Chris Matthews, reportedly considering run for PA Senate seat, repeatedly gushed over PA governor on MSNBC in 2008

››› ››› MORGAN WEILAND

Noting news reporting that MSNBC's Hardball host Chris Matthews is considering running for a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania, Democratic strategist Phil Singer asserted in a blog post, "If Chris Matthews is seriously considering a run ... he shouldn't be on the air right now." Singer went on to ask: "How could he do an interview with [Democratic Pennsylvania Gov.] Ed Rendell?" Indeed, Matthews has repeatedly gushed over Rendell during interviews with the Pennsylvania governor or when speaking about him on MSNBC throughout the past year.

Numerous media outlets have recently reported that MSNBC's Chris Matthews has "met" with party officials in Pennsylvania to discuss a potential run for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Arlen Specter. In a December 4 article, Politico reported Matthews "is dead serious about running for the Senate in Pennsylvania -- and is shopping for a house in the state and privately discussing quitting MSNBC as proof of his intense interest, according to NBC colleagues, political operatives and friends." Blogger and Democratic strategist Phil Singer asserted in a December 1 blog post, "If Chris Matthews is seriously considering a run ... he shouldn't be on the air right now." Singer, who was communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2006 and deputy communications director for Sen. Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign, went on to ask: "How could he do an interview with [Democratic Pennsylvania Gov.] Ed Rendell?" Noting the interview question raised by Singer, Huffington Post political reporter Jason Linkins wrote the same day that "Singer should take a peek at some of Matthews' interviews with Rendell from over the past year! They are highlighted by a lot of gooey ass-kissing."

Indeed, examples over the past year of Matthews' gushing over Rendell during interviews with the governor or when talking about him are numerous, and include the following:

  • During the 6 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC's November 4 presidential election coverage, during an interview with Rendell in which Rendell said, "We're doing especially well in the Philadelphia suburbs, which you know have always been a swing area," Matthews replied: "Well, that's the Rendell strength you've just described. That's where you've always done incredibly well: the suburbs of Philly, the city itself, of course, where you were mayor." Matthews later said, "Well, you're the best political analyst in Pennsylvania, Governor."
  • During the 8 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC's November 4 presidential election coverage, after MSNBC called Pennsylvania for President-elect Barack Obama, Matthews said, "I think it's a big victory for the young people who ran the Pennsylvania campaign -- Craig Schirmer, Sean Smith, Leslie -- no, I feel like the Academy Award giving out the awards here. Of course, the Philadelphia organization led by Bob Brady and Michael Nutter, of course, the mayor. And, of course, the big winner here, besides the candidate: Ed Rendell, who delivered. This was not his favorite candidate, Barack Obama."
  • During the 9 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC's November 4 presidential election coverage, Matthews said, "You know, you're going to see, perhaps, the emergence of Cabinet material already tonight. Of course, [New Mexico Gov.] Bill Richardson could fill almost any role in the new government, and [Gov. Ted] Strickland of Ohio and, of course, Rendell of Pennsylvania. These are big governors, big wins, essential wins, but big wins. They're going to play a part in this next administration."
  • During an interview with Rendell on the October 23 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, Matthews prefaced a question by saying, "I want to run this by you because you're the best pol in the state."
  • During the April 2 edition of MSNBC's Race for the White House with David Gregory, Matthews said of the Pennsylvania governor: "I think Eddie Rendell is the smartest politician in this state, as we know."
  • During an interview with Rendell on the March 31 edition of Hardball, Matthews asked Rendell: "Would you be available ... to be a running mate with [then-Democratic primary rivals Sens.] Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton?" Matthews later went on to say, "I think you'd be a great running -- I understand the situation at home and your responsibilities to the commonwealth. Anyway, I'm here to build you up because I do think you're the best pol around." He added: "[Y]ou're running a hell of a campaign for Hillary Clinton."
  • During the opening of the February 13 edition of Hardball, during which he teased an upcoming interview with Rendell, Matthews said: "We'll ask one of the smartest people in politics, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who's on Senator Clinton's side in this fight."
  • During the 8 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC's January 8 presidential primary election coverage and during an interview with Rendell in which Rendell and Matthews discussed potential vice-presidential choices for the Democratic ticket, Rendell said: "[T]here are a wealth of good candidates. I mean, if Barack Obama was our candidate for president, I think Joe Biden with his foreign policy and terrorism experience would be perfect. I mean, we've got a whole host of good candidates." Matthews replied: "No, you'd be actually better, because you're very good at slicing up the opposition." He went on to say, "You'd be a great VP running mate."

