Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 8/30/2016
Date: August 30, 2016
Guest: Mark Burns, Stuart Stevens, Annie Karni, Kevin Cirilli, Carolyn
STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: The pastor`s apology.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
And good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews.
Tonight, it is a primary Tuesday, the marquee race tonight out in
Arizona. That`s where senator John McCain is facing a challenger from the
right who sounds an awful lot like Donald Trump. We`re going to look at
where that race stands later in the show.
Also tonight, the latest twists in the saga of Maine governor Paul
LePage. He told a local radio station today that he might not finish out
his term, but later, he tweeted a very different message.
And Donald Trump`s big immigration speech now just a day away.
But we are going to begin with the ongoing fallout today from that
very controversial tweet from Trump surrogate Pastor Mark Burns. And a
warning here. The image might be offensive to some. His tweet showed
Hillary Clinton in blackface and it accused her of pandering to the black
Yesterday on MSNBC, Pastor Burns defended the tweet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PASTOR MARK BURNS, TRUMP SURROGATE: I truly apologize for the
offensive blackface image of that cartoon. And the depiction of the
blackface is offensive by itself, and as an African-American man in
America, I don`t stand by anyone portraying themselves in a blackface. But
the message that I intended, I still stand behind. But my apology is
because I think my message got lost in the translation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Let`s clarify. That was not Pastor Mark Burns on MSNBC
yesterday. That was him today apologizing for that tweet.
And Pastor Mark Burns now joins us. Pastor, thank you for taking a
few minutes. And let me just start on the question of the apology. We
played it there, a little transcript on the screen. But I want to be clear
on this, and I want you to be clear on this with our viewers.
What exactly are you apologizing for here? Is it just the image, or
is it anything else?
BURNS: You know, I`m only apologizing for the blackface that was
portrayed on the image, but I am not without a shadow of a doubt
apologizing for the message that I was trying to get out to the public. I
do not apologize for the message that it stood behind. I mean, Hillary
Clinton and the Democratic Party have and do pander, do pander after black
people in this country.
And so, you know, again, I apologize if it offended people. The last
thing I want to do is to create an offense. And for those that was deeply
offended personally, for that I am sorry. But I do not apologize for the
message. The message is clear. I stand by it 100 percent.
KORNACKI: The message – that`s an interesting point, though, on the
message. You`re saying you`re accusing her of pandering. You`re accusing
her of taking black voters for granted. I think a lot of people would say
that`s a legitimate question to raise. That`s a legitimate point of
But the message went beyond that. When you bring blackface into it,
when you bring something that inflammatory into it and you couple it with
your support of a presidential candidate who`s called Hillary Clinton a
bigot, That`s sending a message that says something a lot deeper and a lot
uglier about Hillary Clinton.
Do you apologize for casting aspersions on Hillary Clinton that way?
BURNS: Well, listen, I`m a black man in America, so I know – I know
what the blackface means and I know what it stands for. And you know, and
I don`t stand behind – you know, I don`t stand behind the imagery of the
But once again, the very fact is the black vote, the voter bloc of the
African-American community, the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton knows
that that vote largely already belongs to her.
And what is more offensive – while we`re sitting here debating over a
cartoon, what`s more offensive is the very fact that Hillary Clinton
doesn`t own up to the failed policies that has impacted many in the
And let`s be really honest here. You know, I`m going to be honest and
say this here on MSNBC. The very fact that we`re talking about the
African-American community, as though we`re one group of people and we`re
all the same, I think that is very offensive. That`s politically correct,
PC at the highest caliber. That`s what Donald Trump stands for.
We have to eliminate the language that creates this type of a language
that says, Hey, black people are the same everywhere. But that`s not the
case. We bleed red like everybody else. I`m not – and let me say this
one more step further is – let me say this.
There is no such thing as the real African-American community. It
doesn`t really exist. That`s a myth because black people are just
Americans. A black person in Oregon does not have the same issues that a
black person who might live in the urban cities of Baltimore. We put
Donald Trump and other politicians in the same boat. They`re darned if
they do, they`re darned if they don`t.
KORNACKI: Well, Pastor, let me…
BURNS: We say Donald Trump – Donald Trump, how come you don`t…
KORNACKI: Let me put it this way, Pastor…
KORNACKI: Let me follow up with this on the issue of this
presidential race, on the issue of this choice that you`re talking about
here between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the black community, black
voters do seem to be speaking with one voice.
