: Yes.
MATTHEWS: ... these pictures, all of the sudden, the backdrop—I mean, Norman Mailer used to write this. Life is always a series of backdrops shifting, where the good guy becomes the bad guy, and the bad guy becomes the good guy, because conditions have changed overnight in the battlefield.
PAGE: That‘s right.
And, look, campaigns are a series of events, as Lee Atwater used to say. And we haven‘t had the kind of big event that‘s going to shift things in—in Obama‘s favor.
MATTHEWS: Look at this one. What about Russia?
PAGE: He was on vacation for a week. That shifts things in McCain‘s favor.
MATTHEWS: Look what it‘s done.
PAGE: Because foreign policy is a strength of his.
MATTHEWS: A war we‘re not actually involved in, we‘re not fighting. Thank God we haven‘t fought the Russians ever probably, since ‘21 or something, with the White Russian side.
But it seems to me, that—that front over there, that theater of war has transformed our election over here in North America.
PAGE: Not quite. I wouldn‘t say transformed, but it‘s been...
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s an even election now.
PAGE: ... in the middle of summer, you know, but Americans aren‘t that big on foreign policy.
And I think there are things buried in this poll that may be far more troubling for Barack Obama than—than the invasion of Georgia.
One is, like former polls, it‘s showing 17 percent of the respondees say the country is not ready for a black president. Seventeen percent is a pretty tough number to give up at the beginning of a campaign.
MATTHEWS: ... those 17 percent definitely won‘t vote for Barack?
SIMON: I think it‘s—if you admit to a stranger on the phone 17 percent, the true number is going to be higher.
And, so, if he‘s got to make up 17 to get to zero, that‘s a long way. Another number that has nothing to do with race is, 35 percent have questions about his patriotism. That‘s a high number. Why would they think Barack Obama is unpatriotic?
MATTHEWS: Well, because—because McCain keeps pounding it.
SIMON: So, I guess McCain is doing the right thing, from his point of view.
MATTHEWS: So, Steve Schmidt comes into the campaign a few weeks back.
He‘s obviously a Karl Rove, well, student.
MATTHEWS: And he comes in the campaign. And ever since then, this guy, McCain, admittedly with his credentials, keeps pounding the other guy, saying, he puts politics before country. He puts politics before country, before national security, because he knows Barack can‘t hit him back on that score. Is that it?
PAGE: This sticks to the old playbook. McCain is running like a—like a—the guy who has to catch up to the guy in the front. And that means you keep pounding away at the guy in front.
You get some coverage, which McCain wasn‘t getting before. And Obama is not going to come out—now, he‘s going to play rope-a-dope, like he did a year ago, when he was behind Hillary Clinton month after month and folks said, when are you going to start fighting? Well, after Labor Day, we found out, once the debates got going, and then you saw Obama move up. And what happened?
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me give you another sports metaphor. You used rope-a-dope because it worked for Muhammad Ali...
MATTHEWS: ... going against Foreman, who is now selling frying pans.
MATTHEWS: That‘s how my daughter knows him. He‘s the guy that does the frying pans.
When you are behind in an NBA game, what do you do? You foul the other team to get the ball.
MATTHEWS: Right? McCain can afford to do that, because every time—as you point out, every time he whacks Barack Obama on his patriotism, he gets the ouch from Barack and he gets the news story the next day.
And Barack Obama saying, I hope this campaign doesn‘t become about questions about patriotism and personality...
MATTHEWS: It has...
SIMON: ... just take the high road, that‘s just not the way the games are played. George Bush did not beat John Kerry by taking the high road. He—he—he beat John Kerry by saying, first, you have got to vote for us or die.
SIMON: No one else will protect you against terrorism except Republicans.
MATTHEWS: And, by the way, 49 percent of the American people said right before the election that only George Bush could protect them.
MATTHEWS: So, they made their case.
SIMON: It worked.
And, of course, although technically not part of the Bush campaign, the whole Swift Boat campaign hurt John Kerry...
MATTHEWS: Yes. The old man did pretty much the same thing in ‘88 against Dukakis.
MATTHEWS: He threw everything at him but the kitchen sink.
MATTHEWS: ... as the ACLU lefty. He wouldn‘t support—supporting
the flag or Pledge of Allegiance in the Massachusetts classrooms, and the -
and the—what else he had him on? Willie Horton.
PAGE: You go for the heart. You want to get those swing voters who are undecided.
But, again, I remind you, this is summertime. And to go back to your NBA analogy, you start making fouls when you‘re down in the last quarter, and you‘re really going for broke. This is not the last quarter. This is pretty early in the game.
