Matthews For Senate? Chris Says Anything But 'No'

A week ago I was mystified when Chris Matthews went out of his way to butter up Ed Rendell when the Dem Pennsylvania governor appeared on Hardball, and described the schmoozing here. Now, call it mystery likely solved. According to one account, Matthews has approached Rendell for help in a possible 2010 U.S. Senate run. That seems an ever-more-likely scenario, given Matthews's decidely non-Shermanesque response to a suggestion that he's well-positioned to make a run against Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) in 2010.

The "Hardball" host's intriguing comments came in response to Philly-based radio talk show host Michael Smerconish who speculated on Wednesday's show about the possibility of a Matthews Senate campaign.

Unexpectedly, the former Tip O'Neill aide declined to tamp down the rumor:

MICHAEL SMERCONISH: Hey Chris, may I make another observation about the shifting registrations?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Sure.

SMERCONISH: Because there is a long-term implication here for the Republicans. There has been an exodus of the more moderate or liberal Republicans to the Democratic race, which I think is going to come back to haunt, potentially, a guy like United States Senator Arlen Specter. I mean, here's Specter, he narrowly defeated Pat Toomey in that GOP primary.

MATTHEWS: Right.

SMERCONISH: He's already announced--and you know the blogosphere is hot today with speculation about you! I hope you don't mind me saying that.

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

SMERCONISH: But Roger Stone, Roger Stone's got something online today that says Chris Matthews, the thing is perfectly positioned for you. Those individuals have got to come back to the GOP or it's going to be a reconstituted Republican party, long-term implication.
Philly radio host E. Steven Collins tried to get in a word edgewise, but Matthews cut him off. That to me was a tip-off that Chris was excited by Smerconish's theorizing. If Matthews had wanted to squelch the speculation, this would have been the time to do it. But to the contrary, Matthews' only regret was that he couldn't count on Stone's support.
MATTHEWS: The day when Roger Stone supports my positions on things and me personally will be the day that heaven comes to earth. But thank you Michael for that thought; it's always possible.
In his blog, Stone says that:
Matthews has been quietly sounding out Democrats across Pennsylvania about seeking the Democratic nomination to oppose Senator Arlen Specter, who shows no signs of slowing down or retiring, in 2010.

Matthews has pondered a Senate bid in Pennsylvania before but deemed the water too cold. Matthews has been meeting with former Philadelphia City Comptroller Tommy Leonard and has approached Governor Ed Rendell to inquire about recruiting campaign personnel.

Unfortunately, like Pat Buchanan before him, Chris Matthews has hours and hours of television tape going back 20 years and thousands of words in columns written in the same time period. His Senate bid will die of his own words.

The New York Times Magazine will publish story by Mark Leibovich this Sunday which will illustrate the point.
Matthews ran for the House long ago, so why not the Senate now? That NYT magazine article Stone referred to [by Mark Leibovich] is already online. I found it so petty and mean-spirited that, yes, it had me feeling a bit sorry for Matthews. But then again, the fact that Matthews consented to--or sought out--such attention suggests he might be seeking to raise his profile with a run in mind.

Question: at what point would it be appropriate for Matthews to take a leave of absence? How can he provide anything resembling fair coverage of politics and personalities if he is simultaneously trying to curry favor with officials and journalists in a position to assist his campaign?

Aside: Collins, the African-American radio host of "Philly Speaks," has been getting considerable TV air time in the run-up to the PA primary. Keep your eye on him: FWIW, I find him smart and solid.
Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.