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Transcript: Go Negative

The full episode transcript for Article II: Inside Impeachment, Go Negative.
Lyndon Johnson and Michael Dukakis
Lyndon Johnson and Michael Dukakis.AP, Getty


So You Wanna Be President? with Chris Matthews

Go Negative

Chris Matthews: So You Wanna Be President? (MUSIC) We've been talkin' about six timeless lessons from campaigns that win. Lesson one, win Iowa.

Archival Recording: It is hard to imagine how somebody who hasn't laid the groundwork, who hasn't been at this day after day after day is gonna make it.

Matthews: Lesson two, if you see something, say something.

Archival Recording: You know, one of the parts of politics that we forget about is the daily necessity of a candidate to, against the odds, maintain and project good cheer and equanimity and a little humor if you can.

Matthews: Lesson three, remember the walls have ears. Don't say anything to one group you don't want every voter to hear.

Archival Recording: In a way, it's a more personal vote than a vote for a member of Congress or for the city council. They wanna feel this is someone who will have me in mind when he or she is facing the biggest decisions in the White House. And that's why I think these moments may matter more than they would for other kind of campaigns.

Matthews: Lesson four, know how to play from the back. Know how to turn a loss into a win.

Archival Recording: That's what a great politician does. They change the narrative to what they want it to be. His message was, "They threw everything at me and they didn't knock me down."

Archival Recording: That's Beth's point.

Archival Recording: And it worked.

Matthews: Lesson five, jump on the galloping horse of history as it flies by.

Archival Recording: We're talking about a controversial outreach that was full of risk. And yet, here we are, 60 years later, celebrating a guy for doing the right thing.

Matthews: Now we've come to lesson six. It's the oldest, worst, and most effective part of American politics. Go negative. There's no way to use your opponent's weakness any better. Voters say they hate it, but it works. (MUSIC) Stay with us.

Matthews: So You Wanna Be President? (MUSIC) We're talkin' about lesson six for presidential campaigns, go negative. I'm joined this time by Andrea Mitchell and Mike Murphy. Andrea's my colleague at NBC. She's senior Washington correspondent for NBC News and host of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports. Andrea, it's so great to be with you.

Andrea Mitchell: Great to be with you.

Matthews: My pal. And Mike Murphy has handled media and strategy for Republicans running for president, the U.S. Senate, and governor, including John McCain, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's also part of his own podcast, Hacks on Tap, love that title, with David Axelrod. Mike, many thanks for being with us today.

Mike Murphy: Great to be here.

Matthews: All right. Lesson six, go negative. This is the kind of ad you have to be ready to unleash.

Matthews: Well, that's the famous "Daisy" ad from Lyndon Johnson's 1964 campaign against Barry Goldwater. It starts with a little girl pulling pedals off a daisy. And then, kaboom, nuclear Armageddon. Andrea, the ad dropped two months before the election of 1964. What did Johnson mean when he mentioned the stakes?

Mitchell: He's trying to demonize Barry Goldwater. The whole point was to say that Barry Goldwater was too right-winged, too scary, would lead to nuclear war. Think of what the stakes were back then with missiles aimed at each other from the former Soviet Union and the United States. And to clearly make him too dangerous to be president.

Matthews: Mike, as I remember it, and I'm so old, I can remember actually what it was, Johnson was going after Goldwater then because Goldwater made the big mistake of saying, "I would let field commanders in the military make decisions themselves on the use of tactical nuclear weapons." That was really scary.

Murphy: Yeah, I think that ad, created by the great Tony Schwartz, is particularly brilliant and pioneering in that it never says "Goldwater." What it did was make the issue of nuclear, itchy finger on the nuclear trigger, the big topic of debate.

And that was a topic that Goldwater, because of his perception, and I'm a Goldwater sympathizer, but the perception was that Barry was a hothead. He had said that about the use of nuclear weapons. So it pushed the whole topic of the debate into is Barry Goldwater gonna cause World War III. Which is never where a candidate wants to be. And that's what negative ads often do. They change the topic of the election to a topic that's bad for a particular candidate. And that was the pioneering one.