Media coverage of Matthews' potential Senate run dates back at least to April of 2008. On the April 14 edition of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert said, "There's a lot of talk that you might be running for Arlen Specter's seat." Matthews responded, in part, "I want to be a senator." Around that time, other reported rumors of Matthews' possible run for U.S. Senate emerged. In the May 2 edition of the Politically Uncorrected Column, titled, "Chris Matthews: Ready to Play Hardball in PA," Dr. G. Terry Madonna, professor of public affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, and Dr. Michael Young, managing partner of Michael Young Strategic Research wrote:

Now no longer the center ring for the traveling Democratic presidential nomination circus, Pennsylvania's inventive political community has discovered a new favorite political parlor game to while away the brisk springtime evenings: will Chris Matthews, the irrepressible host of MSNBC's Hardball, step down from his pundits perch to run for the US Senate against Arlen Specter in 2010? To a remarkable degree, speculation abounds over this possibility in the Keystone State.

In a May 6 post to the Pennsylvania Avenue blog titled "The Chris Matthews rumor gets legs," Josh Drobnyk reported that "two of the state's [Pennsylvania's] top political scientists, G. Terry Madonna and Mike Young, have now weighed in. They think the 'Hardball' host is likely to do it." The post continued:

A Matthews candidacy has been the stuff of rumors so far -- and it is likely to stay that way for the next several months -- but the 62-year-old Pennsylvania native fueled talk when he told Stephen Colbert last month that he wants "to be a senator."

"The indications that Matthews will run are abundant," Madonna and Young wrote. "His MSNBC contract runs out next summer, and both he and the network show signs they might be ready for a break from each other. In addition, journalists are reporting that Matthews has been seeking advice privately from key Democrats across the state about his chances against Specter. Reportedly these contacts have included discussion with Governor Rendell concerning campaign resources."

Then, in a May 9 post to the Chicago Tribune's blog The Swamp, Drobnyk reported that Matthews' brother, "Republican Jim Matthews, a Montgomery County Commissioner," said of Chris Matthews' potential run for Senate: "It is kind of neat to see a guy at the top of his game contemplating a complete change in direction." Drobnyk wrote:

"His intrigue with the idea is certainly on his mind," Jim Matthews said of a Senate run. "That is real."

But Jim said his older brother isn't yet taking any formal steps towards a run.

"Of course he has had dialogue with friends," he said. "He has friends he has dialogue with about the Phillies too. ... You talk with friends and it comes up now and then."

In an April 13 article, Mark Leibovich suggested in The New York Times Magazine that Matthews has been talking with Rendell about a possible Senate run. From the article:

The more intriguing notion is that Matthews could challenge Senator Arlen Specter, who is up for re-election in Pennsylvania in 2010. This has been rumored before, but Matthews has been particularly obsessed with Pennsylvania of late, devoting hours on and off the air to the state's upcoming Democratic primary, staying in close contact with the state's party apparatus. "I talked to Eddie Rendell today," Matthew [sic] told me on the phone a few weeks ago, urging me again to call the Pennsylvania governor.

[...]

I asked him about the Senate rumors. He thinks Specter has hung on way too long, he said, but running would require Matthews to give up a career he loves. Still, "I get a great feeling when I go home," he told me. "Is Thomas Wolfe right? Can you go home again?

"Really, you should talk to Eddie Rendell."

Additionally, a July 27 Patriot-News article quoted Matthews' wife as saying, " 'I think the idea of being a U.S. senator is one of the most romantic things he can think about, so he's got to make a tough decision.' " Moreover, the article quoted Rendell saying that he had given "advice" to Matthews about his potential bid. From the article:

"I told Chris that I think it's going to be tough," said Gov. Ed Rendell, a Matthews favorite on "Hardball."

"I said that if Arlen Specter is the candidate -- and I have every reason to believe he will be -- it's going to be a tough battle for anybody," Rendell said. He said that the only advice he has given Matthews is: "Go into it with your eyes wide open. This isn't going to be a slam dunk."