I mean, I can show you this. This is our most recent poll. Black
voters in this country asked to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald
Trump – I have to tell you, I`ve never seen a number like this – 1
percent for Donald Trump, 91 percent for Hillary Clinton.
When you look at a number like that, do you think Donald Trump – do
you think Donald Trump has done anything to deserve just 1 percent support
from black voters right now?
BURNS: I think that the very fact we are forcing our politicians to
come up with policies for a particular group like the African-American
group, like it belongs – like impacts all of us, OK? See, Donald Trump is
darned if you do, and he`s darned if he don`t. We will say Donald Trump,
what is your policy to the African-American community? And Donald Trump
begins to talk to African-Americans and he says, you know, in some areas,
you can walk down the street and you can get shot and you can die.
And then once he says a very true fact because it just happened –
just happened a couple days ago, very sad story in Chicago – and when he
says that, you know, the community rises up and said, Oh, my God, how could
Donald Trump talk to all black people like we are all fearful of getting
shot, OK? So then he`s either darned for not talking about the African-
American community and then he`s darned for talking about the African-
American community because we say not all of us are like that. Why is he
talking to all black people like we`re re all one, like all of us are
fearful of our lives?
The fact of the matter is this. And I`m going to say a very real
reality. Most people may not want to talk about it, and I`m sure people
will want to argue it. But there`s no such thing as the African-American
community. We`re only Americans. We`re only Americans. And it is only
until we stop forcing our politicians to pander after particular groups and
just start talking to us as we, the people of the United States – that`s
when we begin to eliminate the divisions within our communities.
And the Democrat Party are doing a wonderful job in keeping us
divided, and the more they divide us, the more they can control us, and the
more they control us, the more they keep a welfare state to millions of
blacks in this country to where welfare never creates prosperity. It only
KORNACKI: All right, let me…
BURNS: And the Democrat Party…
BURNS: … I will never give you enough that you`ll thrive.
KORNACKI: OK, your indictment of the Democratic Party again is you`re
saying the Democratic Party takes black voters for granted in this country.
But let me…
BURNS: Yes. Absolutely.
KORNACKI: And views them transactionally, views them as votes for an
election, and that`s it.
Let me show you this, though. I`m sure you`ve seen it. People were
talking about this this weekend. Donald Trump, upon learning the news that
the cousin of Dwyane Wade, the NBA player, had been killed in Chicago over
the weekend – Donald Trump tweeted this. “Dwyane Wade`s cousin was just
shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago. Just what I`ve been saying.
African-Americans will vote Trump.”
Does that not send a clear message from Donald Trump to black voters
that he views them transactionally, mainly as votes, that his reaction to
learning about a murder, to learning about the death of a black person in
Chicago, is to say, More votes for me?
BURNS: Listen, I`m going to say this, that my friend F. Scott (ph)
said, and I`m going to say it again. Listen, if I am telling you, Don`t go
down that street because if you go down to that street, you`re going to
fall in a ditch, don`t go down the street because if you go down the
street, you`re going to fall in a ditch, don`t go down the street because
if you go down the street, you might fall in the ditch.
And you go down the street and you then fall in the ditch, the first
thing I`m going to say to you is, I told you so! I`m telling you right
now! Don`t go down the street! Now you in the ditch! That`s all Donald
Trump was saying!
It is a sad, tragic event that took place. Now four children are
without a mother. Four babies are without a mother. Donald Trump has been
declaring – and it is not nothing brand-new. The very fact that we wait
for Dwyane Wade`s cousin to die – and her name was Ms. Aldridge, by the
way – she was a real person, and now there are four children…
KORNACKI: Did Donald Trump send that message with a tweet that
immediately says, More votes for me? He didn`t seem to be treating her as
a real person.
BURNS: No. No. What Donald Trump was simply saying is, I am telling
you that it is a very fact. You all want to say, Hey, oh, my God, Donald
Trump said you could walk down the street and get shot. Oh, how – how –
he`s racist for saying that. And then a couple days later, a woman who was
doing nothing, walks down the street and gets shot.
And the sad part about – this is the real tragic event – the very
sad part about it is, it is only because it was Dwyane Wade`s cousin that
we are even talking about it, when before her, six, seven people were
The very fact we`re talking about the deaths that have been taking
place in the south side of Chicago is not nothing brand-new! The fact that
this is what I mean by pandering after the races because we should have
been discussing that. If it wasn`t just a black issue, but we make it an
American issue, then all eyes will be marching down there. It wouldn`t be
that Black Lives Matter would be leading the fight, but all lives would be
leading the fight because what happens to you as an American happens to me!
