On Tuesday's airing of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews tried several times to get New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley to commit to holding presidential primary debates in his state. Matthews asked many times, trying to get the chairman to guarantee that there will be debates and not just a coronation of Hillary Clinton.
On Monday's show, Matthews praised Clinton, saying she could really "rule" this country.
Jim Messina, who managed President Obama's successful 2012 campaign, said his PAC will be supporting Hillary. "We Want Hillary Clinton to be the next president," he said. "It's her turn and her time."
"Should there be, as a matter of principle, debates heading toward the Democratic primary next year, a year from now, should there be, as a matter of principle, debates?" Matthews said when he asked Buckley for the first time
"There has to be more than one candidate to be able to have a debate, and we don't know if there is going to be more than one candidate at this point," Buckley responded.
"Isn't [Jim] Webb running?" Matthews inquired.
"He hasn't contacted anyone in New Hampshire that I'm aware of," Buckley said.
"So you're going to do this number on me the whole night? Right? You're going to basically said until we have a candidate," Matthews said.
"Okay, I'll play your game Mister Chairman," Matthews said. "You're my guest, so I'll play your game."
"If there are other candies, Bernie Sanders, or Martin O'Malley in Maryland, credible candidates, U.S. Senators, Members, Governors who are in office right now. If you have credible people of presidential rank or candidate rank, should there be, as a matter of principle, should there be debates, including Secretary Clinton?" Matthews asked again.
"Oh, I'm sure that the secretary would participate in debates if there were legitimate candidates running. You know, nobody knows New Hampshire better than Bill and Hillary Clinton. So they understand what it takes to win the New Hampshire primary and understand how to communicate and work, and they certainly respect the people of New Hampshire, and I would anticipation on having a full campaign going on, whether she's opposed here or not," Buckley said.
"Are you supporting the idea of debates?" Matthews asked. "I'm going to say this. As party chair, do you want to see debates in the New Hampshire primary if there are multiple candidates?"
"If there are legitimate candidates, sure," Buckley said, causing Matthews to laugh.
I would assume she would do that," Buckley added.
At this point Matthews was having a full on laugh at Buckley.
"Why are you so hesitant?" Matthews asked. There have always been debates in these elections. I grew up with them. There have always been debates. There are best thing in television. You get a good debate in New Hampshire."
Matthews then laid his cards on the table and asked Buckley if he was too "afraid of Hillary Clinton" to declare there will be Democratic primary debates in New Hampshire.
"Are you so afraid of Hillary Clinton and her peeps that you won't just say, damn it, we need to have debates, this is the Democratic party? We believe in debates?" Matthews asked.
"Say it, please," he told Buckley.
Well, I don't even know if the secretary has decided to run or not," Buckley said causing Matthews to crack up for the rest of the segment. "It's a little premature."
"This is absurd," a red-faced Matthews said.
Will there be any activities in the Democratic primary campaign, in addition to debates, since there may not be debates?" Matthews asked before collapsing in laughing against.
"Sure," Buckley said at Matthews continued to laugh. "Senator Sanders was here this last weekend having house parties. Governor O'Malley is coming up in a couple of weeks."
"So there are other candidates!" Matthews said. "Thank you. You walked into my trap. There are other candidates, therefore you think there should be debates?"
Buckley wouldn't answer, causing Matthews to break into laughter again.
"Anyway, thank you very much, Raymond Buckley. I know where you stand right now. You don't," Matthews said at the end of the segment.