Matthews: Will NC GOP Run 'Overtly Racist' Campaign vs. Obama?

During MSNBC's live coverage of Pennsylvania's Democratic presidential primary, co-anchor Chris Matthews brought up the possibility that the North Carolina Republican Party would run an "overtly racist" campaign against Barack Obama, as the MSNBC host harkened back to the days of Jesse Helms and Harvey Gantt. Matthews: "North Carolina will be interesting, and I think that if the Republican Party goes back to the old trick it did with the days of Jesse Helms and Harvey Gantt and running a campaign which is overtly racist, I think that will be a mistake if they do that. I'll wait and see if they do that." (Transcript follows)

After referring to Obama's relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, co-anchor Keith Olbermann brought up the possibility that John McCain could also be attacked for connections with controversial people: "There is a lot that could be thrown at the Republicans by the Democrats and the past associations of Senator McCain, or even some of the current ones."

Fearing the worst, Matthews continued: "I hope we don't see this kind of thing because this campaign involves a woman, an African-American, and a white American. And the choices among those three should be based on character and ability and the best interests of this country, and we can still get that kind of a campaign done by the end of this year. We can do this. We can do this."

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the April 22 MSNBC coverage of the Pennsylvania Democratic primary from 11:21 P.M.:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: This campaign continues because the Democrats have not yet decided on their nominee. Hillary Clinton has slowed it down again. She's pushed the mute button or whatever button you want to call it. How about the pause button? The pause button, because superdelegates are unlikely to move right now in either direction. I don't buy this notion that somehow they're going to rush to Hillary Clinton. I think they're going to continue to wait and see what happens the next two weeks. We'll be back here again, I assume, in two weeks.

North Carolina will be interesting, and I think that if the Republican Party goes back to the old trick it did with the days of Jesse Helms and Harvey Gantt and running a campaign which is overtly racist, I think that will be a mistake if they do that. I'll wait and see if they do that.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Well, you heard Tim's hint about this, about calling on Democrats to disassociate themselves from Senator Obama due to controversial figures in his past, which one would think has, in addition to backlash against racism in the America of 2008, it also might have some more politically practical backlash. There is a lot that could be thrown at the Republicans by the Democrats and the past associations of Senator McCain, or even some of the current ones.

MATTHEWS: Well, I was fortunate to go to grad school down there. I love that state. I think it's a better state than that. I hope we don't see this kind of thing because this campaign involves a woman, an African-American, and a white American. And the choices among those three should be based on character and ability and the best interests of this country, and we can still get that kind of a campaign done by the end of this year. We can do this. We can do this.

OLBERMANN: Yes, we can.

MATTHEWS: Yes, we can.