Exuberant ‘Hardball’ Catches Betomania; ‘Magical’ O’Rourke Has ‘Vibrancy’ and ‘Youthfulness’

Has Robert O’Rourke captured the heart of Chris Matthews? After having watch the host of MSNBC’s Hardball over the last year, it’s safe to say that O’Rourke very well might and especially after Thursday in which he and his A-block panelists touted the Democratic presidential candidate’s “charisma,” “magical” qualities, “vibrancy,” and “youthfulness” to name a few.

Matthews couldn’t contain his excitement, telling his panelists after introducing them that he’s “a little lighthearted today because I like this field” thanks to “a new levity” provided by O’Rourke and was upset by President Trump mocking O’Rourke’s hand gestures.

 

 

Former D.C. roommate and Congressman Salud Carbajal (D-CA) mentioned that O’Rouke is the same in-person as he is in public and Matthews gleefully wanted more:

MATTHEWS: He's that lively? 

CARBAJAL: Extremely authentic. He's just an extraordinary guy. 

MATTHEWS: But being kinetic like that. That was a — I've watched him on the campaign show. I think it's part of his appeal. I think that liveliness, that physicality, that outdoorsiness seems to work with people. 

NBC News national political reporter Heidi Przybyla interjected with even more fluff, asserting that it’s not just his personality but “his words” because “he had a way of speaking of speaking inspirationally but also really seriously laying out the stakes of inaction and, you know, what could happen if the current administration goes in the current trajectory, for example, with global warming.”

“He was very serious and so, you know, in a way that I think connected with people and he had a lot human stories too, like when he was talking about everything from medicinal marijuana to global warming, he brought it back to individual people,” she added before only then footnoting his pitfalls.

The Daily Beast’s Sam Stein took a similar approach and again only shifting gears after some flowery language (click “expand”):

Well, he has a vibrancy, a youthfulness to him. He has a message which is largely cheerful and what he lacks is fairly evident, which is a record, which is substantial political wins. He did beat an incumbent in his own party to get into Congress but he obviously lost the Senate race and I think Heidi articulates something, which I picked up among other Democrats I’ve talked to, which is a general sense of frustration that he's being given a pass that wouldn't be afforded to female candidates or a minority candidates [sic] because he has this generational appeal.’
After quoting form the epically stupid Vanity Fair profile, Matthews had this to say about O’Rourke: “That magical — the thing that maybe you're right, Sam, is unfair, but it’s not like we in the press created it. There's something out there that is magical.”

Hopefully someone on set made sure that Matthews kept both legs firmly planted on the ground and steady.

Unlike Przbybla and Stein, Democratic strategist and The Hill TV host Jamal Simmons was more like Matthews (click “expand”):

SIMMONS: You can — you can teach message. You can teach policy. You can't teach charisma and I think that’s the thing that Democrats are reacting to. He’s got a long road ahead of him. He’s got to build an organization. We got to see what his policies, but what he has to start with is a — a charisma that you just can't manufacture.

MATTHEWS: What does he do with the resentment thing that Sam just talked about? Hey, this guy’s getting a lot of attention. Front page of Vanity Fair. All of the talk we’re giving him.

Later, Matthews had this bizarre inquisition with Carbajal (click “expand”):

MATTHEWS: You have an unusual experience. I really do think, Congressman. I was roommates with my brother for years growing up. We all brothers, I think, growing up or I did and you growing up and you get to know somebody and what did you get to know about him that doesn't show up on television that we should know about him? Beto? 

CARBAJAL: He's just down to Earth. 

MATTHEWS: Same guy?

CARBAJAL: You sit down with him, the same person you see on TV. The same person you might see at dinner event. You’ll see when you sit down with him.

MATTHEWS: Who cooked and who cleaned up? 

CARBAJAL: We all cooked and we all cleaned, but he was the best cook. He did a mean flank steak.

MATTHEWS:  But you all cooked? 

CARBAJAL: The little that we did.

MATTHEWS: Does he cook Mexican at all? Was there any Mexican? You were born in Mexico. You would be an expert on this.

CARBAJAL: We didn’t cook a whole lot, but the little we did cook, you’ll remember his flank steak. 

MATTHEWS: Okay.

PRZYBYLA: Was he nice to his staff? Was he nice to his staff?

CARBAJAL: I think so. I think so.

MATTHEWS: Oh, there's the new question. 