Matthews: So why'd he do it? So why did LBJ do that? He was running as sort of John Kennedy's, you know, afterlife in a way. He was running as a way to keep the new frontier going. There was all that sympathy, the country was largely Democrat at the time. Why would he go so nasty against a guy that was certainly the underdog?

Murphy: That's a great question. And it might've just been his personality, though I've never met a campaign that doesn't wanna kinda bolt down the victory. And by running that ad, for whatever trigger they had internally to be worried, they changed the whole topic of the election into a pit of quicksand that Goldwater couldn't get out of. So, you know, when in doubt, take no chances. And that was kind of a nuclear bomb of an ad in the campaign. And it worked.

Mitchell: Of course, the irony is that Johnson went on with a landslide victory and got deeper and deeper into Vietnam, which he had inherited, and that war and the outrage against it is what cost him his opportunity to run for a second term.

Matthews: Let's talk about our media here. That ad only ran once in 1964, in early September, I think September 7th, of 1964. Two months before the election. Just once. It's hard to believe an ad runs once. But it was on Monday night, what's it called, Monday Night Movie, the Monday-night movie. And in those days, we had three networks, huge audience. Just once though.

Mitchell: A huge audience, it would be the equivalent of having a Super Bowl ad, really, given, you know, the scale of it. And the fact is, there was no social media, obviously. So there was no other way to transmit information rapidly. So by buying that one ad, it immediately got swept up. And it was picked up in newscasts and in newspapers as an example of, you know, how fierce the debate was. But not necessarily how negative the advertising was.

Matthews: You talked about this subversive quality ad, Mike, about the fact they never say the word "Goldwater." Never say the word "Republican" or "conservative" or anything.

Murphy: Right.

Matthews: That ad, what was it about? It was obviously evoked Frankenstein the movie.

Murphy: Right.

Matthews: The monsters coming up to the little girl. I think there is actually a scene like that in the movie, the old movie. What else about it? The fact, did they feel intimidated after playing it once? Like, "We better not play with fire again"? Or what happened? Why not a second run--

Murphy: You know, that's a great question. I'm sure there was nervousness in the debate within the campaign about it. Because it was so untraditional, the primitive sort of advertising used in campaigns then. But in addition to inventing this idea of shoving the topic to an area where your opponent is naturally weak and therefore making the presidential debate the topic "how bad my opponent is," it also began what's now a very long-heralded tactic, we consultants know that the press loves to cover ads.

So sometimes you run an ad once or twice, even now, and the story of the ad generates its own several days of news coverage, which of course is all free. So that was a topic changer. And it was so radical and so new. And as you say, it was at a time like the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, where, you know, if you're on one of the channels, you'd get a quarter to a third of the country.

That one shove was all they needed. I don't think they needed to run it again. Next thing you know, Barry Goldwater's answering questions about, "How crazy are you?" So it was also where advertising and media coverage merged, which is a staple now of campaigns.

Matthews: Andrea, there's always some backfire, some ricochet, whatever. And I'm sure they took some heat from the cognoscenti at the time, "Oh, that was too rough." But I bet the overall effect was, "Get it on people's minds."

Mitchell: It was implanted, imbedded in people's minds. And it became the narrative of the campaign. I was a college kid and actually got to interview Barry Goldwater. And it was the first question we all asked.

Matthews: At Penn?

Mitchell: At Penn.

Matthews: How'd you do that?

Mitchell: College radio.

Matthews: Wow. You had--

Mitchell: WXPN.

Matthews: In the old days. God, Andrea is a star. Did Johnson win because, back to you Andrea, did he win because, he had so many things, I guess.

Mitchell: I think he had so many things, the emotion after the assassination, as you say, the country was still heavily Democratic. It was not nearly as divided. And the Vietnam War was not an issue at all at the time. And the only foreign policy issue that really came to the fore was promulgated by this "Daisy" ad, the so-called "Daisy" ad, which only aired once. But which became a very compelling narrative. (MUSIC)

Matthews: So we're coming to 1988, 24 years later. Michael Dukakis was done in by George Bush, the first President Bush, who went negative in that campaign. There are two parts to this. First, a weekend furlough program, it was called, for convicted, life-imprisoned criminals in Massachusetts.

