Guest: Donna Brazile, Ed Gillespie, Frank Luntz
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. John Kerry made it official this morning at a rally in Pittsburgh. Fellow senator and one-time rival John Edwards will be his running mate. Edwards is in Pittsburgh tonight, where he greeted supporters at the airport before meeting Kerry at his wife‘s suburban estate. HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster has more on how Kerry made his choice.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the selection most Democratic Party leaders and activists had been hoping for.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am pleased to announce that with your help, the next vice president of the United States of America will be Senator John Edwards from North Carolina.
SHUSTER: Edwards was the last major candidate standing against Kerry in the primaries and was a favorite, thanks to his youthful looks, strong speaking style and upbeat message.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can‘t change this country alone, but you and I can change it together. And the reason I know that is because I believe in you. And you deserve a president who actually believes in you.
SHUSTER: But Edwards, a former trial lawyer, also offered blistering arguments against President Bush, even after the primaries were over.
EDWARDS: What‘s happened in Iraq, the prisoner scandal, the effect it‘s had on the American people, is associated with President Bush and this administration. And there is only one way to solve this problem and to create a clean slate, and that‘s to elect John Kerry!
SHUSTER: Edwards grew up in poverty. He was the son of a mill worker, attended public schools, was the first in his family to go to college and, as an adult, made millions suing corporations accused of negligence. His first political campaign was his 1998 race for the Senate.
EDWARDS: The people of North Carolina voted their hopes instead of their fears.
SHUSTER: He portrayed himself as a champion of North Carolina families and a political moderate and then beat incumbent Republican Lauch Faircloth. In the U.S. Senate, his Democratic star began rising during the Clinton impeachment.
EDWARDS: I think we have to do everything in our power to have the American people see this as a fair process and not see us senators as people who‘ve taken sides, so that all we‘re doing is up there fighting and bickering with each other.
SHUSTER: And his profile continued growing after the Senate passed an Edwards version of the Patients‘ Bill of Rights that he said would empower ordinary Americans.
EDWARDS: Well, this is an issue they care about deeply. It affects their lives on a day-to-day basis. And we think they will ultimately get their will as this process goes forward.
SHUSTER: The criticism has been that as a one-term senator, Edwards lacks foreign policy experience. It was enough of a concern that the Kerry campaign, right until the end, was preparing for the possible selection of somebody else.
SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: I think Senator Edwards is an excellent selection. He‘s demonstrated as a candidate how compelling and effective he can be. He has a strong message about bringing America together.
REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D), MISSOURI: This is an exciting ticket. These are two very able and qualified individuals to assume these positions.
SHUSTER: The Republican National Committee issued a press release calling Edwards a “disingenuous, unaccomplished liberal.” But at the White House...
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The vice president called him early this morning to say—after the announcement was made, to say that he welcomes him to the race, and as do I. And I look forward to a good, spirited contest.
SHUSTER (on camera): And spirited is what Democrats are counting on, as well, because even though strategists do not believe John Edwards can even carry his home state, the strategists say the contrast between Edwards and Vice President Cheney could be crucial in those states where the race is close. I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell broke the news of the Edwards selection this morning on the “TODAY” show. And “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman, an NBC News political analyst, is covering the Kerry campaign out there in Pittsburgh.
Andrea, how‘d he make the decision? What‘s it about?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it‘s about trying to inject some energy into the campaign, frankly, and also trying to have a competitive strategy, would you believe in the South, a Southern strategy, where they can actually challenge the Republicans, at least make the Republicans spend some more time and money in a lot of those states including Tennessee and Arkansas, of course, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, the panhandle of Florida, Louisiana. So they think that they‘ve really got a shot at those, as well as the economic populism which could be a good message in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. And that‘s certainly an Electoral College strategy.
MATTHEWS: Howard, I smell populism. I smell an outsider‘s campaign based on trade, tax reform, going after the rich people, what we used to call in the ‘60s the corporate pigs. It looks to me like a tough campaign. Is that the signal today? He‘s got Edwards to go with him to make the attack?
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I think so. I think Edwards does that with a smile. And during primaries, he developed the best stump speech out there, Chris. And it was about the so-called “two Americas,” what John Edwards called the two Americas. It was very compelling and exciting to Democratic voters. And John Edwards is capable of doing that kind of tough stuff with a smile on his face. So he can be very effective at it.
And don‘t forget, he had all those years in the courtroom, which the Republicans will attack, but which makes Edwards a very good guy in front of a jury of common folk, which is what he‘s going to be doing out there in those states that Andrea mentioned.
MATTHEWS: Andrea, is he going to be the white-collar Michael Moore? Is he going nicely in the same direction Michael Moore is going with a meat cleaver?
MITCHELL: Well, that‘s a pretty good analogy. And as you know, John Kerry‘s been running as far from Michael Moore as he could possibly run. But you‘re right, there‘s some of that appeal.
You know, I was talking to a prominent Republican today, a big critic of John Edwards. And he said, you know, This is smart. He said, I asked my wife about this ticket, and she said, I like the way it looks. And a lot of women will like the way it looks. I don‘t want to be sexist about this. but from a gender gap perspective, this is a young family, an attractive family. Edwards is an attractive candidate. And it kind of looks good.
Remember the way we all responded—Americans, I should say, responded when we were all covering Clinton and Gore, those two families, the Boomer families out on the road on the bus trip? Well, there‘s that kind look. This looks a lot fresher and younger than it would have if it had been with Gephardt or, of course, with Bob Graham.
