Matthews Admits: Maybe I Was Smart Not to Run For Office This Year

Well you have to give Chris Matthews credit for admitting the obvious. On Monday's Hardball, as he overlooked the bad environment for Democrats this midterm season, Matthews appeared grateful he didn't make his much rumored run for Pennsylvania's Senate seat, as he asked one of his guests: "Do you think it could be the year where guys...like me were smart not to make the run?" [audio available here]

The admission came during a segment in which Matthews, the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and local radio talk show host, Dan Gaffney of WGMD, were breaking down the prospects for Christine O'Donnell to upset Republican Mike Castle and go on to win the general election for the Deleware Senate seat with Gaffney explaining that it was a distinct possibility since there is "a lot of anti-establishment, anti-incumbent sentiment" in that state, calling that race "a crap-shoot." This caused Matthews to wonder, if in fact, that attitude extended to Pennsylvania as he asked Gaffney the following question:

Let me go to Gaffney, a fellow Irishman, while I've got you on the show, I've got to ask you this. Do you think it could be the year where guys like Beau Biden and guys like me were smart not to make the run? I'm looking at this situation. You cannot predict this year! It is a crap-shoot! And they're so anti-establishment out there, that they recognize your name and they say, "I knew that name three months ago." They don't like you. Isn't that true?

The following exchanges were aired on the September 13 edition of Hardball:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Welcome back to Hardball. The Republican primary in Delaware, the little state of Delaware, tomorrow could have big implications for the Republicans nationwide and their ability to take over the U.S. Senate, which is possible. Republican Mike Castle is fending off a tough challenge from Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell and polls show she's in the race of his life, actually that's a close, too close to call.

...

MATTHEWS: Joining me is Delaware radio talk show host Dan Gaffney and WashingtonPost.com managing editor Chris Cillizza. Dan, give me a sense do the voters of Delaware know how important this vote is tomorrow. That this could affect the, I guess you could call it the outside chance of the Republicans grabbing the Senate as well as the House, come November.

DAN GAFFNEY: Yeah, I think many of them do, but some of my talk radio callers don't care. They are more interested in winning the actual battle than the war and there's such a wind of anti-Castle, you know there's a wind of anti-Castle wind in the air and even when presented the fact that Castle has a better chance of beating the Democrats, many people don't care. They want to vote him out any way.

MATTHEWS: Boy that sounds like the Democratic left sometimes. That sounds like November Doesn't Count. I grew up with it, it's called NDC. Cillizza, you're, you're shaking your head positively. The one thing about a polarized electorate is it doesn't care about practical electoral consequences.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTON POST: Yep.

MATTHEWS: By the way, I want to give a salute, if not a positive salute, a reality check to the far right. Bob Bennett was knocked off, the guy that beat him, Lee is going to win the general. Crist, Crist has been bumped out of his party but Rubio could well win that. He's ahead in the polls down there. Specter was knocked out of his party, but Toomey is well ahead by about seven points in PA. And who am I missing? Murkowski. Well I gotta bet, what's his name up there, Joe Miller is gonna win that, or if he gets in that thing clean, one on one. So you could argue that the Tea Parties have had a pretty good record of positioning themselves to win generals. Maybe not in Nevada, but other places.

CILLIZZA: Chris, first of all, isn't it amazing that we're talking about Delaware? You've got the New Hampshire Senate race, you've got New York, you've got Wisconsin, we're talking about Delaware. This is a state we never thought we would be talking about. Number two, that states you just listed: Alaska, Utah, those kind of states. The one thing that's different, this is Delaware. This is a Democratic state. Mike Castle's been elected for more than 40 years. He's been the governor of the state. He's been the at-large representative. This is not a state where whoever winds up being the Republican nominee, Utah, Alaska, has a big leg up in winning. Not sure if they're gonna win, but that's a big leg up.

