Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 1/27/2016

Hillary Clinton, Ann Coulter, Carol Lee, Cornell Belcher, Jeanne Shaheen, Angus King

Date: January 27, 2016
Guest: Hillary Clinton, Ann Coulter, Carol Lee, Cornell Belcher, Jeanne
Shaheen, Angus King

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Last chance debate.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Hillary Clinton wants another big night with Bernie. The former secretary
of state says she would be happy to hit the stage with Bernie Sanders and
Martin O`Malley next week in New Hampshire. Clinton told me earlier today
she hopes the Democratic National Committee and the campaigns will agree to
sanction the February 4th debate hosted by “The New Hampshire Union Leader”
and MSNBC.

Meanwhile, the contest between Clinton and Sanders is getting heated. In
Iowa, a new Quinnipiac poll today shows Sanders now leading Clinton 49 to
45, according to that latest poll.

Sanders was in Washington today, where he met privately with President
Obama in the Oval Office for more than an hour. The meeting came days
after the president praised Hillary Clinton and seemed to dismiss Sanders`s
appeal with an interview with Politico. The president said, You`re always
looking at the bright, shiny object people haven`t seen before. That`s a
disadvantage to Clinton.

Well, earlier today, I spoke with Secretary Clinton about debates, about
Bernie Sanders`s attacks and the historic nature of her own candidacy.


MATTHEWS: You know, we`re getting near closing time and closing arguments
in the big fight in Iowa, and then in New Hampshire coming on quickly.
Donald Trump is not going to debate on Fox tomorrow night.

Will you debate on our debate? Will you show up?

telephone): Look, Chris, what I`ve said through my campaign is that I would
look forward to another debate. I am, you know, anxious, if we can get
something set up, to be able to be there. And so let`s try to make it

MATTHEWS: Well, someone has to lead from the front. Will you be there, no
matter what? Will you show up and wait and see? Will you be there waiting
for Bernie Sanders and Martin O`Malley?

Would you, in other words, lead the pack in showing up and committing to
doing that?

CLINTON: Look, I`m ready for the debate, and I hope Senator Sanders will
change his mind and join us. And I think the DNC and the campaign should
be able to work this out. I`ve said for – you know, for a long time that
I`d be happy to have more debates, and I hope we can get this done.

MATTHEWS: Well, if he doesn`t show up, will you?

CLINTON: Well, let`s hope that we can get it worked out. I don`t want to
– you know, I don`t want to jump the gun and create more problems for
everybody trying to get this worked out, so we can all come to agreement
that the voters of New Hampshire and America deserve to see us, you know,
debating before the New Hampshire primary.

MATTHEWS: So you won`t be there – just a last question on this. You
won`t be there unless Bernie`s there.

CLINTON: Well, I`m not committing to that, either, Chris. I think we
should have another debate. I think people want it. They have called for
it. Folks have moved forward trying to get it set up. We`ve got, you know
– look, 24 hours in a political campaign is an eternity.


CLINTON: We`ve got a little time to try to get everybody on board, which
would certainly be my preference.

MATTHEWS: OK, you believe candidates should have the courage to face each
other before the – before the caucuses, in other words. You think you
should be there and he should be there.

CLINTON: I do. I think that – you know, I agreed, we all agreed to go
with the process that the DNC had set up. And you know, I`ve been saying
for a while that if they come up with more debates, I will be there. And
now we`ve got a real, live possibility, and I – I personally think it
would be great for the – you know, the primary. We`re moving into the
caucus, as you know so well, on Monday.


CLINTON: And then once we come out of there, whatever happens, we should
agree to debate in New Hampshire.

MATTHEWS: In other words, you`re sticking to your commitment, I will be

CLINTON: I will – I will debate. Now, as I say, I`d want – I want all
the campaigns and the DNC to agree. That is my preference.


CLINTON: That`s what we`ve tried to, you know, do in our side of the
ledger here.


CLINTON: And I`m pushing people to come to agreement so we can all get out
there and debate before the New Hampshire primary.

MATTHEWS: Well, this is getting very sharply worded as we get closer to
the caucuses. The word in “The New York Times” this morning, Madam
Secretary, is that Senator Sanders is readying an attack ad against you.
We don`t know whether he`s going to use it, but the language is basically
that you`re in hock to Wall Street because of the speaking fees you`ve
taken from Goldman Sachs.

How do you respond or how will you respond to an eleventh-hour attack like

CLINTON: Well, first, it`s really disappointing, Chris. You know, Senator
Sanders has started to get increasingly personal with his attacks. He even
compared me to Dick Cheney last week, which, you know, is kind of a low
blow. So it would be another escalation and a breaking of his pledge not
to go negative.

One of the things that I think has been great about the Democratic side is
we really have focused on issues, while the Republicans have been hurling
insults. And I think the people in Iowa want to go to the caucuses
thinking about which one of us as president can actually make a difference
in their lives, and that`s the case I`ve been focused on making.

