While discussing the Democratic presidential candidates on the August 8 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews asserted: "I don't see a big, beefy alternative to [Sen.] Hillary Clinton [D-NY] -- a big guy. You know what I mean? An ... every-way big guy. I don't see one out there. I see a lot of slight, skinny, second- and third-rate candidates." Matthews prefaced his comment by saying, "I guess I'm thinking of an Eddie Rendell were in the race -- the governor of Pennsylvania -- or if [former Vice President] Al Gore were in the race or someone else who's a good heavyweight to be running."
As Media Matters for America noted, during MSNBC's August 7 coverage of the AFL-CIO Democratic presidential forum, Matthews asked Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson about former Sen. John Edwards' (NC) performance: "Why did they seem to be glancing blows that didn't grab the audience? Is the fact that he's a small man -- I mean, literally, physically?" Robinson responded: "He's not physically that small."
Matthews' characterization of Gore as "a good heavyweight" marks a change from his previous characterizations of Gore. As Media Matters noted, on the December 21, 2006, edition of Hardball, Matthews asked Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley if Gore was "in fighting weight" and then said: "He's the Hindenburg."
Matthews has also previously suggested that Obama's being "skinny" is an asset, rather than a liability. On the January 17 edition of Hardball, he asserted:
MATTHEWS: He looks like the young American hero -- OK, the ears stick out. I think [New York Times columnist] Maureen Dowd made that point. He's got the skinny, lanky look of a young, healthy guy. He looks like the young Lindbergh before the politics got in the way, the young Jack Kennedy. If he sits around and waits 'til he's middle-aged, and he's got a fat neck, he ain't going anywhere. So, the smartest thing that kid is doing -- and he is a kid compared to us -- is go for it and make Hillary try to catch him.
As Media Matters has documented, Matthews has previously touted the purportedly presidential attributes of each of the leading Republicans running for president:
- On the May 2, 2006, edition of Hardball, Matthews said of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, "He looks like [a] president to me."
- On the November 19, 2006, edition of the NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show, Matthews and his panel gushed over Sen. John McCain (AZ), calling him "passionate," "a smart hawk," and "kind of like Martin Luther." On the March 29 Hardball, Matthews stated: "John McCain certainly deserves to be president, based on his contribution to this country over the years."
- On January 19, Matthews said of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: "He has the perfect chin, the perfect hair, he looks right." On February 13, Matthews said Romney has "got a great chin, I've noticed."
Media Matters also noted that, during the July 18, 2006, edition of NBC's The Tonight Show, Matthews predicted a Giuliani victory in 2008, but also asserted: "I hope the American people take the next election very seriously and don't just vote partisan ... or personality or who has the happiest smile ... but picks the person that makes us feel the safest."
On the August 8 show, which featured Townhall.com columnist Amanda Carpenter, The New Republic senior editor Michael Crowley, and Newsweek White House correspondent Holly Bailey, Carpenter said regarding Edwards: "I think he's trying desperately, you know, almost like a little kid, 'Hey, remember me?' "
From the 5 p.m. ET hour of the August 8 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: The guy who's caught off guard here and almost irrelevant is Edwards. He just keeps slipping through the cracks.
CARPENTER: Yeah, he's quite desperate.
MATTHEWS: He's not the avant-garde candidate. He's not the Bobby Kennedy, like Obama. He's not the establishment candidate like Hillary. He's just there.
CARPENTER: Yeah, I think he's trying desperately, you know, almost like a little kid, "Hey, remember me?" and "What about the lobbyist money?" He brought that up at YearlyKos and again at the debate last night. I mean, he really is kind of stealing Obama's territory on the lobbyist money and trying to own that and make it his and bringing it up every chance he can.
MATTHEWS: Here's a tough question, Holly. Is Barack Obama the dog in the manger, meaning the person who stands there and prevents somebody who can really take on Hillary from getting into second place? Is he her best friend really, 'cause he can't catch her?
BAILEY: Well, you know, I think on one hand, sure. But at the same time, you know, if we look at the field, I mean, you know, it's hard to see who would be getting his support, you know, if he weren't in the race. I mean, I think a lot of people who are supporting Obama would probably still be -- would probably shift to Hillary, but that's just a guess.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, I think you're right. I guess I'm thinking of an Eddie Rendell were in the race -- the governor of Pennsylvania -- or if Al Gore were in the race or someone else who's a good heavyweight to be running. But, you know, I do see a lot of really good second-tier candidates here, but I don't see a big, beefy alternative to Hillary Clinton -- a big guy. You know what I mean? An all -- an every-way big guy. I don't see one out there. I see a lot of slight, skinny, second- and third-rate candidates.
CROWLEY: [New Mexico Gov. Bill] Richardson's kind of beefy. Richardson's a little beefy.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, right. I know. We'll talk about Richardson later. Thank you Michael Crowley, Amanda Carpenter -- Richardson's a fine public servant, but I don't see it connecting yet. And Holly Barry [sic], thank you, from Newsweek.