MATTHEWS: Okay let me give you, let me give you, let me give you some history, young fellow. Joe Biden, back in 1972, bumped out a guy who had won the House seat, and let's go in here Dan, you're the expert, had been a House member, a Senate member, for x many terms, and a governor, just like this guy Mike Castle. Joe Biden, at the age of 29, knocked him out of the seat and held it for what? 40 years. So isn't it possible that Christine O'Donnell could be a senator for life. We don't know.

GAFFNEY: Well let me tell you, what my original opinion was that if she wins the primary tomorrow, we would say "Hello, Senator Coons." That was my original opinion.

MATTHEWS: Right.

GAFFNEY: But now I'm starting to think that if she pulls it off tomorrow, if, that's a big "if", she could do anything. If she can beat Mike Castle in this state, she can do anything.

MATTHEWS: What's your state like these days? Is it as unhappy as the rest of the country and could it say, you know what if she isn't quite prepared or maybe this other fellow Coons has more executive experience, the usual logic way we make decisions may not be in play this year, there's so much anger.

GAFFNEY: No it's very emotional Chris.

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

GAFFNEY: It's very emotional. There's a lot of anti-establishment, anti-incumbent sentiment. The Tea Party movement is strong. There is a strong sentiment, especially in the southern part of the state. There are only three counties, the two lower counties, much more conservative, much more likely to go to Christine O'Donnell. The upper county, Newscastle, is urban, it's the city of Wilmington. Much more likely to go toward Mike Castle. However, will he win enough in Newcastle to take the whole state? It's a crap-shoot. All of my political pundit friends are saying the same thing to me, "I don't know."

MATTHEWS: Well Let's talk about the country. Chris go back, let's pull back and look at the whole country.

CILLIZZA: Sure.

MATTHEWS: People watching now from California want to know this. It's possible with Boxer in play, with Patty Murray in play, with Harry Reid in play, with Russ Feingold in play-

CILLIZZA: Yep.

MATTHEWS: That the Democrats could lose the Senate. It's very possible, on a bad night, a what do you call it, a wave night, well you're the expert, right? Delaware matters.

CILLIZZA: Look I would say Delaware, you used the word in the intro Chris - shoe-in. And I thought to myself, that's exactly right. We considered this like, I met Chris Coons, I like Chris Coons, I didn't think Chris Coons was gonna beat Mike Castle. I agree that Christine O'Donnell, you never know what's going to happen if she wins, but she's not as strong a candidate as Mike Castle in the general election. Doesn't mean she can't win, but she's not as strong a candidate. So if you take Delaware and move it into the "We don't know" category. Now you're looking at rather than winning two out of the three of Wisconsin, Washington and California, now you're talking about winning all three. Is it possible? Yes it's absolutely possible.

MATTHEWS: Ha! I love it!

CILLIZZA: Polling, polling in all three suggests it could happen, but it seems odd to me. I think Wisconsin, in order, I think Wisconsin, California, Washington, even the most sort of optimistic Republican strategists I talk to say, "Look we'd love to win two out of three of them that would make a great night." But two out of three and losing Delaware that means they're probably not in the majority.

MATTHEWS: Okay there's others than. I think you're so smart. Let me go to Gaffney, a fellow Irishman, while I've got you on the show, I've got to ask you this. Do you think it could be the year where guys like Beau Biden and guys like me were smart not to make the run? I'm looking at this situation. You cannot predict this year! It is a crap-shoot! And they're so anti-establishment out there, that they recognize your name and they say, "I knew that name three months ago." They don't like you. Isn't that true?

GAFFNEY: Well I think Beau Biden, yeah it is true. Beau Biden should have gotten in this year. I mean he, he probably is...

MATTHEWS: Could he have beaten either of these candidates? Could have beaten Castle or beaten O'Donnell?

GAFFNEY: Yes, I think he could have. Not that I would've supported him but I think he could. Yes.

MATTHEWS: Really?

GAFFNEY: Beau Biden? Absolutely.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.