MATTHEWS: OK. It‘s early to go negative.
But let me ask you this. Isn‘t he handing out permission slips to vote against Barack?
MATTHEWS: Inexperience is my favorite, because you could have all kinds of problems with Barack Obama ethnically, politically, culturally, class—I don‘t know what the adjective is for class, but class elite—and you could have every problem in the world with Mrs. Obama, but you can hide it all under—not hide it all—you can present it all under one word: You know, I got nothing against him. He‘s a bright young man with a quality education, interesting new ideas, but he‘s not quite ready yet.
MATTHEWS: And you can—and you can—and it‘s a fair critique which covers all your reasons for opposing him.
SIMON: Right. It‘s fair. You can just simply look at the record and say, look who‘s been in the Senate longer. And you can, as you say, disguise a lot of things.
But I don‘t think it‘s unfair and I think you necessarily can jump to the conclusion that John McCain is taking the low road because he stresses experience. However, Barack Obama has run against an experienced candidate before, and he beat her decisively. He knows how to do it.
MATTHEWS: Alan Keyes?
SIMON: No, Hillary Clinton.
PAGE: Hillary Clinton was making the same line, wasn‘t she?
SIMON: Right. Right.
PAGE: She was running against his experience.
And what did Obama come back with, which he has not come back with lately, is, look where experience got us right now. He has not used that line yet.
MATTHEWS: Look—hey, look, I salute that argument. I think so many mistakes have been made lately. And the fact that we have a vice president who knows everything about the oil industry, has secret meetings and task forces with the heads of Exxon and Mobil every day of the week, and, yet, didn‘t know we were facing this horrendous gas problem in this country, and never got the OK...
MATTHEWS: Yes. So, the idea that information helps you is not true in this case. His intel has been useless.
SIMON: Obama is using the same phrase he used in the primary. You have to be experienced, but smart.
SIMON: Yes, my opponent is experienced...
SIMON: ... but is my opponent smart?
MATTHEWS: Did you guys catch the Rick Warren thing Saturday night?
SIMON: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: OK. Does that tell you that Barack is going to win the debates or McCain?
PAGE: I don‘t think that‘s a—I think that‘s a—an anomalous situation. We knew that was McCain‘s turf, should be.
PAGE: It‘s an evangelical audience. The fact that Barack showed up, he gets points, you know?
MATTHEWS: Who won? Who won?
PAGE: Oh, I think McCain won because of—because it was his audience, you know?
MATTHEWS: Yes. So did I.
Did you think McCain one?
SIMON: I did, but largely he did better than expected.
I think, once again, Obama came off as cool and cerebral. And McCain came off as a little more warm and a little more hot.
SIMON: ... gates of hell to get Osama bin Laden.
MATTHEWS: He had a script. He came in with speech parts for every answer.
MATTHEWS: The other guy tried to wing it. And, when you wing it in debates, you don‘t win.
Richard Nixon tried to wing it against Jack Kennedy. Kennedy came in with an eight-minute prepared speech, and won the election.
Thank you, Roger Simon.
Thank you, Clarence Page.
Up next: why John McCain should have consulted—by the way, how about calling up John Lewis before you cite him as one of your best friends? Because John Lewis has a response. It‘s coming back in the “Sideshow.” And it ain‘t friendly.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Time now for the “Sideshow.”
First up, he said what?
Here‘s John McCain at this weekend‘s Saddleback forum with Rick Warren picking out his personal wise men.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PASTOR RICK WARREN, AUTHOR, “THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE”: Who are the three wisest people that you know that you would rely on heavily in an administration?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think John Lewis. He can teach us all a lot about the meaning of courage and commitment to causes greater than our self-interests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, he should have checked with Congressman Lewis before he met that—made that claim. The Democratic congressman gave a statement to “Mother Jones” the magazine saying—quote—“Senator McCain and I are colleagues in the U.S. Congress, not confidants. He does not consult me, and I do not consult him.”
That‘s Congressman Lewis apparently not feeling the McCain love.
Next, talk about a lame duck presidency. President Bush is vacationing now at his Crawford ranch, but guess who has been taking questions at the White House driveway yesterday? None other than the Jonas Brothers. The boy band was hanging around the West Wing to tape a PSA, a public service announcement, though they were eventually waylaid by a grandparent of some of their fans. That‘s the grandparent being Dick Cheney.
The vice president gave the musical act, the boy band, a tour of the Oval Office, which was vacant at the time, of course, the president being in Texas, and introducing the boy band, the Jonas Brothers, to his three grandchildren. That‘s the vice president being a good guy.
Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”
John McCain has been hammering the Russian-Georgian crisis every day on the campaign trail, making it clear that he wants to be talking foreign policy this election season. Well, one question in that new Quinnipiac poll that just came out mentioned—we mentioned earlier explains why.
What percentage of likely voters this November think that John McCain is—quote—“better qualified” than Barack Obama to handle the Russian situation? Fifty-five percent. Just 27 percent think Obama is better. That‘s a number that may explain why Foreign Relations Chairman Joe Biden has his stock rising right now as an Obama vice presidential prospect. Biden could help him where he‘s got a problem.
Fifty-five percent pick McCain as a better handler of the Russian situation. That‘s tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next: Republicans for Obama—that‘s right, Republicans for Obama
are there enough of them to make the difference in November? Well, you‘re going to have coming up some of them join us right here.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MILISSA REHBERGER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Milissa Rehberger. Here‘s what‘s happening.
Since making landfall this morning along Florida‘s Gulf Coast, Tropical Storm Fay has been dumping rain and has mysteriously gained strength over land. It‘s now heading for Florida‘s central Atlantic coast. It‘s expected to move out over the Atlantic tomorrow and hit Florida for a third time on Thursday, possibly as a hurricane this time.
Fay also spawned several tornadoes today. They damaged dozens of homes in Wellington, Lakeport, and elsewhere.
A senior defense official tells NBC News the latest intelligence still shows no movement of Russian forces out of neighboring Georgia. Meantime, Russian troops were seen taking about 20 Georgia soldiers prisoner at a Black Sea port, blindfolding them, and holding them at gunpoint.
And, in Afghanistan, 10 French soldiers were killed when insurgents ambushed their convoy near the capital of Kabul. Meanwhile, officials say a squad of at least six suicide bombers tried to attack a U.S. base, but they were stopped—now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, how many Republicans will vote for Barack Obama come November?
Will it be enough to help Obama win this thing?
With us now, two leaders of Republicans for Obama, former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach and longtime Republican philanthropist and fund-raiser Rita Hauser.
Ms. Hauser, thank you for joining with us.
I‘m told by our researchers that your chief reason for splitting with the Republicans this time out is the war in Iraq and your view of that campaign.
RITA HAUSER, REPUBLICANS FOR OBAMA: Yes, that‘s absolutely right, Chris.
And I‘m glad to see you back and well.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
HAUSER: Yes. I think I speak...
MATTHEWS: Well, tell me why you...
HAUSER: I think I speak for a very large number of Republicans, who did not find this going to war and the way it was conducted as normal type activity for traditional Republicans. You fight when you‘re attacked and when you‘re seriously threatened, not go off on adventures. What‘s important is that McCain shows no sign of being willing to wind down our commitment in Iraq, being willing to address the problems seriously that have been caused by our commitment in Iraq, like doing the right thing in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He says, bluntly, that he will stay there until 2012 or 2013. That is not acceptable to a very large number of Republicans and former Republicans, who now call themselves independents.
MATTHEWS: OK, Congressman Leach, you have been a long time Republican member the House. You‘re a member of the House Republican caucus, a loyal member of the party. Here you are endorsing the Democratic candidate for president.
LEACH: First, I‘m no longer a member of Congress. I‘m a private citizen, non-office holding. But I think any sense of perspective has to indicate that America has gone through a rather tough patch. And the fact of the matter is that we have diplomatically, economically, militarily been behind the eight ball, in an increasing degree, for each of the past four or five years. The question is, do we want a new direction? And do we want a new direction rooted in historical American values or one that‘s what might be described as aberrational, that is unusual, in which we attack countries that haven‘t attacked us, is which we lay plans for long term occupation of a land where America and the West are deeply resented?
It‘s time for a change and I think that change has to come quickly.
MATTHEWS: Who would Abraham Lincoln support in this race, Congressman Leach?
LEACH: That‘s a good question. Abraham Lincoln opposed a war in 1848 against Mexico. He then led this country on the greatest civil rights issue in the history of man, ending slavery. I will say this, it‘s always presumptuous to think of anybody in a historical setting. Abraham Lincoln would insist that every American vote for the best candidate, irregardless of color of skin. That‘s where the great Republican tradition resides.
MATTHEWS: Are you afraid, Miss Hauser, that despite his maverick, reputation that John McCain, Senator McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee is as much enthralled with the neo-conservative philosophy of foreign adventurism, is your word, of—what‘s it called? They have a word for it. I forget what it is. I think it‘s preventive war, which means go to war to prevent a war. I‘m not sure what the logic is. Do you think he‘s as much a thinking in that regard as George W. Bush became?