MATTHEWS: You know—you know, Howard, all those years, the Democrats would run these sort of indoor candidates, Mondale and Dukakis and people like that. They seemed like indoor people. Now they‘re running a guy who I always call—well, I call these kind of candidates the guy with the sun in his face. Ronald Reagan was one. Bill Clinton was one in the beginning, Harry Truman. Sort of—I don‘t know what the right word, but maybe outdoorsy, physically healthy-looking guys, like this guy. Is that going to be a factor here? In fact, is that going to be the winning factor?
FINEMAN: Well, it may be a factor. Kerry fashions himself an outdoor guy, too, and he is quite the athlete, quite the outdoorsman...
FINEMAN: ... however patrician his pursuits are. Yes, Edwards does have that smile. The question is going to be, Is he prepared? In this whole process, John Kerry kept saying that what he wanted most was somebody who was prepared to be president, in the post-9/11 world, somebody who really knew what was up and could step in at a moment‘s notice. He kind of threw that out the window here because John Edwards, who has many good qualities, does not have the quality of deep preparation. This is a guy who‘s only been in politics, Chris, for six years. And he has a great smile, but there are going to be people who wonder what‘s behind that smile even now.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s take a look at the first Kerry-Edwards TV ads.
Here they are today for your own eyes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One is a combat veteran with over 30 years experience handling the toughest issues facing America. The other is the son of a mill worker who all his life has stood up for ordinary people against powerful interests. Today they‘re a new team for America with a plan to make us stronger at home and respected in the world. John Kerry and John Edwards, president, vice president. Kerry-Edwards, a new team for a new America.
KERRY: I‘m John Kerry and I approved this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Andrea, why don‘t they just stay home and send that commercial out?
MITCHELL: Well, it‘s one of those ads. It‘s a great commercial, from their perspective. You know, not only do they look good together, but I think that the whole comparison with Dick Cheney is what they‘re also trying to show because, obviously, you‘ve got a very athletic and young and physically fit president. But I think that they believe that they can offset the criticism that John Edwards is not prepared to be president by going up against Dick Cheney and going after him about energy issues, going after him about oil prices, about Halliburton. That‘s the tack that they‘re going to take and try to undercut his foreign policy experience. It‘s a gamble...
MATTHEWS: What is your sense of...
MITCHELL: ... because Cheney does have this, you know, sort of experience factor.
MATTHEWS: As a television journalist, what do you think of the picture? Both of you guys, think visual for a second now. You‘re watching national television, prime-time, 90-minute special. On one side, before—behind the lectern is Dick Cheney, Mr. Resume. He‘s done it all. He‘s been chief of staff to a president, Gerry Ford. He‘s been defense secretary to one Bush, vice president to another, a Democratic (sic) leader in other administrations. And then this kid who‘s had one term as United States senator, standing up spry as a young kid. Who wins that picture contest, Andrea?
MITCHELL: I think that‘s a potential problem, frankly. And I think that they have to figure out a way to close that stature gap. They‘re going to roll out every former foreign policy official from every previous Democratic administration to try validate this guy. But five years on the Intelligence Committee does not a resume make.
And the counterargument, of course, is that George Bush, George W. Bush, as governor of Texas, where we all know—those, at least, you know, who follow politics know that the governor of Texas is not as important as being governor of some other states because of their political structure—that he didn‘t have a whole lot of foreign policy experience, if any. So that‘s their counterargument. But you‘re right. I think there is a stature point. In the post-9/11 world, where Iraq has been the dominant issue, not domestic politics, that could be a potential problem.
FINEMAN: Chris, I can‘t—I...
MATTHEWS: Who are you betting on, the new kid on the block, Howard?
Who‘s going to win that fight if they go to high noon there in prime-time?
FINEMAN: Well, you have to look at all four of them together. The way the two pictures read, contrasting pictures read, are new for the Democrats and old for the Republicans.
MATTHEWS: That‘s good.
MITCHELL: Future and past, which, given the unpopularity of the war in Iraq, that reads Democrat, at least, right at this moment.
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘re coming right back for more analysis from Andrea Mitchell, who broke the story this morning, and Howard Fineman. More on how Kerry picked John Edwards. There‘s a Jack for every Jill. And later, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and Republican Party chairman Ed Gillespie on the battle ahead between Bush-Cheney and Kerry-Edwards.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Howard Fineman and Andrea Mitchell.
Howard and Andrea, here‘s a political assessment question. It‘ll keep you up all night. Doesn‘t the selection of John Edwards increase the minimal expected number of Democrats to vote for president? In other words, it‘ll get the base out. It‘ll get the liberals excited. They‘ll all go see Michael Moore‘s movie and then come back and sober up and vote Democrat. Is that the fact that I think it is? In other words, do you agree with me or not that the number of probable—somewhere up around 46 percent, 47 percent will vote Democrat this fall?
FINEMAN: Chris, I...
FINEMAN: Go ahead, Andrea.
MITCHELL: Yes, I think, as a turnout factor, I agree. I think it will also energize, for instance, the business community, who are so exercised over tort reform. You‘ve got this trial lawyer now...
MITCHELL: ... leading or on the ticket. But I do think it will energize the base because he has much broader appeal, and we saw that even though Gephardt has populist policies, he couldn‘t turn out the vote, even with labor support, in Iowa.