Matthews has previously denied that he intends to run. In an April 22 Philadelphia Inquirer piece (accessed via Nexis) by columnist Jonathan Storm, titled "10 questions to Chris Matthews, and the uninterrupted answers," Matthews was asked if he was "really going to run for the Senate against Arlen Specter in 2010?" He responded, "I am still honoring the commitment I made in 1987 to cover politics, not engage in it."

Media outlets, including Politico and Roll Call, have reported that several other Democrats are considering running in the primary. According to a November 29 report on The Patriot-News' website, "If Matthews decides to run, he could face a fight for the Democratic nomination." The Patriot-News added: "Three other Democrats are believed to be interested in the Senate seat: two-term U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak of Delaware County, state Rep. Josh Shapiro of Montgomery County, and three-term U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, who represents parts of Montgomery County and Philadelphia."

In his December 1 blog post, Singer wrote that "when one of the network's most visible anchors is reported to be exploring a run for elected office, the network has an obligation to remove that person from its airwaves." Singer continued, providing "a few reasons why":

If Matthews is going to run as a Democrat in what will likely be a contested primary, will he be willing to play hardball when his fellow Democrats are in the news? How could he do an interview with Ed Rendell? How could he be trusted to cover the Obama transition and other political issues without fear or favor? More to the point, will viewers think he is covering politics without fear or favor? [emphasis in original]

From the November 4 edition of MSNBC's presidential election coverage:

MATTHEWS: You know, you're going to see, perhaps, the emergence of cabinet material already tonight. Of course, [New Mexico Gov.] Bill Richardson could fill almost any role in the new government, and [Gov. Ted] Strickland of Ohio and, of course, Rendell of Pennsylvania. These are big governors, big wins, essential wins, but big wins. They're gonna play a part in this next administration.

From the November 4 edition of MSNBC's presidential election coverage:

DAVID GREGORY (NBC chief White House correspondent): And so, here we are. This is a look at the national vote. You see it's Obama with the lead, 103 electoral votes, McCain now with 34. He needs 270 to win. Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, Chris Matthews.

MATTHEWS: I thought it might happen tonight. And I have to say right now that the McCain campaign strategy for victory has crashed. Their plan to win was to go through Pennsylvania, to get to the White House through that state. The second battle of Gettysburg has gone the same as the first one, a failure for the Republicans.

I think it's a big victory for the young people who ran the Pennsylvania campaign -- Craig Schirmer, Sean Smith, Leslie -- I feel like the Academy Award giving out the awards here. Of course, the Philadelphia organization led by Bob Brady and Michael Nutter, of course, the mayor. And, of course, the big winner here, besides the candidate: Ed Rendell, who delivered. This was not his favorite candidate, Barack Obama.

GREGORY: Right.

From the November 4 edition of MSNBC's presidential election coverage:

MATTHEWS: Let's go to the action now. Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania joins us now. Governor Rendell, you've playing -- you've been playing defense in those blue states. The number one target, it seems to me, of the Republicans has been to take Pennsylvania away from the Democrats. How does it look tonight?

RENDELL: Well, Senator McCain and Governor Palin spent so much time here the last five weeks, Chris, I was thinking of charging them state income tax. But -- but they really made a terrific effort here, and I congratulate them for trying to convert retail campaigning into a victory. They did a good job, and I think they energized their base. But I think we're gonna win.

The turnouts are exceptional statewide. I think we're gonna break the record that -- for modern-day voting that we had in the Kennedy-Nixon election. We're doing especially well in the Philadelphia suburbs, which you know have always been a swing area. I think Barack Obama may come out of the Philadelphia suburbs 200,000 votes up, out of the city at least 400,000 votes up, out of the Lehigh Valley 25,000 votes up. And if he puts together that string, and he's 625 to 650 up, he can't be caught in any other part of the state, regardless of what happens.

MATTHEWS: Well, that's the Rendell strength you've just described. That's where you've always done incredibly well: the suburbs of Philly, the city itself, of course, where you were mayor. How does it look out west? I know that has been a troubling area, Westmoreland County. It's culturally conservative, Jack Murtha's area. What's it look like out there?

RENDELL: Well, my guess is it's gonna be a lot closer out there, and we'll know pretty fast. I'm gonna try to get some divisions reported to me in the first 10 or 15 minutes. Take Beaver County, 51-49 for Kerry. That's right north of Pittsburgh. It's white working class predominantly. If Barack Obama can stay close to the Kerry total -- 50, 51, 49 percent -- he's going to win the state and win it handily. If he gets down into the 40s -- 43, 44, 42 -- then there could be -- it could be a long night here in Pennsylvania. That's Beaver and Washington, Westmoreland, as you said, those counties.