So you know, it would be a sharp departure by Senator Sanders. And you
know, the other part of this, is anybody who knows me knows you can`t buy
me. I mean, honestly, I`ve been standing up and fighting and getting
knocked around for years, trying to get things done that I think would
improve people`s lives. And I`m not going to stop, and that includes
anybody trying to, you know, mess with our financial system.
MATTHEWS: Well, when he uses phrases like – dark phrases like, You can
draw your own conclusions, as to whether you`re in hock to Goldman Sachs or
anyone – is that – is that a low blow, You can draw your own conclusions?

CLINTON: Well, I think he`s trying to go to the line without going over
it. And you know, clearly, some of the journalists covering us are
starting to notice and call him out on it.

But I feel very – you know, very positive and energized by what I`m seeing
happening here in Iowa. And I know that I have the best plan to rein in
Wall Street abuses, to make sure it doesn`t ever happen again.

Lots of folks, from Barney Frank to Paul Krugman, have said that`s the case
because I don`t just go after the big banks. You know, we already have the
authority to do that under Dodd-Frank, and I have said I would use that
authority if they were posing a systemic risk to our economy.

But equally importantly, we`ve got to go after the shadow banking sector.
You know, let`s not forget Lehman Brothers, AIG, Countrywide, Rapovia (ph).
And let`s also remind people, Chris, that, clearly, the billionaires, as
Bernie likes to say – the billionaires have chosen sides. They`re running
ads against me and trying to, you know, kind of hoodwink Democrats into
voting against me because they know exactly what I will do because they`ve
seen me in action.

So whether it`s, you know, Karl Rove or the hedge fund guys with their own
super-PAC, or Joe Ricketts jumping in now with a kind of ham-handed effort
to look like he was, you know, going against Bernie, when the real point
was to, you know, stir opposition to me. I take that as perversely
flattering and as the single best refutation of what Senator Sanders is
trying to imply.

MATTHEWS: Well, you`re giving us a real rogue`s gallery here of Dick
Cheney and Karl Rove.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, let me ask you about the slogans. You used a phrase the
other day, these shouting slogans. Now, I know what you mean – I`m going
to build a wall across the Rio Grande – across – along the Rio Grande
River. I`m going to make the Mexicans pay for it.

But on the Democratic side, Senator Sanders says things like free health
care, or rather, government-paid health care for life, as a right. He
talks about free tuition when you go to a great school like Berkeley or
Madison, Wisconsin. Free! Free!

Is that what you mean, this – we had a young guy on yesterday from South
Carolina who switched from you to Senator Sanders, and he – I went through
this list of free things and I said, Where`s the money come from? And he
says, Well, we put a man on the moon. We can do this.

And that kind of fantastic – what do you call it – appeal. And then I
heard from Sanders the other day that they`re going to stay left, right to
the general, they`re not going to make any appeal to the middle.

How do you beat somebody who promises to go hard left, right to November,
and offers all this stuff to people who are 20 years old, 22 years old, and
they don`t have to pay much taxes now, but you say, Look, you`re going to
get free – no more tuition bills, no more bills! You`re going to have no
health care the rest of your life, so forget having to buy insurance.

It`s a pretty good offer. Is that what you mean by shouting slogans?

CLINTON: Well, I was really more referring to the Republicans, as you
pointed out initially. And I have been, you know, pointing out the
differences in the approach between myself and Senator Sanders because I
know that it`s more important we actually make progress than fall back into

And let`s take health care as an example. You know, we`ve been trying, as
Democrats, since Harry Truman to get on the path to universal coverage.
Before it was called “Obama care,” it was called “Hillary care,” and I have
the scars to prove it. And I was thrilled when President Obama passed and
signed the Affordable Care Act.

We are now at 90 percent coverage. I sure think we ought to improve it.
I`ve got plans to get the costs down and make sure we do go after high
prescription drug costs and some of the other drivers of health care costs.
But I think it`s a lot smarter to try to go from 90 percent to 100 percent
than to throw our country into another contentious debate about health

Where`s the money going to come from? Who`s going to be paying it? If you
have health care you like, if you`re under a private plan, do you have to
give it up? If you`re on Medicare and you work, do you have to pay more
taxes? All these questions that would be thrown back into the public arena
and we`d have to start all over again from 0 to 100 percent.

I just think we want to stay on the path of making progress. Now, some
people, you know, say, Oh my gosh, that`s so pragmatic. It`s not, you
know, soaring, or whatever they say. Well, I`m out there talking to people
who prescription drug costs have gone up from $200 to $14,000. I`m talking
to people whose insulin cost has gone up three times. That`s not a new
drug. That doesn`t have any new research in it.

I`m talking to people who are thanking me for the Affordable Care Act
because the lifetime limit, the cap has been lifted. And a man yesterday
in Davenport said to me, I`m so grateful because I`ve got a granddaughter
with a congenital heart condition.