FINEMAN: Chris, you were asking me last night, you know, what states did John Edwards win in the primaries? Well, the answer to that was—I should have thought of it at the time—what states did Dick Gephardt win in the primaries? The problem that Kerry faced in the end was that Dick Gephardt was just a spent force. He was good on paper with the unions and with the Democratic base, but he‘d lost his ability, if he ever really had it, to turn them out.
Edwards in the primaries showed a better ability to reach union people and swing voters than Gephardt did, by far.
FINEMAN: I don‘t entirely agree with you. I think Edwards—the base is going to turn out anyway. The base is motivated. John Kerry could have nominated a broomstick, it wouldn‘t matter with the base. What‘s going to matter is whether Edwards can reach those undecided swing voters in places like Stark County, Ohio.
MATTHEWS: OK, both of you. You first, Andrea. Why did he hesitate on Edwards to the point of bringing in Bob Graham into this discussion at the last minute, it seemed, last night. He was still thinking Bob Graham. What held him back from picking Edwards at the end?
MITCHELL: I think it was that final decision that Edwards was really qualified to be president, that they could be compatible, that he wouldn‘t overshadow him or be too ambitious. I think that is still yet to be proved and tested. But actually, Bob Graham, I was told, was his first pick. Let‘s put John McCain aside, Of course, because that—that was his sort of wishful thinking. But Bob Graham was his favorite Democrat—good friend. He sold his house to Bob Graham. They‘d worked together on things. He really liked Graham and liked the thought of Graham as a potential...
MITCHELL: ... president, and was finally persuaded that it wasn‘t that safe a choice because Graham is a little bit—Graham was a little bit quirky.
FINEMAN: A couple other things, Chris. I think Graham didn‘t play outside of Florida. He gave him a fighting chance, maybe help him in Florida, but didn‘t—wasn‘t seen as helping him anywhere else. Bob Graham—excuse me—John Edwards‘s media adviser is Bob Shrum, who‘s also the media adviser to the Kerry campaign. I think Shrum argued for Edwards.
I also am looking Teresa Heinz Kerry. She supposedly was in on these discussions all through the weekend, and so forth. This is sheer speculation on my part, but I‘m not sure she liked the idea of John Edwards. I think that she didn‘t take kindly to the attacks during the campaign.
MATTHEWS: Really. Very interesting. Anyway, thank you very much.
It is Edwards. It is Kerry. Andrea Mitchell, thanks.
MITCHELL: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Congratulations, Andrea, for the big scoop this morning...
FINEMAN: Way to go, Andrea.
MATTHEWS: ... for NBC News. Howard Fineman, thanks for joining us.
Up next, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. She managed Al Gore‘s campaign the last time around. She‘ll tell us if John Edwards can help John Kerry win down South this time. And later, the Republican reaction to the Kerry-Edwards ticket with party chairman, Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie.
And tonight at 9:00 Eastern, join me for a special edition of HARDBALL with former presidential candidate Howard Dean, Senator Elizabeth Dole and others.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Strategist Donna Brazile has spent most of her life in Democratic politics. In the year 2000, she managed Al Gore‘s presidential campaign and was involved in picking Joe Lieberman as his running mate. Her new biography, by the way—it‘s great, I‘ve been reading it—“Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics.”
It is not exactly a cookbook, is it.
DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: No, it‘s not. It‘s a real political primer for people who want to get involved in politics, learn how to stir the pot and keep it going, keep it simmering.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s talk about this simmering here. Do you think that John Edwards is a winner?
BRAZILE: I think so.
MATTHEWS: Is he heavyweight enough to take on the vice president of the United States, who is almost a co-president now?
BRAZILE: No question. I mean, he‘s a dynamic individual. He has gravitas. I also believe that he will add a lot to this ticket. He will give John Kerry what John Kerry has been missing all along on the stump, somebody who can go out there, sell his message, sell his vision and go to the Republicans the way I think Republican should be gone after.
MATTHEWS: Suppose that guy up in Boston on TV up there starts asking him to name the presidents of different countries. Will he know the answers?
BRAZILE: Well, this is a guy...
MATTHEWS: Will he? Know the answers?
BRAZILE: John Edwards has met with the president of Afghanistan.
He‘s met with the president of Turkey. He‘s met with a number foreign leaders as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. So I think that John Edwards will be able to know the names of...
MATTHEWS: So he‘ll be able to handle “Jeopardy” out there, and answering all the right questions, right?
BRAZILE: I hope so.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the kind of campaign. I was disturbed, as many were, by the results of the way that Joe Lieberman, the one you picked last time, or somebody picked for VP last time—it look to me like he was applying to the Metropolitan Club, and Richard Cheney was the chairman of the club. I mean, sitting down next to him, schmoozing with him. There was no hardball.
BRAZILE: Well, let me just tell you I think John Edwards will more than roll up his sleeves and take on Dick Cheney. John Edwards is prepared for this type of street fight. He spent his entire life fighting for the underdog. You know, this is a guy, when he was 11 years old, he wrote to his dad that he wanted to be a lawyer so that he can fight for innocent people. So I think John Edwards is ready for this fight, not only against Dick Cheney but any Republicans that want to go after him on his record.
MATTHEWS: Is he going to treat Cheney like some corporate pig that he‘s going to go after nail and say, This is guy responsible for this—these people‘s bad lives? Is he going to get really tough and say Halliburton every couple seconds?