So they were in for life, but they were allowed to get out for weekends, a case to keep them in good order. Dukakis, he was governor, of course, of Massachusetts. How did a weekend furlough program in that state make it into the presidential campaign? Well, George Bush brought it up again and again in his speeches. And in September, two months before the election, this ad was dropped into the race.

Matthews: Well, I don't think anybody who grew up during that period forgets any of that.

Mitchell: Well, first of all, it actually came up in the second and final debate. And I was one of the debate moderators--

Mitchell: --between Dukakis and Bush. And it was brought up by Bernie Shaw, who was the lead of the debate moderators. And he asked the first question. Only one question for him, and then the rest of the panel got questions. And I remember I was preparing and asking about the nuclear triad and the budget and the budget deficit. He asked one question.

Mitchell: Dukakis, who was struggling with the flu, said, "Well, Bernard," and answered in a robotic, you know, emotionless way about this hypothetical of his wife were raped and murdered, like the victim in the Willie Horton case. And nobody remembered anything else out of that debate. And even though Dukakis went into that second debate ahead in the polls, he plummeted afterwards.

Matthews: You know, my--

Mitchell: So the Willie Horton ad stuck.

Matthews: You gotta wonder about Massachusetts culture. Because up in Massachusetts, that stuff sold. That wouldn't have beaten him for reelection as governor, that furlough program. But to most Americans out in the rest of the c-- well, Mike, you speak for them. Because letting a lifetime--

Murphy: Yeah, sure.

Matthews: --for-life prisoner who murdered people, when a jury said, "Okay, we won't execute him if you give him life imprisonment," is basically the mentality. That furlough program was gonna hurt Dukakis up in Massachusetts, but out in the rest of the country, that resonated.

Murphy: Yeah, absolutely. And this is a great example of how advertising, in particular, that ad, which was sort of the match that lit the fuse, can take one small thing, one anecdotal story, and totally define a much larger policy. I mean, Dukakis will say, "Oh, thoughtful, we had a great raid of prisoners returning to the blah, blah, blah," but this one horrible story becomes in the everyday American discussion around the dinner table of what Mike Dukakis is all about, becomes the defining moment.

And the campaign, I worked on the Bush '88 campaign. And the strategy was very much to put Massachusetts and the policy, as you said, that works up there politically, on trial. 'Cause it doesn't work in Michigan or Ohio or Florida. And this was the great shiny example.

And it was also an early example of how an independent committee, that is not connected or coordinated by the campaign, can throw the match on behalf of the campaign. And the campaign can say, "Hey, that wasn't us. But boy, that seems like a big question about that Willie Horton thing. What did he do?" And then the campaign can do its own work.

Matthews: Yeah, that was run by something called the National Security Political Action Committee. Which sounds like a built-for-the-occasion organization. But I think it was a Larry McCarthy, I think, let's not get into that. But anyway. He says he, Roger Ailes--

Murphy: Larry made the ad, yeah, for that group--

Matthews: Well, Roger Ailes said he never had anything to do with it. But the Ailes advertising opportunity, working for, directly for the Bush campaign for president, soon put out its own ad to complement that Willie Horton ad.

Matthews: Now, that was the white-collar version, if you will, of the Willie Horton ad, which it looked like the Shroud of Turin, you know? The classic wanted poster of an African-American guy. By the way, Lee Atwater always said he wished it was a white guy, to be blunt.

I don't know whether that was true or not, but they thought they had the goods on Dukakis just on the law and order piece, without the ethnic piece. But let's go back to that revolving door. You see guys going through, like, in a big hotel or business office in New York or something with the door revolving as you come in. And a mixed group of people, black, maybe perhaps Hispanic, white, they mixed it up. They cleaned it up.

