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Chris Matthews might be the most challenging campaign spouse since Bill Clinton

Kathleen and Chris Matthews are well known in social Washington. (Photo by Rebecca D’Angelo For the Washington Post)

As host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Chris Matthews rarely takes a backseat. Often, not even the guests invited to appear on his show can wedge in their thoughts between between his questions and his trademark “Ha!” (No really, the network made it into a ring tone.)

But now that his wife, former local-news anchor and Marriott exec Kathleen Matthews is considering running for Congress in Maryland, the colorful cable TV talker may have to learn to play second fiddle, the role typically relegated to the political spouse. That’s a prospect that those who know the couple, who are regulars on the Washington social scene, are having trouble envisioning.

Some friends wonder whether Chris Matthews, a self-professed political junkie who was chief of staff to Speaker Tip O’Neill and once considered running for Senate himself, would be able to resist the temptation to armchair quarterback if his wife seeks the seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

“Pity the poor campaign manager,” says Carol Joynt, a longtime friend of the Matthews’ who was once a booker for Hardball. “Though of course he’ll mean well.”

More than one pal raised a comparison to former President Bill Clinton, who was an, ahem, unconventional campaign-trail sidekick to Hillary Clinton during her 2008 presidential run.

At MSNBC, Chris Matthews would have to figure out how to deal with any potential conflicts of interest arising from his wife’s potential run (a network source says that if if his wife does throw her hat in the ring, the “Hardball” host would “take all appropriate measures to ensure that coverage is transparent and fair​,” including disclosing the relationship if the congressional race came up on-air.)

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