BRAZILE: Well, if he doesn‘t, I think somebody should put that in his recipe because that‘s a chapter in Dick Cheney‘s book that not a lot of Americans know about, just how far Halliburton has gone over the last two years in spending our money without being accountable. So I think that John Edwards is going to make that case, and a lot more, in terms of the economy, health care, and the number of people are still struggling for work in this country.
MATTHEWS: What happens if Dick Cheney highhats him and says in the debate, Now, see here, young man, do you have any direct evidence that I did anything corrupt since becoming vice president? If you don‘t, please take back what you just said.
BRAZILE: Well, you know...
MATTHEWS: What happens then?
BRAZILE: ... John Edwards is not Patrick Leahy. I believe that John Edwards will be able to relieve Dick Cheney of his duties as vice president by explaining to the American people what this administration has failed to do. And that‘s what this debate is about, it‘s about the future. And the Bush administration has come up short on the economy, health care, and in the war in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: To quote what I‘m sure the Republicans will be saying, Why should we put an ambulance chaser in the vice president‘s office?
BRAZILE: Because John...
MATTHEWS: He‘s an ambulance-chasing, you know, what do you call it—
BRAZILE: You know, Chris, you once told me not to criticize a man by what he does, OK?
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m saying how they‘re going to do it! How are they going to—I know! I‘m not—I‘m saying how the Republicans are going to...
BRAZILE: This is a guy who‘s defended...
MATTHEWS: ... do it.
BRAZILE: ... and championed issues for working people. Tell that young girl who almost lost her life that she didn‘t deserve a lawyer. Tell people who‘d been hurt and injured on the job that they don‘t deserve protection, and I‘ll tell why you we need somebody like John Edwards in the White House serving with John Kerry.
MATTHEWS: I‘ve heard the answer. That‘s the answer, right?
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about politics. If you look at the map of the South—you‘re from Louisiana.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a perfect example of a state that‘s not right-wing.
It could be. You had David Duke floating around down there for a while.
You still will be.
MATTHEWS: But it‘s a state that has a lot of Catholics. It‘s a mixed state. It‘s a fascinating city where you‘re from, New Orleans. Any chance it will go Democrat?
BRAZILE: I believe that we could...
MATTHEWS: Arkansas, Louisiana. What other states are likely...
BRAZILE: Georgia, Florida...
BRAZILE: ... South Carolina.
MATTHEWS: You‘re—Georgia‘s going to go...
BRAZILE: ... South Carolina—I‘m just telling you the states that are in play. Look, I...
MATTHEWS: You think Georgia‘s in play?
BRAZILE: No, I believe that John Edwards will help John Kerry be in play in North Carolina, possibly in South Carolina. That may be the sleeper this year. He‘ll help us in Florida. And he will help us in Louisiana and Arkansas. John Breaux and Mary Landrieu are ecstatic today because we have somebody on the ticket that understands what grits is all about.
MATTHEWS: I think you‘re right. I think you can win in Louisiana.
You can win possibly in Arkansas, if you get some help from big Bill.
MATTHEWS: You really think—you really think you can win in the ACC? You can win in North Carolina, South Carolina...
BRAZILE: He‘s from South Carolina...
MATTHEWS: ... where people are so conservative?
BRAZILE: He‘s very popular. This is a state that has (UNINTELLIGIBLE) lost a lot of manufacturing jobs. This is a guy who‘s a son of a—a grandson of a sharecropper, the son of a mill worker. You‘ve heard that story.
MATTHEWS: Last time North Carolina...
BRAZILE: A guy who lived...
MATTHEWS: ... voted Democratic was what year?
BRAZILE: Oh, the last time—Clinton won it once.
MATTHEWS: North Carolina.
BRAZILE: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the African-American vote, the black vote. Is this young guy—he looks so young, John Edwards—is he going to get people excited to go out and vote?
BRAZILE: Absolutely. Here‘s a guy who‘s championed Affirmative Action in the United States Senate, wrote a brief on behalf of the Civil Rights plan of opposing the administration on Affirmative Action, a guy who supported early childhood education. Look, he has more black delegates than practically anyone else.
MATTHEWS: I want to come back and ask you a very sensitive ethnic question. Why does it take Southern white guys, like Clinton, Carter, and now John Edwards, to appeal to the enthusiasm among African-American voters you haven‘t seen from a Northern guy like Jack Kennedy for, like, 40 years? We‘ll be back with Donna Brazile. We‘re talking about the Democratic coalition and whether they can win this time by uniting all forces for John Edwards and the Democratic nominee for vice—for president, John Kerry.
Back in a moment with Donna Brazile.
MATTHEWS: This half hour on HARDBALL, the tickets are set, the battle is on. It‘s Kerry-Edwards versus Bush-Cheney. How do those tickets stack up? Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie are going to be here. But first, the latest headlines right now.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. She‘s author of the book, “Cooking With Grease,” it‘s about her life in politics.
Let me get back to that tricky ethnic question. Why is it that the Democrats seem to be so—they only win with Southerners, to be honest with you. Here‘s the last—Jack Kennedy was the last Northerner to win...
BRAZILE: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: ... and he had tremendous Southern support, and that was before blacks could vote in the South mainly. Why does it take Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and now John Edwards to excite the base?
