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MSNBC "Decision '08" - Transcript

Interview

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MR. MATTHEWS: On the Democratic side, the candidates, all of them, agreed not to campaign in Florida, and no delegates will actually be awarded tonight officially. But that's not stopping Senator Clinton from showing up in the state tonight, apparently to preside at a victory party.

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts is supporting Barack Obama for president, and that's become an issue in this race. Let's talk about this with Senator Kerry.

Thank you for joining us.

Which camera am I looking at now? This one? Okay, thank you.

Senator Kerry, it's great to have you on tonight. What did it feel like, watching your colleague, Senator Kennedy, and Caroline Kennedy and Patrick, all the Kennedys together, endorsing your candidate tonight?

SEN. KERRY: It was spectacular. I thought it was a great event. I've talked to some of the people who were there, and I've heard these amazing reports about the energy that was there. I mean, it was really one of those very, very special moments.

I think Ted Kennedy's endorsement is meaningful. I think Barack Obama obviously has been inspiring people across the country. In fact, today, Chris, what's really interesting is, you know, every week now he's proving his ability to be able to unite people and pull people together, because today the governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius, endorsed him.

Janet Napolitano, the governor of Arizona, has already endorsed him. Former governor, now Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska has endorsed him. So he's really proving, you know, with Tim Kaine of Virginia and others, that he is bringing people together and has this ability to run in very difficult states and do well.

MR. OLBERMANN: Senator, what is this tonight in -- we've been trying to find the right term for this for the Democrats in Florida. Obviously the Republicans are having a primary. Is this a primary? A primary without delegates? What has happened? And is it the same thing that the candidate you support thought it was when the whole process started?

SEN. KERRY: Well, I think everybody agreed on what it is. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and Barack Obama all agreed that it was not for delegates. There are no delegates at stake tonight. It's not a place where campaigns were to take place with respect to a primary.

So I know that they are -- that the Obama campaign obeyed those rules and stood by it, and I think that's the appropriate way to have handled tonight. More importantly, you know, Barack is looking towards February 5th as a real proving ground for his ability to be able to attract independents and Republicans and Democrats alike.

If you look back at South Carolina, where he won 55 percent of the vote, which was contested and was for delegates, you now have a Barack Obama who has won more votes across the country than any opponent and who has more delegates today than any opponent.

So I think he's got a good strategy. He's living by the rules, which is what Americans like to see, somebody who plays by the way it's set up. And he's going on now to February 5th.

MR. OLBERMANN: Characterize for me -- let me get your reaction to this -- this is off the Politico website -- that Representative Corinne Brown placed a round of recorded calls to her Jacksonville constituents yesterday urging them to vote against Amendment 1, which would cap property taxes and is opposed by unions and many Democrats and is, by itself, supposed to increase turnout tonight.

And then, according to one of her aides, the call continues, "For Corinne's quick pick, I'm supporting Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president." This is a reference to cards that she typically distributes on Election Day. (Sims ?) said Brown paid for the call out of her own campaign committee. This wasn't a Clinton campaign effort.

Is it legally not a campaign effort, but violating the spirit of what's supposed to be going on or not going on among the Democratic presidential candidates?

SEN. KERRY: I think it's very clear to a lot of people that there's been a campaign effort on behalf of a candidate by allies for that candidate. Whether that's organized or not, I can't tell you. What I do know is, and what I think is important for people to focus on tonight, is not to look for the divisions but look at the reality of where we are.

The reality is the contest in Florida, regrettably -- and I feel badly for the Florida voters. We all want to win Florida. We think Florida is important. We have great respect for those Florida voters. They deserve an opportunity to be able to vote. But unfortunately this got caught up in the rules of the party, and it wasn't resolved in a way that made a difference.

So the bottom line is it's not for delegates tonight, and the Obama campaign has respected that. Let others figure out what else happened. What's really important is that Barack is taking a message of a different kind of politics across the country. He's going out and proving every day, by bringing people like Governor Sebelius of Kansas, like Governor Napolitano of Arizona, Senator Nelson of Nebraska, both Democratic senators from the Dakotas -- North Dakota, South Dakota -- he's proving that he can unite the country. And I think that's what Democrats are really looking for. I think that's what independents and Republicans are looking for.

It's really interesting. The governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, was asked, "Can a Democrat carry Virginia this year?" And his answer was, "The right Democrat can." And then he endorsed Barack Obama. To me, that's the story, that you've got to be able to run across the country.

And I think the number of delegates that Barack has won, the nature of his victories in a state like Iowa, which has very few minorities, he won across the board. In South Carolina he won every demographic. Even in New Hampshire, where it was a very close race and Nevada -- Nevada, he won the outlying areas overwhelmingly across the demographics of those areas.

To me and to Ted Kennedy and to others who are looking for someone who can really win in November and lead us to a different place, we see in Barack Obama an ability to unite, to end the politics of division, and to really turn a page in American history.

MR. MATTHEWS: Senator, who carries Massachusetts next Tuesday, Barack or Hillary?

SEN. KERRY: We know that Hillary Clinton has had a big lead up until, you know, this moment. I think she's probably still in the lead. Barack Obama is coming from behind, as he is in many of these states. But that hasn't deterred us from making a decision that, in our judgment, it really represents the future.

This is a choice about the future versus the past, about a new politics, a different politics, and really about change in Washington. I think Barack Obama has proven that he's got those leadership skills. He certainly is inspiring people. He's bringing young people to the table, and we're very excited about it. Obviously it's going to be a fight in a lot of different states. That's the best of our democracy, and that's what it's supposed to be about.

MR. OLBERMANN: Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. Thank you, Senator. Take care of the cough.

SEN. KERRY: Good to be with you. Thank you. Yeah, a little allergy, I think.

MR. OLBERMANN: I hear you. I hear you.

MR. MATTHEWS: Thanks a lot.


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