These people can`t wait, Chris. We can`t wait for another big debate that
promises, you know, the sky when we know we`ve got to deliver on the
ground. We`ve got to help people deal with the problems, the issues, the
challenges they`re facing right now.

We have to restore faith that our government can work. And that is what I
intend to do as president, and I`m going to keep fighting for that. And I
respect the goal because Senator Sanders and I share the same goal. We
want to get to universal coverage.

I think my way will get us there faster and provide the health care that
the people here in Iowa are telling me they are desperately, desperately in
need of.

MATTHEWS: Last question, and it`s so important to this campaign. I think
so. I know you think so. It has to do with history. And it`s not the
only issue in the campaign, obviously, but if you look at the American
Constitution – and you`ve studied constitutional law – and the fact is
that it wasn`t until after the civil war that African-American men were
given the right to vote in the 15th Amendment. And then women didn`t get
it until after the First World War. There`s a long lag there.

Obama was elected president. You might get elected president. You may
well get elected president. Do you think it`s – you think young American
women – say, young women in college, 18 to 22, 23 – do they get it, how
long this struggle has been and the fact that it`s a precarious struggle
that could fall back?

Do they know that all the rights to choice, to equality at workplace, where
they do get it, all were fought for? Do they get it? That`s my simple
question. I don`t know if they do. Do you think they get it?

CLINTON: Look, I think that a lot of young people – and I wouldn`t limit
it to women. I think young people of every background, every racial,
ethnic, religious background, are, you know, trying to understand how best
they can participate in our political system and what the stakes are for

And of course, you know, if you haven`t been through a lot of these
struggles, it`s easy either not to know about them or to think they didn`t
go far enough or that, you know, everything is taken care of. So we`ve got
the two extremes of the argument.

But here`s what I`m hearing, at least from the young women who come to see
me. They say, Hey, OK, you`re for equal pay. What are you going to make
sure I get it? I had a young woman the other day here in Iowa say, I want
to go to law school. How can I be sure that if I work hard and do well and
get a job, I`m going to get equal pay?

And I said, OK, that`s the right question because we`ve been fighting for
this. We`ve made progress, but not near enough. Here`s exactly what I
think we need to do to get it.

Or young women who say, you know, I can`t balance family and work. I had a
young woman come to see me holding her 9-month-old baby and she said, you
know, I can`t go back to work until I get my baby stabilized. I need paid
family leave. What are you going to do about it?

So I think what`s happening is, as the campaign goes on, a lot of young
people – and let`s focus on young women – are moving from the sort of
general, either we haven`t gone far enough or those fights are over and I
don`t have to worry about it, to being much more specific.

And that is a good development because at the end of our efforts here in
the primaries, and if I`m so fortunate enough to get the nomination, then I
think we fight out an election between a party that believes we`ve got to
continue to address the lacks in our drive for equality, our drive for
justice, whether it`s racism, sexism, homophobia, you name it – we need to
address those gaps, and the other side doesn`t even want to admit they

So I think we`re going to have a very positive reaction in the general
election between, you know, the big deniers on the Republican side, and you
know, Let`s make progress, get things done, on my side.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. One last – just to clarify what you said
about the debate. Would you like the chairman – the chair of the
Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to approve the
MSNBC/NBC debate next week?

CLINTON: I would like the chairmen of the party and the campaigns to agree
that we can debate in New Hampshire next week.


CLINTON: That is what I`m hoping will happen.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much. It`s been an honor to have you on,
Secretary Hillary Clinton from Iowa. Thanks for joining us on HARDBALL

CLINTON: Thanks, Chris. Good to talk to you again.


MATTHEWS: Coming up – Donald Trump vows to skip tomorrow night`s
Republican debate. He`s at war right now with Fox, its news anchor and its
PR team. Will Trump outfox Fox? Will his gambit pay off? I`ll ask Ann
Coulter straight ahead.

Plus, with five days before the voting actually begins, what impact will
Trump snubbing Fox have on the race out in Iowa? He`s neck and neck with
Ted Cruz right now, and Cruz says if Trump wins Iowa, he`ll be unstoppable.

And the epidemic of heroin addition. It`s on the rise across this country,
and it`s a major issue on the campaign trail up in New Hampshire. We`re
going to talk to two senators up there who are trying to break the chain of
addiction in America.

Finally, “Let Me Finish” tonight with a role model for Donald Trump, the
Rough Rider himself, President Teddy Roosevelt.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Today, as I mentioned, Bernie Sanders met with President Obama
at the White House. NBC`s Lester Holt caught up with Senator Sanders
shortly after that meeting with the president for an exclusive interview
and asked him about the tight race going on right now in Iowa and what
success would look like.


LESTER HOLT, ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”: What`s your bar for success in


HOLT: Number one.