BRAZILE: And then also put Al Gore. Al Gore had a record, historic turnout of African-Americans. And I think now with John Edwards on the ticket, John Kerry can now make that appeal to African-Americans. There is something about the water. I like to use the metaphor of the water, because it‘s what‘s in the—it‘s what‘s in the water, and Southern whites understand the plight of Southern blacks, and vice versa. We grew up together.
And you know, unlike the North, which is very segregated; in the South, we live with each other. We go to the same stores. It is a difference. I think...
MATTHEWS: It is colder up north, too, isn‘t it?
MATTHEWS: And among the different groups of people. They live in this city—somebody was saying on the show this morning, Jacques DeGraf was saying that there‘s too much conflict in big cities.
BRAZILE: Well, not only that. I think in these Southern states, in the Southern cities, I mean, people like John Edwards could not have gotten elected without the strong support of African-Americans.
MATTHEWS: Because the Republican Party is almost all white in the South.
BRAZILE: Well, the Republican Party did that. They made a strategic decision back in ‘60s to go after—the so-called Southern strategy—and to alienate African-American from their political party. And I haven‘t seen any sign that they‘re willing to embrace African-Americans to come back to the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: Putting a Southerner on the ticket, do they—John Kerry doing that, does he open up a really good chance for your party, the Democrats, to pick up—let me give you the possibles. I‘m going to do this, because you‘re going to be saying every state. Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina. Are they the best bets?
BRAZILE: Those are my states. I would also include Tennessee and perhaps Virginia. We have governors in those states. We have a good, strong Democratic Party in those states. And I believe that we have a fighting chance.
MATTHEWS: What water are you drinking? Virginia?
BRAZILE: I‘m drinking...
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s talk about the kind of appeal these two guys are making. When you look at the Democratic crowd out there, in Pittsburgh this morning, pretty white crowd. But I‘ll bet it was an anti-war crowd. I‘m just guessing. And how do you run two candidates to appeal to an anti-war crowd when the one guy, Edwards, was clearly for the war? He doesn‘t - - he is unabashed about it. He was for the war and its goals. And the other guy is still a little hard to read on that. He didn‘t like the timing of it, he didn‘t like the fact that we were rushed into it, wasn‘t multilateral enough, but basically never came out against the war.
How can you excite anti-war Democrats with two pro-war candidates?
BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I think the anti-war Democrats would like to see a change in the White House. And that‘s the bottom line principal issue that is really energizing them. They would like to see John Kerry in the White House, because they know that John Kerry will go about fighting the war on terrorism in a far different manner than what George Bush is doing today. That‘s why you see a lot of anti-war Democrats.
MATTHEWS: How do you know that?
BRAZILE: Because I talk to them all the time. I get (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I just communicate with them. They‘re the most—they are driving this process. They are unified, they are behind John Edwards now, with John Kerry. And you know, I got blogged today from the Clark people saying, you know, I‘m not happy but I‘m going with John Kerry no matter what. So I really do believe at the end of the day the party will remain unified, energized, and we will pick up tremendous support from independents (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
MATTHEWS: Is Al Gore going to give another one of those barn burners at the Democratic Convention he‘s been giving lately?
BRAZILE: Well, a little more Tabasco? I support Al Gore going before the Democratic delegates and American people and make his case. I think he can make a case that John Kerry cannot make about what was wrong about Bush‘s decision to go to war and what happened after 2000. I really do believe that Gore can make that case.
MATTHEWS: What happened to him?
BRAZILE: That‘s the real Al Gore.
MATTHEWS: Why did Al Gore become this fiery sort of guy? He‘s almost like one of these old Southern politicians. You know, waving his arms and getting a passion—and sweating. He never did that in the campaign.
BRAZILE: Well, he did it a lot, maybe perhaps behind the scenes. But what you see now is Al Gore. Not Senator Al Gore or Vice President Al Gore, but Al Gore the environmentalist, Al Gore the civil rights activist, Al Gore the champion who worked with Bill Clinton to bring us record years of prosperity and peace.
MATTHEWS: What do you see is the role for President Clinton, in the general?
BRAZILE: I see...
MATTHEWS: Florida? Is that his job?
BRAZILE: ... Bill Clinton raising money, helping us in those battleground states, and you know what, campaigning with John Edwards in the South.
MATTHEWS: How about Florida? Is that his special job, to go along the Gold Coast here and talk to the older people, the Jewish voters especially, and say, look, stay with the party, don‘t give up, stick with us. Remember Hubert Humphrey Henry Jackson, all the good guys.
BRAZILE: He has a 65 percent approval rating. By the standard that we see today with George Bush, that‘s larger than any approval rating that we‘ve seen in a while for Bill Clinton. He should campaign in Florida, Louisiana, go back to Arkansas, perhaps help us in Tennessee, and I‘m sure John Edwards will call them in in North Carolina.
MATTHEWS: Is he generous enough, he and his wife, to give up the presidency and not still hold hopes that Hillary can win it next time, if they lose this time?
BRAZILE: Oh, absolutely. Hillary Clinton sent out a mass e-mail today to hundreds of thousands of individuals. She‘s happy about this ticket. She campaigned earlier today on behalf of the ticket at the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
MATTHEWS: Were you watching to see her fingers, if they were crossed or not?
BRAZILE: I saw her face, and I know her body language.
MATTHEWS: She really meant it?
BRAZILE: She‘s really pleased with it.