HAUSER: And then even more so. In all of his statements, there‘s no question about it. We would have Bush three. I think a lot of people are very nervous about that, including a large segment of Republicans. This war has never been paid for properly. In fact, it hasn‘t been accounted for. We don‘t know the extent of what it‘s costing and what damage it‘s doing to our economy. That‘s a reason Republicans like to balance their books. They like to be managerial correct. They like to know what they‘re getting themselves into.
I also want to speak as a woman. There are very large numbers of Republican women for choice. McCain, the other night, at the Faith Forum presented himself as the most pro-life senator in the Congress, and one who would seek to repeal Roe v. Wade, and would put various justices on the court to try to do that. That‘s not acceptable. We have never had an appropriate place at the table of this President Bush for those Republicans who are for choice. They are a very large segment of the Republican party.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you—I want to ask you both about the number of people you believe you represent going into November. In 2004, the last presidential election, six percent of self-identified Republicans voted for John Kerry, 11 percent of Democrats voted for President Bush. Mr. Leach, it seems to me that people tend to go back to their party flock by the time election comes. Do you think there will be a significant double digit number of Republicans who choose Obama?
LEACH: First, I would never presume to ask anyone to think the way I think or to vote the way I do. I will tell you the largest block of unrepresented Americans in the Congress today is a great common sense middle, whether they be Republicans or Democrats. Our parties have skewed somewhat to the outside. So the question is, where is the great American common sense movement today? My strong sense is that it‘s what Barack Obama is trying to articulate, a capacity to work with all sides, a capacity to lead America as a consensus candidate.
I think, if you think it through, about the need for change, but change rooted in values that tap both Republican and Democratic traditions, that‘s a very compelling argument.
HAUSER: I would like to say, Chris, that I think that number will double and then some. I think it will be a very important vote in the crucial battleground states, like Virginia and Colorado and Jim‘s Iowa and in North Carolina, places where many Republicans are very disquieted by the policies of Bush to be continued in spades by John McCain.
MATTHEWS: I think a lot of people think like both of you. The question of whether they can break from the tendency to be lemmings and think for themselves the way you do, because I think you do—both of you represent traditional American foreign policy and values. Don‘t tread on me. We only attack when we‘re attacked. We don‘t start wars. That‘s America. I completely agree with you. I‘m allowed to say so. Jim Leach, thank you. Rita Hauser, thank you both.
Up next, more Americans say John McCain has the experience to be president, while a plurality say Barack Obama does not. Are McCain‘s attacks working? What can Obama do to make up ground by picking the right running mate? Can he get a running mate with experience to help him on that front? The politics fix straight ahead. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix. Tonight‘s round table, Jonathan Capehart of the “Washington Post,” and Jonathan Allen of the “Congressional Quarterly.” We‘ve just got a little bulletin this evening that Barack Obama‘s people—somebody is leaking out the fact, unofficially, I think, that they‘re talking perhaps not picking a VP, hold this, until Saturday out at Springfield, where this whole thing started. Remember that day? It was three degrees below zero. We were out there covering his announcement where Abraham Lincoln was once a state assemblyman.
You‘re a news guy. You work for a daily newspaper. Why would you put out a story on a Saturday, when you get the Sunday paper, but you miss the whole big weekend build up.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: We‘re talking about it now, Chris.
MATTHEWS: What are we talking about?
CAPEHART: Right now, we‘re just talking about a bulletin about the possibility that maybe on Saturday he will pick his VP nominee. We‘ve been talking about nothing else for the last two weeks.
MATTHEWS: -- of McCarthy, in a totally different context, I mean totally different. McCarthy used to go up to the press gallery in the Senate and say, I‘ll be naming names at 2:00 this afternoon. It would go out in the afternoon papers, McCarthy to name names. He didn‘t do it. He didn‘t have any names. This is building and building. This is working the wire services.
Let‘s talk about this latest poll here. Does he have the right experience to be president? McCain, 80 percent of everybody, all voters of all parties, 80 percent say, yes, he‘s got the right experience. That‘s a pretty good starting point. The other fellow, Obama, less than—people who believe he doesn‘t, 44 to 48. That means that a lot of people that support him don‘t think he has enough experience in foreign policy, experience to president. It‘s grander than that. How can you vote for a guy you think is inexperience to be president?
CAPEHART: If you‘re asking does the person have the qualifications—not the qualifications, but the history and the track record, you put Obama‘s up against McCain‘s and no. Compared to McCain he doesn‘t have the experience.