SANDERS: Yes. I mean, I think that we have worked really hard. We
started off in Iowa later than Secretary Clinton did. But in the last
number of months, we have put together an incredible volunteer effort. We
have some 15,000 volunteers.

And let me tell – be very clear about this, Lester. On caucus night in
Iowa, you will be able to tell very early, I think, who wins and who loses.
If there is a large voter turnout, we`re going to win.


MATTHEWS: That was a beautiful Lafayette Park across from the White House.

HARDBALL returns after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Republican front-runner Donald Trump has stunned the political world by
announcing he will not show up at tomorrow night`s Republican debate hosted
by FOX News. FOX respond by issuing a statement saying – quote – “We
learned from a secret back channel that the ayatollah and Putin both intend
to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes
president. Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his
Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.”

Well, after FOX put out the sarcastic attack on Trump, Trump said he wasn`t
going to be toyed with.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With me, they`re dealing with
somebody that`s a little bit different.

They can`t toy with me like they toy with everybody else. So, let them
have their debate and let`s see how they do with the ratings. And I told
them. I said, give money to the wounded warriors, give money to the
veterans. They`re going to make a fortune with the debate. Now let`s see
how many people watch.

When they sent out the wise guy press releases a little while ago done by
some P.R. person, along with Roger Ailes, I said, bye-bye. OK?


MATTHEWS: Bye-bye.

Anyway, the back and forth continued with Megyn Kelly when she reacted to
Trump`s decision.


MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: Trump is not used to not controlling things, as the
chief executive of a large organization. But the truth is, he doesn`t get
to control the media.


MATTHEWS: And, of course, Trump`s main rival in Iowa, Ted Cruz, pounced on
the drama between Trump and FOX.


really, really scary. And Donald is a fragile soul.


CRUZ: You know, if she asks him mean questions, I mean, his hair might
stand on end.


CRUZ: If he thinks Megyn Kelly is so scary, what exactly does he think he
would do with Vladimir Putin? I promise you, Putin is a lot scarier than
Megyn Kelly. And I would like him to hear Donald explain to the American
people, the people of Iowa, how is prepared to be commander of chief if
he`s terrified by a television host.


MATTHEWS: Well, late today, Trump announced he`s holding a counterevent in
Des Moines with a veterans group that will start when the debate starts
simultaneously at 9:00 Eastern. So, will Trump outfox FOX?

Ann Coulter is a columnist and commentator. Dana Milbank is an opinion
writer with “The Washington Post.”

You know, Ann, this is an amazing night, because I think it`s a battle of
what kind of personality do you like or like least. I mean, Trump
certainly is big-time. He is bombastic, he`s over the top. He`s got an

And then I see this guy Cruz trying to match him. I don`t think he`s in
the same league, myself.

Your thoughts about the whole theater? I want you on for the theater,
because you know theater. What`s going to happen here tomorrow night?
Will he or won`t he show up, Donald Trump?

doesn`t. He has established himself as the real alpha dog here, as if he
hasn`t already.

And, look, I like a lot of things about Ted Cruz, but one of his Achilles`
heels is, he does not have a sense of humor. And I think the joke about
Donald Trump being afraid of Megyn Kelly, you know, it just doesn`t work.
Nobody thinks Donald Trump is afraid of anything.

And, I mean, as you just – and thank you for telling the story properly –
it wasn`t over Megyn Kelly. It was over that snippy, smart-alecky press
release. And I would ask you to imagine, what if NBC had released such a
press release to a Republican candidate before a debate?

It really is – it really is kind of shocking. And I think Trump is
shaking up the way people look at FOX News, as maybe not always our

MATTHEWS: Why do you think Roger Ailes, who had to sign off, I assume, on
any P.R. that went out – it was sarcastic as hell. It made fun of Trump.
It made fun of him, the front-running candidate for the Republican
nomination for president It made him into sort of a little chicken.

And why would – just last question, because I want to ask Dana a little
bit here – why would Roger Ailes start a fight that could cost him, God,
20 – 15, 20 million people tomorrow night watching?

COULTER: No, that`s right. And that`s why Trump has established himself
as the alpha dog.

Well, I suppose because FOX News – I mean, I don`t know. I don`t know if
Trump – if Ailes even saw it. But monopolies can get arrogant. And there
does seem to be a little bit of arrogance here.

I will also say that it`s not just that it`s smart-alecky in how it treats
Trump. It`s really insulting to voters. Look, Trump didn`t like a
question going back to his days as a reality TV host, when, meanwhile –
and I actually liked that question, by the way. I have no complaint with
Megyn Kelly. It`s my one disagreement with Donald Trump. I liked the

The unfairness was that none of the other candidates were asked tough
questions. Why were you asking about what Trump said as a reality TV host
and not about how he`s going to help wounded veterans, how he`s going to
get people back to work, how he`s going to deport illegal aliens? Those
are the questions I think viewers and voters want to hear answers to, not
this silliness about things he said in fun and to be funny.