Mitchell: But, at the same time, it was so overtly racist and so outrageously biased and ominous with the pounding, you know, drumbeat behind and the voice. And it really, for a generation, made it impossible, I think, for anyone from Massachusetts to get elected president. I mean, think about it. It became Massachusetts against the rest of the country. And I'm not sure it didn't, with other overtones, affect John Kerry as well.

Matthews: You know, I wonder, Mike, if the people in Massachusetts, particular Governor Dukakis, who was a good government guy. I always thought of him a sort of a Yankee, good government, against the old machines types, when he was on the advocates all those years. But they always package this with, "Oh, he's a card-carrying member of the ACLU," like he's a communist.

A card-carrying member. We knew that phrase. Or he wouldn't support punishing teachers for not leading their classes in the pledge of allegiance. They put all that into sort of an anti-American point of view.

Mitchell: They questioned--

Murphy: Well--

Mitchell: --people's patriotism.

Matthews: Yeah, go ahead Mike.

Murphy: Yeah, but it was one of the most liberal states. And he did have that prison furlough pro-- it was all true. I mean, if the Democrats can run an ad sayin' that Barry Goldwater's a nuclear madman who's gonna incinerate the planet, calling out the fact that the liberal governor of a liberal state had a liberal policy on crime, on furloughs for prisoners, I think it was a fair shot.

You can argue about the graphics of it, you can argue about the subtext. But I'd put it right there with a "Daisy" spot. Same thing. A hard elbow, based on perceptions people had. And the difference between this and the "Daisy" spot is that was Dukakis's policy.

Matthews: Was that sort of the crowning, or the crushing blow of the '88 campaign?

Mitchell: I think--

Matthews: Willie Horton?

Mitchell: I think the "tank" ad was--

Matthews: Here we go. Okay--

Mitchell: --the coup de grâce.

Matthews: Talk about the "tank" ads. It's just called that, the "tank" ad. This was attacking Mike Dukakis for being weak on defense. These are all sort of named for the Republican side. Democrats are less for big military spending. And here's the ad. But the picture of it is the picture of not a tall man, but with a big helmet on, in a big tank, coming toward is it M1A1, latest state-of-the-art Abrams tank, coming toward the camera. So let's imagine that picture.

Matthews: The use of the word "chief," I mean, the diminishment of this guy. And then to have him in this sort of Rocky the Squirrel costume at the end, was devastating.

Mitchell: Well, the irony is, he had just given in Chicago a really good foreign policy speech that day. Then he goes to, the same day, to the General Dynamics plant, puts on the helmet and gets in the tank. He looked like Snoopy. I mean, it was so awful. And Atwater just, at campaign headquarters in Washington, slapped his hands on his knee and said, "We've got him." And people who were in the room said they were jumping with glee. They knew they had the video. And that video became emblematic.

Matthews: So it starts off with a picture of a guy in a tank. You just see the tank, you don't see who's in it, way in the distance. And it's circling around. Obviously, somebody's having fun doing these rotations around this track. And then, unbelievably, it comes in, right into the camera, like they say up in Hollywood, up and one, or on Broadway, right up on one, look, and he's smiling with that helmet on. It's like Halloween. Mike?

Murphy: Yeah, it's funny. There's an old Nixon ad--

Murphy: --against McGovern, which is the same sort of thing. The voiceover announcer reads all the defense programs that the Democrat had opposed.

Murphy: And they removed toy tanks and toy ships and everything. It was a perfectly good spot. And not infrequent from Republicans attacking Democrats for not wanting to fund defense programs. But what was great about this one, from an ad-making point of view, is, well, you had the legit shots on all those defense votes.

You had that great subtext of a massive Abrams tank prowling around Warren, Michigan. I know that plant from my political work in Michigan. It's the old Chrysler plant, where they make the tanks, or used to. And you have Dukakis, and they made him wear the regulation helmet, which is enormous, 'cause the radio, you know, gear inside the helmet. It's like one of those Star Wars helmets you see, the guys with the ridiculously huge helmet. And every (UNINTEL) to this day in both parties lives with the nightmare of, "No hats."

