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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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MR. MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigned, both of them in Florida today, and Clinton hammered home to Florida voters that she'll fight to get their primary votes counted.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY, Democratic presidential candidate): (From videotape.) We know the road to a Democratic White House runs right through Florida and Michigan. (Applause.) If we care about winning those states in November, we need to count your votes now.

If Democrats send a message that we don't fully value your votes, we know Senator McCain and the Republicans will be more than happy to have them. The Republicans will make a simple and compelling argument: Why should Florida and Michigan voters trust the Democratic Party to look out for you when they won't even listen to you?

MR. MATTHEWS: Joining me now, Florida U.S. Congresswoman and Clinton campaign national chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Pam Iorio -- is it Iorio? (Changes pronunciation.)

MAYOR IORIO: Iorio.

MR. MATTHEWS: Iorio -- is an Obama supporter and, more importantly, mayor of Tampa, Florida.

Mayor, I have to start with you. You're new on the block here. You know, it seems to me that Florida and Michigan broke the rules, and instead of paying for breaking the rules, they've become a cause celebre for Hillary Clinton, something to help her look better for having broken the rules. How does that square with reality?

MAYOR IORIO: Well, I think that the mess over the delegates was poorly handled from the beginning. The Democratic Party, after this election, is going to have to totally regroup and figure out a way to revamp the primary process. It's ridiculous to constantly put the emphasis on Iowa and New Hampshire when you have a state like Florida, which is a microcosm of the entire nation, and then they get punished for something because of a set of rules. It doesn't make any sense.

But at this point, I think our focus needs to be on the November election, focus on the nominee, who I believe will be Senator Obama, and let's work to win Florida in November. And that's got to be the focus, not focusing on the rules and what went wrong many months ago, when these rules were set. And it doesn't make any sense to Florida voters, the rules that everyone agreed to.

MR. MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, is there any way to cut a deal here to end this? And I question, do the Clinton people want a deal that ends this, or do they want to keep this open sore that keeps the whole campaign process open until Denver? Do they want a deal?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Chris, I totally agree with Pam, who I have a tremendous amount of respect for -- she's doing a great job as mayor of Tampa -- that the primary process needs to be revamped.

But, you know, with all due respect, Pam, you know, if we're focusing on November, then the whole point of insisting on Florida's delegation being seated at the convention is so that the Democratic Party doesn't show disrespect for our state. I mean, you know better than anyone, as a former supervisor of elections in Hillsborough County, that we have very raw nerves left over from the 2000 recount. We are very sensitive in Florida about getting our votes counted.

And Barack Obama said absolutely nothing today when he spoke to 15,000 Floridians in your hometown about getting our delegation seated. And that's just unacceptable. We can't expect to be successful and win Florida in November if we show disrespect -- if our potential nominee shows disrespect for Florida's voters. That's just unacceptable.

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, why didn't you say all that back when the candidates didn't campaign down there, Congresswoman? I mean, isn't this a little late --

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: (Inaudible) -- for a year.

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, a minute. Hillary Clinton didn't campaign in Florida. Neither did Barack Obama. You didn't really have a primary fight down there. And now you're trying to claim it as legitimate. You never had campaigns in that state.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: There were 1.75 million --

MR. MATTHEWS: I know they voted, but nobody campaigned. Nobody --

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It doesn't matter if they didn't campaign. This is 2008.

MR. MATTHEWS: They were told not to campaign by the national party.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Chris --

MR. MATTHEWS: They were told not to campaign.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, they were not. Chris, with all due respect, they were not told not to campaign by the national party. The decision by the candidates not to campaign in Florida was their own. They signed a pledge to the four early states. That had nothing absolutely nothing to do with the DNC's decision to -- (inaudible) -- our delegation.

MR. MATTHEWS: So they made a pledge not to do it and they didn't campaign down there.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That's right. That's different than the rules.

MR. MATTHEWS: And that -- and you consider that a legitimate campaign, the fact that nobody showed up.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: This is 2008. Chris, this is 2008. In 2008, voters get their information about candidates from the Internet, from television, from newspapers, from all kinds of different communications.

MR. MATTHEWS: Right.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: This is not 1865 when you had Lincoln- Douglas standing on apple boxes debating from town to town. People get their information differently.

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay, let me ask the mayor. Mayor, was that a fair campaign, where nobody showed up?

MAYOR IORIO: You know, Chris, I was at the rally today. There were 20,000 very enthusiastic voters. I don't think any of them felt that they were disrespected. Certainly we hope that this works out in some way that people get half the delegates, or whatever the group agrees to.

But that's not really the point going forward. Senator Obama gave a futuristic talk about where this country needs to go and how we all need to get together and solve the issues of our nation. And that was what his speech was about today. And I can tell you that people were wildly enthusiastic.

And the point now is for us to get behind a nominee, focus on November. And then, after this election is over, the Democratic Party needs to blow up its current process and start over. And there is no way in the world that Florida should be treated the way it's been treated in this primary process.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Pam, can I ask you a question?

MAYOR IORIO: That is completely -- about as old-fashioned as, you know, $2-a-gallon gasoline. We need to be -- wherever we are in the process, our votes need to count, and we have to stop this kind of internal rule game that only a few people participate in --

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay. On May 31st --

MAYOR IORIO: -- and really isn't relevant to voters.

MR. MATTHEWS: I'm sorry. On May 31st, the party leaders are going to get together. Give me a solution, Congresswoman.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, my preferred solution is that our entire delegation gets seated based on the votes that were cast on January 29th. We had a record turnout. And that's really the right thing to do. You know, there are varying degrees of the way you could seat us. Some people say you could seat half our delegation. Others say you could seat our delegation with half a vote each. But at the end of the day, the delegation needs to be seated based on the votes that were cast. The voters in Florida did not break the rules, Chris. They followed the rules.

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Our Florida law set the primary on January 29th.

MR. MATTHEWS: Madame Mayor, what is the -- Madame Mayor, what's your solution? The congresswoman's solution is give them all -- act like it was totally legitimate, legitimize the vote, count it. What would you do?

MAYOR IORIO: Well, on the Republican side they said, "Take half the delegates." And it didn't seem to be a brouhaha on the Republican side. Maybe what we do is we seat half the Florida delegates and focus again on the future and reforming the process, because the process totally went astray this time.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I totally agree. We do need to reform the process.

MAYOR IORIO: And that's what we need to do.

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay, thank you very much, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Mayor of Tampa Pam Iorio.


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