MATTHEWS: You know, Dana, I was thinking – trying to think Trump –
trying to think Trump is funny in itself.

Was he thinking, OK , if I go into that thing tomorrow night, everybody is
shooting at me, including Megyn and all the reporters there, Chris Wallace,
everybody is going to be after me?

One of the things they will go after is that comment, that ridiculous
comment he made three or four days ago, which was, if I shot somebody on
Fifth Avenue – well, first of all, it didn`t – it was metaphoric or
hyperbolic or whatever, because if he shot anybody, he would go right to
jail on the spot.


MATTHEWS: So the idea – the bail would be set rather high. He would have
to turn over his passport. All kinds of bad things would happen.

But why – I would think that that might be the first thing somebody might
say. Why would you talk like that if you`re running for president of the
United States?

think Donald Trump is atrocious for all kinds of reasons. But he is a
brilliant showman.

And you know what? It doesn`t matter if he shows up tomorrow. He won this
thing already, because, look, it`s the only thing everybody is talking
about today.


MILBANK: It`s the only thing everybody is going to be talking about today.

MATTHEWS: And if he doesn`t show up, they will talk about him.

MILBANK: Well, they are going to be doing split-screen with his event over
there, where he is out there speaking during the debate.

MATTHEWS: With wounded veterans.

MILBANK: Of course, and saying whatever he wants, without the interference
of these terribly mean moderators from FOX News.

MATTHEWS: You know, Ann, you probably know Washington enough to know that
if you`re not in the room at the party, at the dinner party, you`re
guaranteed to be talked about.

And so, I mean, I would think that Trump, they`re all going to – the
moderators, the other candidates are going to take shot after shot at him
in their so-called – and you know – you`re so right about Cruz not having
a sense of humor – in his unfunny way will be making these pretty broad-
humored attempt to try to put him down.


COULTER: Well, none of them have Trump`s ability to just have the one-
punch knockout.

What works about Trump`s attacks on his opponents, the low energy, they
called Ben Carson to say he was ahead in the polls, but he was sleeping.
He has one-punch knockouts because there`s a grain of truth to it.

What these guys don`t understand is, oh, they will go after him, because he
won`t be there to punch back, but none of their attacks really work. It
just – it doesn`t work to call the alpha dog scared of a girl. It just
doesn`t work.


MATTHEWS: By the way, gender is tricky, but I get the feeling – you know,
I would have said when people took on Lesley Stahl years ago, or Natalie up
in – I forget her last name – Natalie up in Boston, if you wanted to die
politically, take on a woman broadcaster.

I think that`s changed. I think there`s sort of a different kind of
equality now. Ann, you have to answer this, a different kind of equality.

He is going to war with Megyn Kelly. I`m not sure that`s a no-no anymore.
I think you can go to war, man against woman, in politics now. What do you

COULTER: Well, certainly Trump thinks so.


MATTHEWS: Or does the old rule still apply? Tell me if I`m wrong.

COULTER: He is completely equal opportunity.

When he was going after Ben Carson for something, oh, I think it was his
chronic bad temper–


COULTER: – or epidemic bad temper, somebody was asking about it.

And I said, well, that`s great. It shows that Trump is the one America
that actually doesn`t discriminate on the basis of race. And he doesn`t
discriminate on the basis of gender.

MATTHEWS: OK. Will he show up or not? Your thoughts, Ann, and then Dana?


COULTER: I hope not. I mean, normally, these debates get 20 million
viewers, and that`s all because of Trump. If he doesn`t show up, they will
get 20 million for the first 10 minutes. Then people will realize, wait,
where is Trump? And it will go down to seven million.

MILBANK: I hope he does, because, otherwise, I have no interest in
watching it.


MATTHEWS: You won`t have a column.


MILBANK: Like most of America.


MATTHEWS: One move might be to show up for five minutes and then leave.

Anyway, thank you, Ann Coulter. Please come back.

COULTER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: You`re on your good behavior around here. We don`t know how to
handle this. But we like it. Anyway, thank you – from our point of view,
as long as you`re not shooting at us.

Dana Milbank, thank you, sir.

And speaking of tomorrow night`s debate, we`re going to have full HARDBALL
coverage both before and after the debate. I`m working all night tomorrow
night, because I love these nights – 7:00 p.m. Eastern, we will be on, of
course, with HARDBALL, and afterwards at 11:00 p.m. Eastern again, for a
full two hours – believe it or not – two hours, going into the morning
hours with tonight`s – and all the highlights of tomorrow night.

We`re going to have a bit of Trump and his thing and the wounded warriors,
of course, and we`re going to have the debates about the debates.

And we will probably get Trump on later tomorrow night, if we`re lucky,
plus interviews with candidates, their advisers and top reporters in the
spin room, which will be working overtime because there will be one less
guy there.

Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.



TRUMP: So, every single poll has me winning every single debate. I have
done six of them.

And now you say, when does it stop? How many debates do you have to do?

Let`s see how they do with the debate. Let`s see how many people watch,
OK? Let`s see how many people watch. I said give money to the wounded
warriors. I said give money to the veterans. Megyn Kelly is a
lightweight. This is a lightweight. This is not a reporter. This to me
is just a lightweight.


MATTHEWS: You know, watching those gestures are something else.

Anyway, Donald Trump`s feud with FOX News over the debate tomorrow night
has again seized the spotlight away from his Republican rivals once again.
And with just five days left until the Iowa caucuses next Monday, the
stakes are obviously high.

Catch this. The latest Monmouth University poll out of the Hawkeye State
puts Trump back on top – look at this – seven points. That`s beyond the
margin of error, 30 to 23 against Cruz, who seems to be a bit dying there.
It`s clear that Cruz is counting on Iowa`s evangelical vote as his best
shot to carry the state on Monday night.

Well, this week, he warned Iowa pastors in a closed-door meeting – I love
these things, very democratic – that Trump, if he manages to pull off a
victory in Iowa, beware, he will become unstoppable. And here`s Cruz.


CRUZ: If Donald wins Iowa, he right now has a substantial lead in New
Hampshire. If he went on to New Hampshire as well, there`s a very good
chance he could be unstoppable and be our nominee.


MATTHEWS: Well, they closed the doors, but they obviously let the TV
cameras in.

According to that Monmouth poll, Cruz still leads Trump among self-
described evangelicals 32-25, but not by a lot there, 32-25. But Jerry
Falwell Jr.`s high-profile endorsement of Trump just yesterday threatens to
chip that away to maybe even.

Now a super PAC supporting Mike Huckabee, another evangelical, has also
taken aim at Cruz with an ad intended to peel off his evangelical support.
Let`s listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you thought about the caucus?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard something about Ted Cruz, that gay marriage
wouldn`t be a top priority for him. He said it at a fund-raiser in New
York City. Tells them one thing, tells Iowans another.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I also heard that Cruz gives less than 1 percent to
charity and church.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn`t tithe? A millionaire that brags about his
faith all the time?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just what we need, another phony.


MATTHEWS: Well, I`m joined right now by the roundtable.

Eugene Robinson is an MSNBC political analyst and columnist for “The
Washington Post,” and Carol Lee is White House correspondent for “The Wall
Street Journal.” And Cornell Belcher is a Democratic pollster.

I know none of you were affected by that ad. I could tell. I could tell.
There were some quiet smirks there, but that was very targeted, Gene.

And he doesn`t tithe.

MATTHEWS: What kind of person?


ROBINSON: This is meaningful, and it is designed to raise questions in
people`s mind about Cruz`s bona fides as an evangelical.

MATTHEWS: And about the gay marriage not being a top priority, meaning
getting rid of gay marriage.

ROBINSON: Exactly, getting rid of gay marriage.

And it`s just fascinating how Cruz, he is using up a lot of karma in this
race, right, because you have got the establishment candidates attacking
each other. Now you have got the candidates who appeal to the evangelicals
attacking each other and drawing each other down like crabs in a barrel.
And Trump seems to somehow float above it.

MATTHEWS: Yes, you`re right.

ROBINSON: It`s fascinating.

CAROL LEE, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: And the macro issue in this cycle,
which is the phony part of it, and added that to it.

That`s the thing that people are really angry about it, is people are
phony, they don`t say what they mean, politicians say what they want to get
elected and then change their minds.


MATTHEWS: I`m sorry.

It seemed like a person in Iowa trying to figure out a mayor`s race in New
York, all the different rules about, you know, sexual mores and rules and
cultures in the borough and the ethnic wars and all the histories of
battle, somebody like trying to figure out, what are they talking about?

I think a lot of people on the East Coast are looking at Iowa vote and
saying, what are they talking about?


One is, Cruz is actually not performing as well among evangelicals as he
needs to win. If you go back to look at Huckabee, Huckabee was at 46
percent. And Cruz right now is at 32.


MATTHEWS: Huckabee is a preacher. He`s an actual man of the cloth.

BELCHER: Yes, Well, but if you`re going to dominate that evangelical vote,
you need to dominate that evangelical vote to win. He has not dominated it
the way Santorum did. He has not dominated it the way Huckabee did.

And in the national polling, you`re actually beginning to see him slip
among evangelicals. I got to tell you this. If he`s not doing better than
32 percent among evangelicals, I don`t know how he wins Iowa.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the theater of this thing.

Tomorrow night is big casino. And people out there are very deep and
policy-driven, hate this discussion, but theater matters in politics. It
just does. And, you know, when Ronald Reagan spoke from Liberty Park in
New Jersey with the Statue of Liberty behind him, I go, oh, my God. I was
with Carter back then. This stuff matters.