Matthews: I know, I was thinking--

Murphy: But somehow, when he climbed in the tank, they said, "Oh, you gotta wear the helmet so that, you know, you can hear through the radio, I guess. It's regulation." And Dukakis, "Okay." And he put on this helmet. But the footage of the massive tank with the relatively small-framed Dukakis, with this enormous helmet head driving around, it was just the perfect visual metaphor.

And it was Ailes, I think, who saw that. He had kind of a knack for that raw connection. And that image, even though the voiceover was bad enough, that image got glued to Dukakis by television in a way that he could never shake. And it fit everything else. Weak on crime, from liberal elite. Remember Belgian endive during the primary, his suggestion for salad? It just glued him in that box and he could never get out of it.

Matthews: You know, I kept thinking that Michael, who's a good guy, he's a good husband, is certainly a good guy, I'm sure there was something in that tank that said, "Always wear a helmet." He was such a goody-two-shoes, he said, "I gotta put the helmet on. I'm sorry. I gotta wear the helmet."

Murphy: Procedure, you know, it's the rules. He was that kinda guy.

Matthews: Yeah, well, anyway, he tried to fight back. He wasn't stupid about it. He saw this coming at him. He was told by his pros, "This thing's killing you." So he tried to do it. So here's an ad that their people put on. It's a brief clip of the "tank" moment, actually. It shows it. And then it cuts to Governor Dukakis, who reaches down and turns off the TV.

Matthews: So what part? Remember the statistics in that race, Andrea and Mike, were basically Dukakis was up by 17 points in the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll in August. He lost the election by eight. So that's a 25-point shift. And I think there was even more of a shift two or three weeks out. Was that it? Or was it start-- did it start earlier than these ads?

Mitchell: I think it started earlier. But I think the nail in the coffin was that last debate. I remember coming off stage and--

Matthews: The Bernie Shaw one?

Mitchell: Yeah. I came off stage and the late, great David Broder, I went to him and I said, "Well, what did you think?" And he said, "The campaign just ended."

Matthews: Do you agree with that, Mike? That the failure to respond emotionally and personally on the, "What would you do if your wife Kitty were raped and murdered," not giving sort of a husband's response, but to give a sort of somebody a Harvard Law School answer, was not the right answer?

Murphy: I think it was the final proof point in the case against Dukakis. And that race was very typical of what would come in presidential politics, which is a candidate who had, you know, weak numbers, George H. W. Bush. Changed the subject of the campaign, to not, "What's wrong with him," who had been in public life as vice president, but, "What's wrong with my opponent."

You would later see Barack Obama do that to Mitt Romney when Obama was vulnerable in his reelection campaign. And my prediction is now, you will see Donald Trump try to do it to whoever the Democratic nominee is. It is a proven tactic in politics to change the subject from, "You don't like me, here's what's wrong with him."

The problem Dukakis had was that his tone and style, plus his Massachusetts record all fit together into a very compelling case against him. And when he is there in that debate, and he doesn't use that moment in front of so many eyeballs to dramatically crush it, instead relying on ads like that, which are, "stop the bleeding" ads at best. They don't put you really back on offense. (MUSIC) He failed to do that. And, you know, case closed, jury voted, and that was the end of Mike Dukakis.

Matthews: So you wanna be president? We'll have more about lesson six in a moment. Stay with us.

Matthews: So you wanna be president? We're talkin' about lesson six for presidential campaigns, go negative.

Matthews: And here's one last example from 2004 campaign.

Matthews: So John Kerry began the campaign as the nominee of the Democratic party by saying, "Reporting for duty." That was a famous opening line.

Mitchell: And at the convention.

Matthews: And in the Iowa--

Mitchell: His acceptance speech.

Matthews: Yeah, and in the Iowa caucuses of that spring, he famously brought along somebody he helped save the life of, who pulled the boat, pulled the guy into the boat under enemy fire. So he had a really good reputation and he'd earned it with all the medals and everything. How did the Republicans come up with this assortment of bad witnesses? Or strong witnesses?