MATTHEWS: She‘s going to give up the presidency to John Kerry and John Edwards?
BRAZILE: I think she‘s committed herself to winning that Senate seat back...
MATTHEWS: Have you given up the idea of Hillary Clinton as president?
BRAZILE: I have not given it up. I haven‘t given up the idea...
MATTHEWS: When? If not now, when, as they say?
BRAZILE: Well, you know, whenever the opportunity may come around. If not Hillary, perhaps Barack Obama, after we get him in the Senate and he‘ll spend some time there.
MATTHEWS: Oh, he looks good. He‘s an interesting guy. His father was Kenyan?
MATTHEWS: His mother was from where, an interesting guy?
BRAZILE: I believe she‘s Irish.
BRAZILE: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s dangerous. Anyway, thanks very much...
BRAZILE: Maybe your cousin.
MATTHEWS: ... Donna Brazile, it‘s great—I know. Great to have you back.
BRAZILE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The Bush-Cheney campaign jumped all over John Kerry‘s announcement today of his new vice presidential nominee, releasing a new ad suggesting Edwards was Kerry‘s second choice. The Republican, of course, McCain was his first choice. Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie will be here to nail that one in. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, Kerry picks Edwards, and the Bush campaign immediately takes aim at the Democratic ticket. Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie will be here when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The Bush-Cheney campaign already took its first swing at John Edwards today, with an ad that featured Senator John McCain praising President Bush‘s efforts in the war on terror. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: It‘s a big thing, this war. It‘s a fight between right and wrong, good and evil. And should our enemies acquire for their arsenal the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons they seek, this war will become an even bigger thing. It will become a fight for our survival.
America is under attack by depraved enemies who oppose our every interest and hate every value we hold dear. It is the great test of our generation, and he has led with great moral clarity and firm resolve. He has not wavered. He has not flinched from the hard choices. He was determined and remains determined to make this world a better, safer, freer place. He deserves not only our support but our admiration.
That‘s why I am honored to introduce to you the president of the United States, George W. Bush.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Ed Gillespie is chairman of the Republican National Committee. I mean, you‘re basically running an ad today to make the point that...
ED GILLESPIE, RNC CHAIRMAN: That Senator McCain is one of the most respected figures in America today, for good reason. Gave a powerful introduction to the president, made a strong testament to his resolve in leading the war on terror and winning that war. And I thought it was a powerful message, and it‘s one of the best spots I think the campaign has done.
MATTHEWS: How do you do that without laughing? I mean, isn‘t today‘s purpose of your ad to basically make the case—and it‘s good, clean tricks politics—that the first choice for VP of John Kerry was John McCain and he had to settle for John Edwards? You were making that point today, weren‘t you?
GILLESPIE: Well, I‘m not privy to the conversations that Senator Kerry had with Senator McCain. I know Senator McCain is a strong supporter of the president, he‘s very well respected, and I‘m sure that Senator Kerry is happy with his choice of Senator Edwards.
MATTHEWS: But isn‘t—isn‘t President Bush basically McCain‘s own second choice for president? I mean, he wanted McCain to be president himself.
GILLESPIE: Well, you know, Chris, in political parties, there are primaries, and absolutely, I think Senator McCain clearly wanted to be president. But is a strong supporter of President Bush‘s, and is doing all he can to make sure the president gets reelected.
MATTHEWS: I‘m sure you studied the statement that was put out, an e-mail this morning by Senator Kerry. He says he looked forward to October when his candidate for VP, John Edwards, stands toe to toe with the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney. It looks to me like they‘re sicking him on the vice president. It is going to be Halliburton, Halliburton, Halliburton for an hour and a half come October. Will it be a stand-up debate, or will it be that schmooze that we had last time around between Lieberman and Cheney, where they sat down and sort of talked over things? Will it be a head to head kind of debate?
GILLESPIE: You know, I don‘t know where things stand relative to the debates and the debate commission‘s recommendations and where the campaigns are in accepting them or not accepting them. I do think that John Edwards, if you want to find one thing in favor of John Edwards as the VP nominee, you know, this is someone who pocketed millions and millions of dollars as a trial lawyer, pressing the case for his clients, and winning over jury awards and is a very persuasive speaker. There‘s no doubt about that. He‘s a very skilled orator.
MATTHEWS: Pocketed (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? Is that how you make money these days, you pocket it? You said he pocketed it.
MATTHEWS: Do you think...
MATTHEWS: ... unethical lawyer?
GILLESPIE: No. I don‘t think so. I think he is a good lawyer. I think he‘s a good lawyer.
MATTHEWS: But when you say he pocketed the money, it sort of suggests like he‘s like working the craps tables.
GILLESPIE: I think he is like most trial lawyers. You know, he took between 25 and 33 percent.
MATTHEWS: As a contingency, yeah.
GILLESPIE: As a contingency.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of this, what do you think about the move, though, as a political game? Do you think the fact that Kerry could have picked a more cautious running mate, like Dick Cheney—I mean, like Dick Gephardt, with all his years of experience, he didn‘t go for that guy who had the experience and the seasoning. He took a guy in his first term, basically, as a United States senator. Is that going to be a problem and a target for you guys?
