Was it Hardball—or the World Series of Poker? Interviewing Hillary's Howard Wolfson today, Chris Matthews accused the Clinton campaign of playing the white race card. Just minutes later, when Wolfson suggested Matthews might be discriminating against Puerto Rican voters, Chris protested "don't play that card on me."
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Matthews began the showdown by rolling tape of Hillary repeatedly telling USA Today that she had stronger support than Obama among "white" voters.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, what's the point there? That she's better with white voters?
HOWARD WOLFSON: No.
MATTHEWS: She said it!
WOLFSON: She was referencing an AP story, referencing it accurately. But the point is we're doing better with blue-collar voters, the point is we're doing better with --
MATTHEWS: White blue-collar voters.
WOLFSON: You know, I --
MATTHEWS: That's what she said!
WOLFSON: Well, that's what the story says. That's what the AP story says.
MATTHEWS: Why are you afraid to use the word she uses: "white"?
Wolfson turned the tables on Matthews on matters racial when, a bit later, talk turned to the way in which the Clinton campaign calculates the popular primary vote.
MATTHEWS: When it comes time to fight for who's got the most elected delegates, pledged delegates, if you lose that, if you come short, and it's likely you will come short, can you add Puerto Rican votes to your claim of a popular vote victory?
WOLFSON: Of course!
MATTHEWS: Even though they can't vote in the presidential election?
WOLFSON: They're participating in our primary process.
MATTHEWS: Wait, wait, wait. Are you willing to say you have a right to the nomination based on Puerto Rican votes?
WOLFSON: Yes! Which votes are you going to exclude? I've said yes!
MATTHEWS: Just people who are not American [NB: Puerto Ricans are US citizens]; are not voting in the American presidential election.
WOLFSON: The Democratic committee has decided that Puerto Rico ought to have a voice in this process. I think it's the right thing.
MATTHEWS: I think it's interesting. I haven't heard you say this before. So in other words, those votes, even though those people can't vote in a presidential election--
WOLFSON: Absolutely --
MATTHEWS: Will be your argument for why you should have the nomination when you go into the presidential election.
WOLFSON: They will be be part of an argument.
MATTHEWS: Is it part of your popular vote total?
MATTHEWS: That's one of the metrics!
WOLFSON: Yeah. It is!
MATTHEWS: So you're going to argue this case?
WOLFSON: We're going to argue that the popular vote total actually has a bearing, yes.
MATTHEWS: So all the Florida votes cast, when the other candidates, no one campaigned down there. All the Michigan votes even though your candidate was the only name on the ballot. And all the Puerto Rican votes even though they can't vote in the presidential election. All that adds up to a popular--you guys have pretty good metrics there!
WOLFSON: I don't think we should be discriminating against certain voters.
MATTHEWS: No, no, no! I would never!
WOLFSON: I'm sure you wouldn't!
MATTHEWS: Don't play that card on me!
Matthews told Wolfson the Clinton campaign was "so devilish" about this and that "you will come out with "any metric known to man." But when Chris pressed his case, teasing Wolfson that the Clinton campaign might try to count the Panama Canal Zone, Howard got off a good zinger at the expense of Matthews's old boss, Jimmy Carter.
MATTHEWS: Guam? I think it's great. Guam? Do we still have the Canal Zone? I guess we don't have it anymore.
WOLFSON: No we do not.
MATTHEWS: I think we might.
WOLFSON: Your administration took care of that.
Matthews saw Howard off with a little zinger of his own.
MATTHEWS: This guy: you're like one of these Japanese soldiers, still fighting in 1953.