Now, this question to you. Trump doesn`t show up tomorrow night, does that
cojones, does that show he`s the guy, the alpha dog, as Ann Coulter just
said? Does he win with that?

BELCHER: I think he does win with it.

And this is why. One, he`s dominating the news cycle. But two is, you
know, Cruz has been trying to make the argument that Trump is in fact the
establishment guy, which is sort of helpful to Cruz. His argument
completely is undermined when the conservative establishment of FOX is now
in a big fight with Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but not showing up is the ultimate anti – Carol, is the
most anti-establishment that you can do. I`m not coming to school.


MATTHEWS: That`s big talk.

LEE: It`s another way in which he`s not playing by the traditional rules.
And, you know, he has done this a bunch of times.


MATTHEWS: I didn`t go to school today. The homeschoolers might agree with

ROBINSON: One thing that polling shows is that Trump`s voters seem – his
supporters seem to be the most decided. They seem to be more firm in their
intention to vote for him than those of other candidates.

MATTHEWS: Rock-ribbed.


ROBINSON: So, in that sense, it`s hard to see how he loses a lot. He is
already in the lead.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Can you imagine us being around during the times of
Roosevelt? Nobody changed their mind about politics. The Republicans,
rock-ribbed, that man in the White House, nobody said, you know, I changed
my mind. Nobody did. Today, they`re sort of Lucy out there.

Look at these numbers, how they move. Who was that? Hillary Clinton was
50 points ahead of Sanders a few weeks ago.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these
people tell me something I don`t know, including what Cornell was about to

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Gene, tell me something I don`t know.


MATTHEWS: And you have one.



ROBINSON: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: For commentary on your commentary, the beautiful columns on the
campaign of Barack Obama for president.

ROBINSON: Well, they`re going to be events marking the centennial across
the country, events big and small for the entire year, go to pulitzer.org,
to see what`s happened.

MATTHEWS: That`s how you pronounce it, Pulitzer, it`s Pulitzer.

ROBINSON: I say Pulitzer, you said Pulitzer.

MATTHEWS: OK, great.

ROBINSON: It begins this week, at a museum in “The Washington Post,” and
journalism matters. And that`s what this year is about.

MATTHEWS: Are we going to meet some of the winners over the years?


MATTHEWS: I`m teasing.


CAROL LEE, WALL STREET JOURNAL: All the candidates were digging out in
Iowa. Vice President Joe Biden is in Davos, also very snowy, and I
traveled with him, and he gave an interesting speech to obviously a very
well-heeled crowd on the economy where he talked about the importance of
safeguarding the middle class, undergoes revolution. Anyways, he had
staked out a middle ground that would have been his, the way he campaigned,
and certainly be the way he interjects himself.

MATTHEWS: Do you know what they call that in high school? The pyramid

Go ahead.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Endorsements don`t matter. They`re
perceptions. When Kennedy endorsed Obama in `08, it mattered.



BELCHER: Yes. When Falwell endorsed Trump the other day, it`s going to
matter. This gives a nod to the people that he needs to give a nod to.
This endorsement is going to matter.

The last thing, really quickly, my friend Michael Blake who was on the
ground there in `08 for us said that O`Malley would determine who wins
actually in Iowa, because his second choice is going to probably break one
way or the other.

MATTHEWS: That`s right. Those people, if they don`t get the proportion
they need, they get off.

BELCHER: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much for the roundtable, Eugene Robinson, Carol Lee
and Cornell Belcher.

Coming up, heroin use in the country has become an epidemic. I`m going to
talk to two U.S. senators trying to combat the growing use of the lethal
drug. They`re coming up next right here.

You`re coming, actually, coming up tonight on 9:00 Eastern, a big night
here, Rachel Maddow with a special town hall, “An American Disaster: The
Crisis in Flint, Michigan.”

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, the caucuses are set for Monday, obviously, and HARDBALL
is headed to Iowa. Join us for a special edition of HARDBALL Sunday night,
as we preview the big day. We`re going to be live at 5:00 p.m. Eastern for
the final countdown to the caucuses, live from Java Joe`s in downtown Des
Moines. If you`re in the area, come out and watch us live.

HARDBALL, back after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Drug addiction from substances like heroin, opiates, and prescription
painkillers have grown into a national epidemic. It`s no longer a crisis
confined to the inner city, if you will, it has spread to the suburbs and
is ravaging states like New Hampshire, a state in the 2016 spotlight.

Well, today on Capitol Hill, a bipartisan group of senators urged to action
while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. We also saw both
Senate leaders promise – both Senate leaders to promise to move quickly.


lost more people to overdoses than we did in car wrecks. We`re trying to
craft something that we think makes a difference but work it through the
regular order process and move to it soon.

REPORTER: Do you think you can finish that by the end of the year?