GILLESPIE: Well, I think that Senator Kerry‘s own words probably are most telling here, when Senator Kerry said that this is a person, Senator Edwards is a person who has only four years experience in the United States Senate, no international relations experience, no military experience, and that this is not a time that the American people are going to want to put someone at the helm for on-the-job training when it comes to our national security. I think that was a legitimate concern that Senator Kerry raised. But I do think he took comfort in the fact that John Edwards is someone whose voting record is very much in sync with John Kerry‘s voting record. You know, they‘re—I‘m sure they‘re hoping there is a perception, well, he‘s a Southern Democrat, therefore he must be a moderate. The fact is, “The National Journal,” a very well respected publication in this town, non-ideological, read by journalists and policy makers, did an analysis of all of the votes cast in the last session of Congress, and John Kerry they found to be the most liberal member of the United States Senate. And the fourth most liberal member of the United States Senate was John Edwards.
MATTHEWS: You‘re right about the shot. I want to read the whole shot. This is what Senator Kerry said about Senator Edwards, the man he picked today as his running mate. Quote, “in the Senate four years, no international experience, no military experience. You can imagine what the advertising is going to be next year.” Your advertising. “This is not the time for on-the-job training in the White House on national security issues.” You guys are probably going to use that.
GILLESPIE: I just did.
MATTHEWS: So basically, let me ask you about the whole question of the guy‘s ability. Do you think he is too unseasoned to be vice president?
GILLESPIE: Again, I think that if you look at Senator Kerry‘s comments, I think that they are pertinent here. The fact is, and we look forward to the comparing Vice President Cheney‘s great wealth of experience and the judgment he brings to bear is his track record in terms of being secretary of defense and serving in the White House and in the United States Congress. I think it stacks up very favorably to John Kerry‘s (sic) light record.
MATTHEWS: But you know, experience doesn‘t always—Dick Nixon had more experience than John Kennedy back in ‘60, and Kennedy beat him.
GILLESPIE: Well, I think there is other things, too, in terms of the record that John Edwards brings to the table as well. This is someone who voted against the child tax credit. He voted against repealing the marriage penalty in our tax code. He voted against funding for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, providing them the body armor and other means necessary for them to do their jobs...
MATTHEWS: That was the vote—that was the what was the $87 billion for the occupation?
GILLESPIE: Yes. And he didn‘t show up for the next vote in terms of the $25 billion vote, which is No. 2 to only to John Kerry in terms of not even showing up for votes in the United States Senate, so you have to wonder about his priorities.
I think that it is his record. Elections are about issues and policies, and his policies are out of sync with most Americans.
MATTHEWS: How are you going to use the issue of him being a trial lawyer? You mentioned a few minutes ago. Is a trial lawyer, by definition, a bad guy, an ambulance chaser? Is it automatically a negative?
GILLESPIE: No, I don‘t believe that‘s the case. But I do think that in terms of his policies, this is someone who has fought hard to block any effort to put some sanity into our legal process. You know, we have communities in this country today, Chris, where expectant mothers have to drive 60 miles to see an OBGYN for treatment.
MATTHEWS: That is the case in Pennsylvania, isn‘t it?
GILLESPIE: It is the case in Pennsylvania, and it‘s because of the trial lawyers, it‘s because of the frivolous lawsuits and the abuse of lawsuits. No one should have the right to bring a suit taken away from them, but at the same time, there should be some sanity put into this system so that we‘re not driving good doctors out of business, we‘re not driving up the costs of goods and services in the economy, and I think he has got a record in this regard that is disturbing relative to policy.
MATTHEWS: How do you deal with this new movie by Michael Moore, the fact that $60 million box office so far, that‘s about 10 million people have seen it. I saw it. I think there is a lot of dishonesty in it, a lot of propaganda, but powerful emotions about inequity in this society, inequity in terms of who fights wars. We all know that. How are you going to fight that sentiment in this campaign?
GILLESPIE: Well, in terms of Michael Moore, I mean, I‘m surprised that the Democratic Party has embraced someone as radical as he is...
MATTHEWS: Have they? Who‘s done that?
GILLESPIE: Well, I saw a picture of my counterpart, Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic Party, hugging him on the front page of “The Washington Post” at the premiere of his movie, so it‘s literally an embrace, I think it‘s literally an embrace...
MATTHEWS: He‘s embraced you a few times, too, hasn‘t he?
MATTHEWS: I get your point. Do you think that‘s a danger?
GILLESPIE: Well, look, this is someone who said that Elian Gonzalez, the little boy who was returned to Cuba a couple of years ago, would be better off growing up in Cuba than in the United States. He is someone who said that we should not have responded militarily to the attacks of September 11, and that we were wrong to remove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. We would have been better off if they‘ve been there, allowing for these terrorist camps to continue to operate.
This is someone who said that the men who died in Vietnam died in vain. He said that Christopher Columbus was the Adolf Hitler of his time. This is a person who‘s very much in the extreme in our political process, and yet he is the new face of the Democratic Party.
MATTHEWS: Have you seen the movie yet?
GILLESPIE: I saw “Shrek 2” instead...
MATTHEWS: You ought to see this movie.
MATTHEWS: I‘m skeptical too, I can say it‘s powerful propaganda.
GILLESPIE: It‘s propaganda, you‘re right about that.
MATTHEWS: But propaganda works.
GILLESPIE: Not always.
MATTHEWS: I mean, 40 percent of the country still thinks Iraq attacked us on September 11.
GILLESPIE: The fact is that people get the facts, and they‘ll get the facts...
MATTHEWS: ... thanks to you coming on this show...