It's gonna be interesting to watch. I think Barack's gonna do better in central Pennsylvania than a lot of people give him credit for. The northeast, he's helped mightily by Joe Biden. So it's a tough road to hoe for the McCain forces. But again, give them credit, the retail campaign, they did it well. They fired up the base. There was so much red meat going around, it was unbelievable.

MATTHEWS: How was Hillary -- Senator Clinton was up there a lot with you. You're very close to her and, of course, the former President Bill Clinton. He has been campaigning, I saw the other day, for Murtha and for [Rep. Paul] Kanjorski [D-PA]. How powerful were they in delivering their vote today?

RENDELL: I think you'll get -- of the women supporters for Hillary Clinton, I think close to 95 percent will vote for Barack Obama. Hillary did an extraordinary job with her presence throughout the state. She was in Pittsburgh yesterday. Bill Clinton was in Wilkes-Barre, Johnstown, and Erie yesterday. So, I think the Clinton feminist voters are all for Barack.

The working-class, blue-collar white voters who Hillary did so well with and, really, became the champion of, they're gonna split. I think Barack's gonna maintain a significant hunk of them, a good enough hunk to win. Obviously not going to do as well as Hillary did among that group, but I think he's gonna surprise some people.

MATTHEWS: Well, you're the best political analyst in Pennsylvania, Governor. Thank you. You really split it there. I think you're -- that was very interesting, what he just said. The fact that the women who care about women's issues -- of choice, of minimum wage, the concerns women want for equal employment, equal pay -- Hillary delivered the vote. It is very hard to deliver some of the vote, however, it's very culturally conservative, that liked Hillary because she was a traditional Democrat, and to bring them all over was a hard job for her.

From the October 23 edition of MSNBC's Hardball (accessed via Nexis):

RENDELL: Well, I think their theory is that most of the undecided votes will break for them and that there are some people who are not answering the question when pollsters ask them, "Who are you voting for?" Some people refuse to answer, and they're finding solace in that.

But as you know, Chris, the polls have been almost exclusively double digits. Susquehanna had a poll beginning of the week that said it was 8 points, but the polls have -- other polls have consistently held it at double digits.

But look, I'm nervous, and I'm nervous for no other reason than they're making a great effort here. Senator McCain and Governor Palin are here a lot. Governor Palin back again today, Senator McCain in three spots yesterday. So they're pulling out all the stops here, and we've got to be ready to defend. And you know, we're doing a good job defending. The issues speak for themselves. And most Pennsylvanians are targeted on the economy and health care, and those issues break strongly for the Obama campaign.

MATTHEWS: I know you've been very supportive of Governor -- of Senator McCain, and you were very supportive, extremely supportive of Senator Clinton and Bill Clinton before that. I'm trying to figure out what's missing in this campaign that would bring it home for the Democrats in Pennsylvania. And I just wonder if there's something that hasn't been said by either candidate, including by Barack. I want to run this by you because you're the best pol in the state, and ask this question.

When you talk to the average guy out there, especially the guy -- and let's be blunt, the white guy because he's in play right now -- he takes pride in being a provider. My dad -- you know, my dad was like that. You take pride in bringing the food home, getting the kids something for Christmas, maybe a week vacation somewhere at the shore. You take pride in being able to take care of your family, and that's the crisis everybody faces right now, taking care of your family.

Do you think Barack Obama has done a good enough job of talking to that average guy out there about how he will be of some modest help and will not get in the guy's way by raising taxes on him?

RENDELL: Yes. I think in the last six, seven weeks, since the economy became in a crisis mode, I think he's done a terrific job speaking to what the average person is worried about -- their own pocketbook, their own budget. I think he's been enormously effective. He's driven home the fact that for working families that make less than $250,000, he's going to give them a tax cut bigger than McCain. He's not going to raise taxes. I think he's driven that home.

From the April 2 edition of MSNBC's Race for the White House with David Gregory:

MATTHEWS: That said, I think Eddie Rendell is the smartest politician in this state, as we know, and he said the lead is shrinking. I think Eddie would like us to think going into this that it's going to be about three points for Hillary Clinton, his candidate. It ends up being about eight. The confetti comes down, they say they beat the spread. I would say that's the game they're playing right now.