Simmons had the final word among the panelists and he sure made it worth Matthews’s while (click “expand”):

SIMMONS: Well, you know, and Chris, the reality here is Bill Clinton had that optimism. Barack Obama had that optimism. Heidi talked about this a little bit earlier about that optimism. This field has been missing an asprational voice and the thing I just want to remind Democrats more than anything is that almost every single immigrant that came to this country voluntarily came here to get away from oppression and to try to help their family achieve something economically and for the six million Africans that left the south to go to the north during the Great Migration, they did it for the same reason, to escape oppression and to get ahead financially and if we — if we lose that — if Democrats lose that as a party, we are losing something that is fundamentally American and I think that’s the thing that people will react to.

MATTHEWS: I love what you said. Thank you.

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on March 14, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Hardball
March 14, 2019
7:00 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: A Beto world. Let’s play Hardball. [HARDBALL OPENING CREDITS] Good evening. I’m Chris Matthews in Washington. What could be a huge shake up for the 2020 race, Beto O’Rourke has made his move. The former Texas congressman who nearly took down Senator Ted Cruz in Texas has now joined the Democratic fight to take on — or take down in fact President Trump. O’Rourke ended months of speculation earlier today, officially launching his presidential bid on campaign video. 

[BETO VIDEO]

MATTHEWS: O’Rourke’s entry — it jolts an already crowded field of over a dozen Democrats vying for the party’s nomination for president. He spent his first day on the campaign trail in Iowa, starting a three-day swing through a early caucus states. Here he goes.

[CLIPS FROM BETO EVENT IN KEOUK, IA]

MATTHEWS: Well, O’Rourke has a big campaign kick off scheduled for later this month in his home town of El Paso, Texas. For his part, President Trump weighed union his latest potential rival, mocking him — mocking Beto in a photo op with the Irish prime minister. 

[TRUMP MOCKING BETO]

MATTHEWS: For more, I’m joined by U.S. Congressman Salud Carbajal of California who was O’Rourke's house mate in Washington for two years. We get some intimate information right there. Heidi Pryzbyla, an NBC News national political correspondent. Jamal Simmons, Democratic strategist and host of The Hill TV and Sam Stein, of course, politics editor for The Daily Beast. Thank you all. Look, I'm a little light hearted today because I like this field. It’s got a new levity for it. But let’s talk about this hand thing because Trump has got the weirdest gestures I've ever seen. He’s got everything he does. Jesus and the — he does everything. He's got the hand up like this. He’s got this like this and here he is making fun. What do you make of these gestures, Congressman? You’re his roommate. Did he do that at night when he rehearsed? 

CONGRESSMAN SALUD CARBAJAL (D-CA): Well, what you see with Beto is what you get in person. He’s just —

MATTHEWS: He's that lively? 

CARBAJAL: — extremely authentic. He's just an extraordinary guy. 

MATTHEWS: But being kinetic like that. That was a — I've watched him on the campaign show. I think it's part of his appeal. I think that liveliness, that physicality, that outdoorsiness seems to work with people. 

CARBAJAL: Absolutely. I think so too. 

HEIDI PRZYBYLA: I think it’s not just that. It's his words because I didn’t see it. I was listening to it on the radio.

MATTHEWS: Today in the video?

PRZYBYLA: Yes, it was the words that he used as well. He had a way of speaking of speaking inspirationally but also really seriously laying out the stakes of inaction and, you know, what could happen if the current administration goes in the current trajectory, for example, with global warming. He was very serious and so, you know, in a way that I think connected with people and he had a lot human stories too, like when he was talking about everything from medicinal marijuana to global warming, he brought it back to individual people. But at the same time, I saw people are already starting to question, you know, his experience in congress and whether a similar candidate, who may a minority or a woman candidate could really be propelled this with that kind of a resume. 

MATTHEWS: Okay. What would you rather be? Would you rather be a guy with no — without a lot of tin cans driving — riding in the back of his car, like Biden has 40 or some years to defend Anita Hill. He’s got to defend — god, he’s going to have to defend bussing

JAMAL SIMMONS: Crime bill.

MATTHEWS: — the crime bill, incarceration. Or a guy that’s fresh off the bench? 

SIMMONS: Yeah. He’s fresh off the bench. Listen, I think — here's where Trump is masterful, though, because Trump was like “yeah, that guy’s nice, but he’s got that mole on his chin. Now the only thing you can ever see is the mole on the guy’s chin when you look at him, right? 

MATTHEWS: So the gyrations are not going to be the issue?

SIMMONS: He has pointed out it out and we just spent three, four minutes here in a conversation — having a conversation about it.

MATTHEWS: Because — because I ought to see Trump is noted for being Mr. Nickname as you just said. And let's see what his best punch is. Is this his best punch?