GILLESPIE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: ... helping to get the facts out.
Thank you. Ed Gillespie, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. When we come back, pollster Frank Luntz will tell us what swing voters in the crucial battleground states of Pennsylvania have been saying about John Edwards as John Kerry‘s running mate. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: John Edwards may be John Kerry‘s choice for vice presidential nominee, but how will the American voters respond to the North Carolina senator? Pollster Frank Luntz has been gauging public opinion in one of his focus groups, and he is here to talk about how Edwards is being perceived by the American people. Frank, will Edwards do well with the swing voters?
FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: Actually, I think he will. We went out to Philadelphia last night, just before Edwards was chosen. Sixteen swing voters. It was incredible. They watched Edwards, his persona.
What I found interesting is that they believe in Edwards what they believe in Kerry, that he represents and speaks for the working class. They have no idea how wealthy Edwards is. They‘ve got no idea how wealthy Kerry is. The two of them together, it‘s probably the wealthiest ticket ever in American politics, and yet they seem to appeal to working class voters.
Edwards has got one strength, which is he‘s boyish, he‘s new, he‘s the next generation. And it‘s a good parallel between him and Kerry, who comes across sometimes a little bit dull and a little bit tedious.
MATTHEWS: You‘re being nice today.
LUNTZ: I‘m being nice today, but the challenge for Edwards is in his profession. And I‘ve said this before. The American people don‘t like the legal system right now, and they really don‘t like lawyers. And they really hold personal injury lawyers responsible for so much of what is wrong with the frivolous lawsuits.
MATTHEWS: Right, I agree. But what about if—excuse me, what about if the Democrats are smart enough to show that girl who was mangled in the swimming pool, and how the family was able to get an economic consolation from that, from his lawsuit? Because of John Edwards‘ brains?
LUNTZ: Obviously they‘re going to do that. They‘re going to do those kinds of bios. And Edwards in his whole presentation talks about growing up from poor means. And even Republicans love that story. It is the American dream.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at what you showed. Here‘s the focus group. Let‘s just look at this, it‘s from our show here, HARDBALL, and tell how the people responded. We‘re going to take a look at one of these focus group responses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Can you talk to the people of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and et cetera? All those Rust Belt states, if you will? And you can promise—can you promise those middle age workers, my age, who are losing their jobs, can you promise them that you‘re going to keep those jobs for them?
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: No. That wouldn‘t be the truth, Chris. I think what I can say to them is, that we can change our trade policy. That will have an impact on the flow of these jobs. We can change our tax policy and not give tax breaks to American companies leaving and going overseas, and instead reverse that and give breaks to companies that are staying here. I think it will have an impact. But I think they deserve to know the truth. And we have other work to do to create additional jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So people who voted for Bush and people who voted for Gore both love the idea of this nuanced kind of concern about lost jobs overseas.
LUNTZ: Lost jobs overseas, and the anti-corporate—it is no longer rich versus poor, the way that Democrats used to run. Now, it‘s working class Americans versus corporate America. It doesn‘t sound as class-biased, it doesn‘t sound as divisive, and even employees of these largest corporations don‘t always like the people that they work for. So it is a very effective approach.
And what I‘m watching as that clip ran by, it wasn‘t the Gore line. It was that red Bush line. It climbed above 70. That means that even Bush people are nodding their heads in agreement. We need somebody who‘s fighting for us, not fighting for corporate America.
MATTHEWS: The success of this movie by Michael Moore that‘s been getting huge—you can‘t even get into the theater, unless you go there three hours ahead or use Fandango.
Is that going to be resonant? Is that going to be resonating throughout this campaign, because of Edwards? Is he going to talk the blue collar version of that line? I mean, the white collar version of that line?
LUNTZ: Look, I saw it in New York, in Philadelphia and in Washington. And OK, they‘re not conservative places, but 85 percent of the audience who went in were already voting for Kerry. But I have got to tell you, 100 percent of the audience coming out, even kids 18, 19 years old that had no interest in politics, the people who were going to this film, they‘re fascinated. And let me tell you why, because there is a lesson here for the Bush campaign. American have got a lot of questions about what happened. A lot of questions.
MATTHEWS: About the war.
LUNTZ: About the war, and they feel like they‘re not getting answers. They‘re not going to judge the president the way Michael Moore has, but the Bush White House has to respond more. They have got to respond more quickly. They have got to be answering these questions, and they‘re not doing it.
MATTHEWS: Well, 10 million people have seen that movie. When 20 or 30 have seen it, should the White House respond by then?
LUNTZ: The White House should have responded two weeks ago, three weeks ago.
MATTHEWS: I‘m telling you, I‘m not a Michael Moore fan especially. I think he plays with some stories that aren‘t exactly true, even remotely true. But the emotion of the movie is about little people getting screwed by the war, by the economic policies of this administration. It is brilliant propaganda.
LUNTZ: And it just—it heightens the anxiety, but it does one thing even more important. The most important value in this election cycle is credibility. Who do you trust? And what that film does is it undermines the trust that Americans still have in George W. Bush.
MATTHEWS: OK, great to have you. Frank Luntz. Coming up tonight at 9:00 Eastern, I‘ll be back with a special edition of HARDBALL as we examine the two tickets, Bush-Cheney versus Kerry-Edwards. Our guests will include Howard Dean and Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina. Right now, it‘s time for “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.
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