MATTHEWS: These questions were put to both of the voters separately,
MATTHEWS: Does Obama have it. They then ask about Obama to all voters. To all voters, does Obama have the experience to be president. And only 44 percent of the electorate says yes, he does. And 48 percent said he didn‘t. I‘m saying these are separate questions.
JONATHAN ALLEN, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: You better hope that the election isn‘t decided solely on the question of experience.
CAPEHART: That was the point I was trying to get to. People are looking at—they want change. They want hope. They want a new direction. That doesn‘t speak to experience, necessarily.
MATTHEWS: I guess I was taken with the word right experience. It was almost like a requisite questions, like does he have enough, and they were saying he didn‘t have enough.
ALLEN: You listen more carefully than most pollsters.
MATTHEWS: I‘ve been looking at this for two or three hours.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at this right here. Quinnipiac poll, who is better qualified to deal with Russia. That‘s on the screen. We‘re all talking about Russia and its movement into Georgia. Not our Georgia, that Georgia over there. Fifty five percent say McCain is better qualified, Obama 27. Jonathan, that‘s two to one.
ALLEN: It‘s a huge number. John McCain clearly has an advantage on this. But it‘s not just Russia and Georgia. He‘s going to have to make a case that he can do things for graduating high school seniors in Atlanta, Georgia as well.
MATTHEWS: I wonder if there‘s anybody out there that thinks Russia has invaded our Georgia? Do you guys wonder about that? You know?
ALLEN: They‘re always looking for a warm water port. Alabama is next.
MATTHEWS: You know the old argument about older voters; I‘m not going to vote for Barry Goldwater because he‘s going to take away my TV. The news commentator said no, not TV. He‘s going to get rid of the TVA, the Tennessee Valley Authority. And she said, I‘m not taking any chances.
Maybe we‘ll be right back with Jonathan Capehart and Jonathan Allen and more of the politics fix, and some old stories. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: I‘m back at the round table with the two Jonathans, Jonathan Capehart of the “Washington Post” and Jonathan Allen of “Congressional Quarterly.” I did sort of jump ahead on that. Here‘s the latest story. This is hot of the wires, so this is news as we‘re getting it; “a senior Obama adviser told the Associated Press, on condition of anonymity,” which makes it sound like it‘s true, “that Obama and his VP choice will appear together in front of the former state Capitol in Illinois.” That‘s down in Springfield, where Abraham Lincoln once served.
I jumped to the conclusion that that would be the first day of their touring together. Apparently, now I‘m being advised that simply says that will be on their itinerary, which may have commenced a day or two earlier.
CAPEHART: Correct, which would put us at about maybe tomorrow or Thursday when we actually get the announcement.
ALLEN: Watch for the text message.
CAPEHART: Have you signed up for the text message?
MATTHEWS: As a newspaperman, and you work in the paper, difficult section of the paper get put together at different times. The op-ed page, you work on, the editorial page, it gets put together earlier. Right?
CAPEHART: We put it together earlier, but we still adhere to the same deadline. So if I were to hear something, I could call in to our news site and also to our op-ed editorial folks and let them know what‘s what.
MATTHEWS: It used to be the argument, if you wanted to have a big box office story and have all the play possible, you did it on a Thursday, because Thursday‘s when all the Sunday shows are putting together their guests. It‘s when they‘re producing their ideas for the weekend. They have a lot of power on Sunday. It‘s when all the newspaper guys doing layouts and everything are figuring out what to do with the paper that weekend. All the columnists are writing their Sunday columns on Thursday. Their deadlines are at 2:00 in the afternoon generally. Right?
So you get all that box office, especially the shows that are taped early, like the “McLaughlin Group” on Sunday, shows that are done earlier. Right So you get it all if you do it Thursday. If you do it Friday, late Friday, you miss a lot of the Sunday action, and you really aren‘t doing your job if you want to promote something. So I‘m asking why not Thursday.
ALLEN: You buy an extra day by doing Wednesday.
MATTHEWS: What do you say?
CAPEHART: I would say in this hyper-news cycle that we‘re in, if you make the announcement on Friday, I don‘t think you‘re necessarily knocked out for getting a ton of attention Saturday, Sunday and into the following week, because of blogs and other things.
MATTHEWS: OK, we‘re going to talk more about this experience thing. Can he add experience to his being by picking a vice president with experience? That‘s going to be the big question in the next couple of days. If he picks Biden, he feels the need for experience. Jonathan Capehart, Jonathan Allen. Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. I‘m back. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann—he is already back—starts now.
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