SIMMONS: Well, this is his opening bid and he’s trying to figure out how to size the guy up. Here's what the difference is, though. Donald Trump has never had to fight somebody who is a digital and social media native the way Beto O’Rourke is. Everybody else has trying to figure out how to learn — how to operate this space.

MATTHEWS: But Trump lives on his tweeter.

SIMMONS: Right. Trump lives there and Beto lives there. Now we're going to see two people who both know how to fight in that ring and see whether they can take each other on.

MATTHEWS: Sam — 

SIMMONS: Beto’s got — he’s got to get to the general election.

MATTHEWS: — Sam, what is your wizended luck thought about this? I mean, really what — I think it’s his — here's my — let me try — no, you first — you first because you're as smart as I am on this. What do you think the guy’s got? What does he lack? Beto?

SAM STEIN: Well, he has a vibrancy, a youthfulness to him. He has a message which is largely cheerful and what he lacks is fairly evident, which is a record, which is substantial political wins. He did beat an incumbent in his own party to get into Congress but he obviously lost the Senate race and I think Heidi articulates something, which I picked up among other Democrats I’ve talked to, which is a general sense of frustration that he's being given a pass that wouldn't be afforded to female candidates or a minority candidates [sic] because he has this generational appeal. Now, you know, there’s two things that voters take into account when they pick a nominee for the presidency. One is can they win? Which is paramount, obviously. And two is can they be a good president? And it's increasingly clear over the past couple of elections that voters value the first one much more than second one. And I think for Beto, that’s actually a benefit. People look at him and they think, ‘oh, I would like to see the contrast that he makes with Donald Trump.’ And they don’t look at him and say, ‘well can he handle the job of president?’

MATTHEWS: That’s a great question.

STEIN: And so, you know, the question that becomes can his primary rivals reverse that dynamic. Can they make more about the second question versus the first? 

MATTHEWS: In fact, I have three questions. I agree completely. How do we do if he gets do it against Trump? And how does he serve for four or eight years as president? Which is a much more important question to me. But the first question before those two is, who’s going to turn on the people in those early tests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, and California because that may decide everything there. Anyway, the enthusiasm O’Rourke created during his Senate campaign in Texas propelled him to the national states of course. A new Vanity Fair profile out today — last night. We saw it. We got a peek at it. O’Rourke tried to make sense of his rise. He told the magazine, quote this is what I — Congressman, I want you to answer this. This is about Beto O’Rourke talking to Joe Hagan. “I honestly don't know how much of it” — he's talking about the enthusiasm — “is me. There's something abnormal, super-normal or I don’t kno what you call the hell to call it, that we both experience” — he and his wife Amy — “when we’re out on the campaign trail.” That magical — the thing that maybe you're right, Sam, is unfair, but it’s not like we in the press created it. There's something out there that is magical. 

CARBAJAL: Well, I think one is his charisma. No doubt. But two, he has a unifying, positive message that I think is a clear alternative to what we've seen for the last two and a half years and I think the country is tired of the division, tired of the demagoging

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

CARBAJAL: — that this president has been doing. And they want somebody who's going to focus on what we can do together and bring us together and unify us a nation, take us into the future to solve the issues that every American wants us to solve.

MATTHEWS: There’s a part of — there’s a part of —

SIMMONS: You can — you can teach message. You can teach policy. You can't teach charisma and I think that’s the thing that Democrats are reacting to. He’s got a long road ahead of him. He’s got to build an organization. We got to see what his policies, but what he has to start with is a — a charisma that you just can't manufacture.

MATTHEWS: What does he do with the resentment thing that Sam just talked about? Hey, this guy’s getting a lot of attention. Front page of Vanity Fair. All of the talk we’re giving him. But I want to start with something. It seems to me we could have a lot of brackets like in, you know, March Madness. We could say the older liberals, all the left would be Bernie versus Elizabeth. We could say the new left which would be Kamala versus Cory. And we could say the older white guys, if we just wanted the older, traditional candidates, which would be — there's nobody really in that game except Biden.

SIMMONS: There’s just Biden left now.

MATTHEWS: Because he lost Michael Bloomberg and he lost Sherrod Brown. But there's another bracket, the fighters who come off with a little bit — they come off with a anger. They start off against Kavanaugh. I said the other day. Kamala and Cory went off a little angry at the guy. Then there’s the people that said ‘let’s get together and be friend and let's work this stuff out.’ Those are the two totally different brackets and it seems like Beto is competing — he's bad news for Biden because in that bracket, ‘let's try to work together,’ he’s the new kid. Biden's the old kid.

PRZYBYLA: He’s the next gen electable. Biden is the gray beard electable and so, I don't think we'll know the answer until we see them both on the stage together and they will be on the stage together. They will both meet that threshold and the difference with Beto though is he can still claim some level of progressive credentials —

MATTHEWS: Well he says the right stuff, yeah.