Mitchell: I don't know how they did it behind the scenes. Because it was flagrantly false. But remember that he had testified to the Senate as an anti-war veteran.

Mitchell: That was his first appearance on the national stage. And he had been a very prominent anti-war activist. So it was still a divisive point of view within the military community. And despite his leadership, his leadership on foreign relations committee, and his knowledge of foreign affairs, and his military record, what he thought was clearly the opening line of his acceptance speech in the Boston convention, became actually turned against him as the way to undercut his credibility. And it just destroyed him very early in the campaign.

Matthews: Mike, do you think he could've played defense on that very effective ad, it was effective, if he had come out not as a pro, you know, GI Joe, if he'd come out and said, "You know what, I'm well known for opposing the war. But the soldiers that fought are great people." Or, "I did my best under battle conditions," to explain the fact that he was kind of a hybrid, politically.

He was anti-war in Massachusetts, but he did have a pretty good record. It just struck me that those guys that spoke against him didn't have a problem with his actual record as much in service as they did not like him throwing those medals on the ground in front of the Capitol.

Murphy: I totally agree. Kerry's challenge was, you know, most candidates, they have military experience, they like to talk about it. But Kerry had been so controversial in the inner, you know, debates among veterans, for and against the Vietnam War right afterward. And he had been propelled into the national spotlight as such a vocal opponent.

He had a lotta enemies who had credible war service too. And they could go on television. And a bunch of 'em did in that ad and create all this dissidence about who he really was. And I thought the Kerry people never really provided another narrative and punched it through with a good ad of, "Hey, wait a minute, you know, this fight with my brother veterans is about politics. Not about those of us who were there on those days."

And here's one, two, and three who were there who could then be surrogates on television fighting back, saying, "This is absolute political crap here." Instead, the narrative of, "Hey, wait a minute, he's a politician who brags about his military service but according to people--"

And those are very credible, at least, feeling people, "I was there, I saw it," that is a hard thing to fight back against. And they never really, in my view anyway, counterattacked in a way to beat it back to at least a draw and then change the subject to what's wrong with, you know, the Republican.

Matthews: Why not?

Murphy: Yeah, I honestly have no idea. Often, campaigns think that when you're responding to an ad, you're providing fire and fuel and oxygen to the fire that's hurting you. But that's the kind of fire, if you don't put it out, it's gonna burn down the barn. So I don't know. I really don't know. But they got him on the defensive, on one of his biggest strengths.

And that's the second part of this. When you can find a way to put somebody on defensive, on somebody that was a big positive for him, you really put him back on their heels. And that is a very tough thing to get out of.

Matthews: Yeah, well, what's your bottom line? Your bottom line is, Michael, as a pro, is respond or don't respond? Or is there no general rule?

Murphy: There's no general rule. And your response has to be a counterattack. Kerry needed a few Medal of Honor winners in Vietnam staring at the camera and saying, "Hey, wait a minute." And he didn't have 'em. That's one that you have to respond. But it's always about counterattacking.

Matthews: You know, it's amazing guys, how close that 2004 election ended up being after that, you know, pretty nasty-- swift-voting has become a verb, to swift-vote somebody now. I think that's the way it's seen, as unfair.

Mitchell: Well, it boiled down to Ohio and, you know, a very narrowly-fought election. And the fact is that Kerry really should've been a better candidate than he turned out to be.

Matthews: One of your candidates who was very successful, Arnold Schwarzenegger once said to me, Michael, "The only reason to run for office is A) you don't like what you're doing, and B) you're willing to kill the other guy." Meaning, metaphorically kill him. Is that a big part of candidate training, that you have to tell the person, "Are you ready to go really negative, nastily, if you wanna win this race?"

Murphy: Yeah, most candidates wanna get along, although they have a lot of private, petty grievances against their opponent, much of which are well deserved. But sometimes you have to push 'em and tell 'em to understand that look, don't wait till they've cut your head off before you try to cut their head off, 'cause they're gonna do it.