MCCONNELL: We certainly hope so.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: I personally think it would be a
shame to wait until the end of the year. We should be moving on that now.
It is a scourge. And the only way it can be resolved is with legislation.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Senator Jeanne Shaheen. She`s a
Democrat from New Hampshire. She testified in today`s hearing.

She has also announced new legislation that would provide $600 million in
emergency funding to combat drug addiction. She`s joining me now, along
with independent Senator Angus King of Maine who`s a co-sponsor of that

Senator Shaheen, tell us this, what`s it like in your state, in New
Hampshire, which we`re all going to be focusing on and visiting in the
weeks ahead?

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, it`s a real epidemic. Drug
and opioid abuse, and I think it`s gotten to the point where it`s a
pandemic. This is a real public health emergency. And we need to be
responding to such and it`s encouraging, I think there`s a lot of
bipartisan support in the Senate, and here in Congress to address this.

And the legislation that Senator King and I have introduced would be a
multifaceted approach to supporting those efforts that we know work.
Everything from law enforcement, to intervention, and treatment and
recovery, to prescription drugs, to making sure that we are taking every
opportunity we can to stop the abuse and to try to help those families who
are struggling with this.

MATTHEWS: Senator King, what kind of people can live a life on heroin?
You can`t have a job, can you? Are they different aged people? Are they
sort of, like, not working?

Who are the people who are on heroin? You have to shoot yourself up. It
seems to me a complete commitment to this addiction.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Well, it is. It`s a way of life,
unfortunately, and the other unfortunate piece as you alluded to, Chris, in
your introduction is, this is no respecter of gender, age, race, anything
else. It`s really a catastrophe.

We`re losing nationwide, Chris, five people an hour to overdose deaths.
Now, that`s a small fraction of the people who are addicted, but just think
of that, between breakfast and lunch, we`re going to lose more people this
morning than we lost in San Bernardino. I mean –

MATTHEWS: What triggered this?

KING: It`s just unbelievable.

MATTHEWS: What triggered it?

KING: I`ll tell you what triggered it, the enormous use, and I think
overuse and over-prescription of prescription painkillers. The experts
tell us that four out of five new heroin addicts started on prescription
drugs. And that`s where I think we need to direct a lot of attention.

MATTHEWS: Senator Shaheen, a lot of people are going to be up there, tell
us how you`re going to make this case. Are you going it be able to beat
the drum with the candidates for president who are all going to come to New
Hampshire in the days ahead?

KING: Absolutely. That`s already started. We heard on both sides of the
isle the candidates have addressed this. They talked about what they`ve
seen in their own families, in their own states and what they think we
ought to do.

You know, I`ve endorsed Hillary. I think she has a plan out there that
would really call attention to how we need to invest to address this. You
know, it`s costing $700 billion a year in lost productivity.

So, the $600 million that we`re talking about in our emergency spending
bill is a drop in the bucket when you think of what we can do to prevent
that lost productivity.

You know, we spent $5 billion last year to address the Ebola outbreak and
we had only one death in this country from Ebola. We`re losing in New
Hampshire a person a day from drug overdoses – three times as many last
year as we lost in traffic accidents.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, I hope the people suffering from this addiction right
now take action right now and family members to stop it now.

SHAHEEN: Me, too.

MATTHEWS: This is going to take at least a year to get something done
here. Thank you so much, Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Senator Angus King.

SHAHEEN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish with a role model for Donald
Trump, believe it or not, the roughrider himself, President Teddy
Roosevelt. I have a particular point to make tonight.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with another New Yorker who found himself
in the presidential business. Teddy Roosevelt was our youngest and in his
day perhaps the most popular president. He was roughrider, the guy who
charged up San Juan Hill, the guy who built the Panama Canal, took on the
trust, won the Nobel Peace Prize for ending the war between Russia and
Japan and, of course, great pioneer work in conservation.

But there was something else about him. He was a man of conviction. He
promised in 1904, even before his inauguration that he wouldn`t seek re-
election again. Four years later, he kept that promise. He knew that if
he changed his mind when 1908 had come around and ran again, people would
have supported him. He was popular, after all. People would just figure -
- well, that`s what politicians do, go back on their word, for their own

That`s why Teddy Roosevelt said he didn`t run again in 1908 because he,
Teddy Roosevelt, said he wouldn`t. That`s why he`s up there on Mt.
Rushmore today.

I say this because whatever else I think about Donald Trump, my God, he`s a
mixed bag, I`d like him to stick to what he said last night and not let him
show up at tomorrow night`s debate, all two hours of them. Let them have
the debate without Donald Trump or anyone else who looks remotely like him
up on the well-list stage.

Excuse me for being a lover of romance. If politics doesn`t have its
wonders, why pay attention in the first place.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

And don`t forget, join Rachel Maddow in one hour at 9:00 Eastern for a
special town hall “An American Disaster: The Crisis in Flint.”

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES”, of course, starts right now.



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