From the March 31 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:

MATTHEWS: Would you be available, Governor, to be a running mate with Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton?

RENDELL: No. No. I said, Chris, I'm going to finish my term here. And who in their right mind would want someone like me to be their running mate? You know, if they came up and said, "What do you think of the presidential candidates' environmental policy that he released today?"

MATTHEWS: Oh, yeah, I'll tell you -

RENDELL: I'd say, "Fair, you know, fair." You know, I have this problem of telling the truth all the time and --

MATTHEWS: Well, I think you'd carry Pennsylvania and save it for the Democrats 'cause it is a little bit precarious with John McCain running. And I think you'd bring back in -- you'd bring Ohio in. And I think you'd make Hillary competitive -- or Barack competitive in Florida. I think you'd be a great running -- I understand the situation at home and your responsibilities to the commonwealth. Anyway, I'm here to build you up because I do think you're the best pol around. Hey, thank you, Governor --

RENDELL: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: -- you're running a hell of a campaign for Hillary Clinton.

RENDELL: And we're gonna --

MATTHEWS: If she doesn't win by 10 points, it's not your fault.

RENDELL: There you go.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, sir.

RENDELL: See you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Governor Ed Rendell of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

From the February 13 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:

MATTHEWS: So how will the Clinton campaign stop Obama? Put another way, can the Clinton campaign stop Obama? We'll ask one of the smartest people in politics, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who's on Senator Clinton's side in this fight.

From MSNBC's January 8 primary election coverage:

MATTHEWS: You know, everybody would have said, maybe even a couple weeks ago, the idea of the first woman president and the first African-American vice-president serving together was unbelievable, incredible. But you know, when you look at the excitement for Barack Obama, as I and the other reporters have seen up there in New Hampshire, and you look at the results out of Iowa and the unclear results tonight, but yet the fact that the national polls now show Hillary and Obama very close, you begin to think maybe this could be a ticket. Why not? Why do we think so traditionally and say one has to win and one has to go home?

RENDELL: Well, you're absolutely right, Chris. Remember, when Bill Clinton picked Al Gore, that was political heresy. You don't pick two guys from neighboring states. Never done before. And yet it turned out to be a pretty dynamic ticket that energized Democrats and independents throughout the country. So, I'm not saying that's impractical, but my hope is -- and I've been listening to you guys for a couple days now -- my hope is if this is close tonight and if it has a long length, this primary battle, that it doesn't turn nasty. Because if it turns nasty, that would be hard to construct a ticket based on Obama and Clinton.

OLBERMANN: Governor--

RENDELL: You know, there's a -- there are a wealth of good candidates. I mean, if Barack Obama was our candidate for president, I think Joe Biden with his foreign policy and terrorism experience would be perfect. I mean, we've got a whole host of good candidates.

MATTHEWS: No, you'd be actually better, because you're very good at slicing up the opposition. You know, the Democrats have not been well-served by their last two vice-presidential nominees. Neither Al Gore -- or, rather, neither Joe Lieberman, certainly, who seemed to be wanting to join the club that Dick Cheney was the boss of, or John Edwards, who was running for his own campaign four years hence -- neither wanted to play that role of the VP nominee, which you know is to take apart the nominee for the presidency of the other party. And if you don't do that job, you really don't deserve to get the big one, do you?

RENDELL: Well, I think that's right, Chris. Politics is obviously a contact sport. But you've got to take them apart fairly and on substance. I think if you look at the poll, the Romney poll from tonight, that 30 percent of -- of the people who voted in the Republican primary were turned off by those ads. The ads have got to be substantial, they've got to point out real problems. I mean, you've got to be able to say, "Hey, guys, do we want to go back to the days when a woman who wanted an abortion was forced to have it in the back alley with a, you know, a hanger?" You don't want to do that. Do you want to have health care for all Americans and contain health care costs? Those are the type of things you've got to point out. And there are weaknesses in what I believe the approach has been of the Bush administration, and I haven't heard any difference among any of the candidates about a different approach. Tell me, has anybody said --

MATTHEWS: You're making my point, Governor. You're making my point. You'd be a great VP running mate.

RENDELL: There you go. There you go.

OLBERMANN: All right, Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania. Great thanks. We're going to cut away and go up to Romney headquarters, where the man who is going to finish second tonight in New Hampshire is about to address his supporters.

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Government
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Chris Matthews
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Hardball, Race for the White House with David Gregory
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