So generally, political consultants push candidates to go on the offensive and use negative tactics because they work and because you're almost certain that if the other side is not winning, they will do it to you. And defining the other candidate before it happens to you is always an advantage. When in doubt, it's like any kind of fight. If you get the first deadly punch in, you're in control of the situation, where is where you wanna be.

Matthews: My brother ran for office. He was county commissioner of Montgomery County for years. And he would say there was nothing like, Andrea, turning on the TV and having your family watch the negative ads against you.

Mitchell: I can't even imagine. I could never imagine being a candidate for anything. It's embarrassingly enough to be at all in public life and face criticism. But to put your whole life on the line and then have that to be destroyed that way and diminished, ridiculed in an ad, as well as having a fake narrative put up, distorting your real heroism, as John Kerry had the subject himself to, is just appalling.

Matthews: The best of you is being attacked. Well, this final question, we're gonna get to the question of morality, I have to bring up now. How many candidates feel bad after they've run a really negative ad? You first, Mike. And I'll ask Andrea a different question. How many people say, "God, why did I do that? That was a rotten thing to do."

Murphy: Well, not that many. Partially because the slippery pole they've been climbing to be in politics, they have been beat up along the way. And so very few of them are, how do I put it, sensitive souls when it comes to throwin' some elbows in politics, 'cause they've been on the other side of it, either in that campaign or an earlier one.

And they grow to kind of almost relish it. I remember I had a candidate once in a very tough campaign, it was a rematch. At the end, we won narrowly. And after the election, there was a little money left in the campaign fund and the treasurer came up and said, "The other candidate, his house is for sale. I think he's leaving the district, the guy who won." And the candidate, he's a very nice guy, but it had been such a tough campaign, looked with icy eyes and said, "I, okay, buy the house. Burn it down." So--

Matthews: Remember, Andrea, you've dealt with candidates who've lost elections that are bitter, I guess, about it. I mean, what do they say? That ad was awful and totally dishonest.

Mitchell: There's a lot of bitterness, obviously, after losing. And a lot of blame making. And we also have to think about what happens now on Facebook and fake videos and distortions and all kinds of other fakes that are now also penetrating. But I don't think that too many people, if they win, they really don't regret it.

If they lose, they find ways to regret going negative. Lee Atwater, who did the Willie Horton ad and others in that race, eventually, you know, had happened this terrible brain cancer. And before dying, did apologize and did regret a lot of the things he had done. Especially some of the things he did in South Carolina in earlier races, which were demonstrably racist--

Matthews: He went after a guy for having electric shock--

Mitchell: Exactly.

Matthews: --therapy. Yeah, and he said it was like hooking him up to jumper cables.

Mitchell: Right.

Matthews: That's the way he talked. But in the end, he knew what he'd done.

Mitchell: Exactly. (MUSIC)

Matthews: Thanks, Andrea Mitchell, you are a pro, as I say all the time, the best there is. Thank you so much for doing our--

Mitchell: Well, thank you. It's great to be with you, and Mike--

Matthews: So Mike Murphy, I've always been a fan. You seem to pick the right candidates. Thank you so much. I've always been a fan of Mike Murphy. Thank you both for being on--

Murphy: Well, thank you.

Matthews: So You Wanna Be President? (MUSIC) We've been talking about six timeless lessons for campaigns that win. I love this stuff. And my thanks to all my guests who have been part of these conversations. So You Wanna Be President was produced by Jim Wildman. Our theme was composed by David Schulman, who also mixed and mastered the episodes.

Steve Lickteig is the executive producer of podcasts for NBC News. Tina Urbanski is the executive producer of Hardball on MSNBC. We have production help from Julia Clancy (PH), also Allison Bailey, Will Robbie (PH), Juan Everett (PH), Charlie Macaroon (PH), Tasha Frenslemly (PH), and Fransesco Picasho (PH). So You Wanna Be President, I'm Chris Matthews, host of Hardball on MSNBC. Thanks for listening.