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MSNBC Hardball Transcript

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December 10, 2003 Wednesday

HEADLINE: HARDBALL For December 10, 2003

BYLINE: Chris Matthews; David Shuster

GUESTS: Catherine Crier; Al Sharpton; Frank Luntz; Jimmy Carter

HIGHLIGHT:
How much of a setback is it that L.A. authorities cleared Michael Jackson of sexual abuse? The Rev. Al Sharpton talks about his campaign and Dean's chances. A majority of Americans do not have any idea how to handle a terrorist attack.

BODY:
MATTHEWS: The Reverend Al Sharpton is a Democratic presidential candidate.

Reverend Sharpton, let me ask you a couple points of fact here. This is HARDBALL.

Are you an announced candidate for president? Have you done it formally yet?

SHARPTON: Yes. You announce any time you have signed and put your name on the ballot, as I have in several states.

MATTHEWS: But I understand you haven't conducted an actual announcement ceremony or ritual. You haven't gone through that steps yet.

SHARPTON: I think that's absurd to say that you have to do that to make yourself-you know, I've heard people float this around in the shows; they belong in kindergarten. It is an option of anybody how they want to announce. I'm on the ballot in many states and am running. And they're asking a-I have a press conference every day. Every one of them are announcement press conferences.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the support you've managed to achieve in these months of campaigning.

Of course, the former vice president of the United States, the man who did get more votes than the current president in the popular vote last time, has endorsed your competitor, Howard Dean. Have you won the endorsements of any U.S. Congress people to date? Anybody we can mention right now?

SHARPTON: Formally, we've already had a couple. Congressman Jose Serrano, Congressman Ed Towns. There will be other member of Congress.

We've had the mayor of Newark, New Jersey. We have mayors in South Carolina. We have the former mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, Bill Campbell.

Many officials have endorsed us. But I'm not running an endorsement campaign. I'm running a campaign for people and for people to become energized and become involved with it. I'm not one that has ever depended upon endorsements. I don't think that the endorsements type of campaign carries the weight that a lot of the media thinks.

MATTHEWS: Well, does it bother that you some of the more, you know, serious members, the leading members of the Congressional Black Caucus, people like Sheila Jackson Lee, have endorsed Dean? Charlie Rangel, Charles Rangel of New York, probably the most senior-one of the most senior Democrats in the country, has endorsed Clark, General Clark.

You've got people like Bobby Scott. You've got Bobby Scott, Jesse Jackson Jr. So many African-American member of Congress will endorse the other candidates.

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, you know, when Reverend Jesse Jackson ran in '84, most of the Congressional Black Caucus didn't endorse him. Both black mayors didn't. And he won the majority of the black vote anyway, if you're asking a black question.

I'm not just running for black votes, but since you made it a black question, Chris.

And when I ran in New York, I got one out of every three Democratic votes for mayor. And most black elected officials didn't endorse me for mayor.

MATTHEWS: I don't deny...

SHARPTON: I would probably be more concerned if they did endorse me. They may get in the way of my grass roots mobilization.

MATTHEWS: But I don't doubt your enormous popularity and clout in New York City. You've had that for years, and it will probably grow as a result of the campaign.

I'm wondering whether you've been able, you've had the resources to go around the country and build an infrastructure for a possible victory or not.

SHARPTON: Well, I think again, you're talking to people who don't know what they're talking about. Even the polls say that I'm No. 2 in South Carolina. So how did that happen? And South Carolina is not a border state to New York.

The Quinnepiac (ph) poll came out today saying I'm number eight on their poll, tied with John Kerry. So how did that happen?

I think that...

MATTHEWS: Yes, but he's sliding bad. You don't want to be tied with him.

SHARPTON: Yes, but he also has the second largest war chest in this campaign.

MATTHEWS: Yes, that's true.

SHARPTON: If you're talking about resources and infrastructure, it didn't work for him. So why are you trying to put on me what hasn't worked for...?

MATTHEWS: Well, I want-I've got further ambitions tonight. I want to know whether you're part of this fight between the Clinton gang and the Dean-Gore gang. Which side of that fight are you on? Because it seems like it's the battle of the Democratic Party right now.

SHARPTON: Well...

MATTHEWS: Have you been talking to him at all, the last couple of days?

SHARPTON: I've talked to everybody.

MATTHEWS: How about Clinton? Have you talked to President Clinton?

SHARPTON: I've talked to President Clinton.

MATTHEWS: And what's up?

SHARPTON: President Clinton-President Clinton has not talked to me about a battle with the Gore gang. President Clinton and I talked, as he has with other candidates, about how you beat George Bush.

I think the real battle is going to be how we defeat the president...

MATTHEWS: Is he on your side? Is he your Dutch uncle? Is he helping you beat Gore's guy, Dean?

SHARPTON: Let's start. You said that we had no infrastructure. You said we have no resources. Then you say that the titular head of the party is on my side. We've over the...

MATTHEWS: These are questions. These are not answers. You provide the answers, Reverend.

SHARPTON: I don't think that President Clinton has helped me or any of the candidates at all. And certainly...

MATTHEWS: You don't think he's out to try to stop Gore's impact, backing Dean? You don't see the fight for 2008 already shaping up here, and you're part of it?

SHARPTON: I think if the battle for 2008 has started, then you're saying that Gore doesn't really believe Dean can win. So the issue, then, is not whether I believe it. The issue is whether Gore believes it. If Gore believes it, we're not talking about 2008. So you can't have it both ways.

MATTHEWS: I want to keep trying.

Anyway, thank you very much, Rev. Al Sharpton.

SHARPTON: Thank you, Chris.

Content and programming copyright 2003 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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