PRZYBYLA: — while still talking to independent voters and not alienating independent voters whereas like you mentioned with Biden, he's got to reconcile, you know, 20, 30 years of history where social change has really come to the progressive base of the democratic party so there are some things that he’s going to have reconcile. But, you know, Beto could — he could — he could flame. He could flame out. 

(....)

7:11 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: You have an unusual experience. I really do think, Congressman. I was roommates with my brother for years growing up. We all brothers, I think, growing up or I did and you growing up and you get to know somebody and what did you get to know about him that doesn't show up on television that we should know about him? Beto? 

CARBAJAL: He's just down to Earth. 

MATTHEWS: Same guy?

CARBAJAL: You sit down with him, the same person you see on TV. The same person you might see at dinner event. You’ll see when you sit down with him.

MATTHEWS: Who cooked and who cleaned up? 

CARBAJAL: We all cooked and we all cleaned, but he was the best cook. He did a mean flank steak.

MATTHEWS:  But you all cooked? 

CARBAJAL: The little that we did.

MATTHEWS: Does he cook Mexican at all? Was there any Mexican? You were born in Mexico. You would be an expert on this.

CARBAJAL: We didn’t cook a whole lot, but the little we did cook, you’ll remember his flank steak. 

MATTHEWS: Okay.

PRZYBYLA: Was he nice to his staff? Was he nice to his staff?

CARBAJAL: I think so. I think so.

MATTHEWS: Oh, there's the new question. Anyway, O’Rourke — by the way, O’Rourke was — lost his bid. That’s why he can run for the president. The great irony, a Catch 22. If he had won the Senate seat, he probably couldn’t run for president right away. Anyway, he won his bid for the Senate in deep-red Texas by just 2.6. He lost it by 2.6 percent and today, he was asked why after losing the race to Ted Cruz, he’s a good choice to beat President Trump. Here he goes. 

[BETO CLIP]

MATTHEWS: Well, that's very Kennedy-esque. Ignore the question, go onto your speech. Anyway, later in an even at Fort Madison, Iowa, O’Rourke cited his six years in the El Paso City Council when asked about his level of experience.

[BETO CLIPS IN FORT MADISON, IOWA]

MATTHEWS: And former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said Republicans should take O’Rourke seriously, referencing Barack Obama's victory back in 2008. 

MIKE HUCKABEE [on FBN’s Morning with Maria, 03/14/19]: Here's the warning to Republicans. Don't take this guy lightly. I believe people will do that at their own peril. [SCREEN WIPE] So for Republicans who say, ‘oh, don’t worry about this.’

MARIA BARTIROMO [on FBN’s Morning with Maria, 03/14/19]: Yeah.

HUCKABEE [on FBN’s Morning with Maria, 03/14/19]: I say Democrats have a history of reaching out and picking a guy that nobody thought had a shot. 

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts on that estimation by the governor, Sam?

STEIN: So this is fascinating to me. I mean, obviously there are parallels and there are shortcomings in the comparison of Obama to O’Rourke. They both seem to lean on this sort of youthful optimism, the sense that community organizing and reaching across the aisle through rationality can actually get and affect change. What I’m most interesting in is whether Democrats still believe that. I mean, there is a huge thread of Democratic psyche right now which looks at the Obama years and says, yes, there well intentioned, but ultimately, there was a naivety towards it, that they couldn't change politics, that couldn't get towards a new era of rationality and common sense because partisan and grid lock were so inherent in our institutions. And I wonder how democratic voters became too cynical to the message that O’Rourke is trying to push on them and too cynical to elect someone who is trying to take that Obama-esque mantle and apply it to a post Trump world. 

MATTHEWS: Well, said.

SIMMONS: Well, you know, and Chris, the reality here is Bill Clinton had that optimism. Barack Obama had that optimism. Heidi talked about this a little bit earlier about that optimism. This field has been missing an asprational voice and the thing I just want to remind Democrats more than anything is that almost every single immigrant that came to this country voluntarily came here to get away from oppression and to try to help their family achieve something economically and for the six million Africans that left the south to go to the north during the Great Migration, they did it for the same reason, to escape oppression and to get ahead financially and if we — if we lose that — if Democrats lose that as a party, we are losing something that is fundamentally American and I think that’s the thing that people will react to.

MATTHEWS: I love what you said. Thank you.

NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2020 Presidential Liberals & Democrats MSNBC Hardball Video Chris Matthews Sam Stein Heidi Przybyla Beto O'Rourke Jamal Simmons
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