We have the greatest, strongest military in the whole world, and one
of the creeds of our great, strong military is that we leave no man behind!
Men have died in trying to rescue just one man, just one man! And the very
fact is, if we (INAUDIBLE) that`s why we together pledge allegiance to the
BURNS: … of the United States of America and to the republic for
which it stands…
BURNS: … hear me, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty
and justice for everybody, black lives, black lives…
KORNACKI: All right, Pastor…
BURNS: … all lives, sir!
KORNACKI: Pastor Mark Burns, appreciate the time. Thank you.
KORNACKI: I`m joined now by Michael Steele. He`s the former chair of
the Republican National Committee and an MSNBC political analyst.
Well, Michael, Donald Trump – there`s been some debate about what the
motive here is in the Trump campaign in terms of this outreach to black
voters. Are they actually going after black voters? Are they going after
these college-educated white suburbanites they`ve been losing? Is this a
way of trying to look more inclusive, look more open to them?
I`m just curious, though, big picture, what is your assessment of this
move from the Trump campaign and what you`re hearing from Mark Burns?
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it`s
a little bit more of the latter. I think it is a recognition that white
female suburban voters are going to be the linchpin in this election. And
right now, they`re not feeling as much about Donald Trump as they did,
let`s say, six, eight months ago. So that definitely is at play here.
I also think, though, after talking with some folks in the campaign
and around the campaign that there is a genuine effort afoot, albeit late,
to – sort of to open up this conversation, to begin to peel back a little
bit, you know, some of the rhetoric that typically, you know, attends these
types of presidential discussions. You know, Oh, we want the black voters.
You just heard what the reverend – one side saying that you`re
taking, you know, the vote for granted, the other side saying, Well, you
just ignore them. I think Trump is trying to split that hair a little bit
here, as well. I think this is more political calculation.
And again, there is nothing wrong with that, but I think we just need
to understand contextually really what it means.
KORNACKI: In terms of the approach Trump is making, though – we were
talking about this a little bit a minute ago – I mean, he uses – talks in
addressing black voters, says, you know, You live in war zones, he says.
He makes what sound like sweeping generalizations that say, Hey, if you`re
black and you`re living in this country, you`re surrounded by crime, you`re
stuck in poverty, you have no opportunity. He doesn`t say anything
positive, doesn`t seem to stress a positive message there.
Is that a mistake they`re making?
STEELE: I think it is, Steve, and I think we need to be careful, as
well, because, remember, Barack Obama himself has laid out and indicted the
community on some of its statistics that, you know, really are problematic
for the black community as a whole. It`s recidivism rates, it`s education,
graduation rates, it`s, you know, job rates. All of these things, the
president himself has talked about.
But here is where I think your point is an important one, and I would
emphasize to the campaign they pick up this particular mantle. You can lay
out, you can indict the ills. You can say what is wrong. And Lord knows,
we live in the community and we know what`s wrong.
But we`re also looking to you to see what you think some of the
solutions should be. So there is an aspirational component here that needs
to be addressed, as well, that failing that, you do come off sounding as if
you are haranguing and indicting the community for the sake of indicting
the community, to score political points with a group of Americans, largely
white, who look down on us to begin with.
So I think you`ve got to be very specific and very careful in how you
open up this particular conversation. Again, a little late to the game.
Appreciate you wanting to have it, but you got to still have it the right
KORNACKI: All right, Michael Steele, former RNC chair, MSNBC
contributor, thanks for the time.
STEELE: You got it, buddy.
KORNACKI: All right. And still ahead, Democrats are within striking
distance of control of the U.S. Senate. With Donald Trump at the top of
the ticket, that could cost the Republicans. John McCain is one of them.
He is in a primary fight tonight. Even if he prevails, can McCain and
other endangered Republicans survive the year of Trump? That`s ahead.
Plus, outspoken Trump supporter and Maine governor Paul LePage now
says rumors of his political demise are greatly exaggerated, this after he
suggested he might step down after targeting a Democratic lawmaker with a
vulgar voicemail. But the calls for his resignation continue to grow.
And new information on how the Clinton campaign is preparing to debate
Donald Trump. They`re working with Trump`s ghostwriter – that`s the
writer who helped Trump put together “The Art of the Deal” 30 years ago –
working with him to try to bait Trump into some embarrassing blunders on
And finally, the HARDBALL roundtable`s going to be here to tell me
things about this election campaign that I don`t know.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
KORNACKI: All right, new poll numbers for you from the key
battleground state of Pennsylvania. Let`s go to the HARDBALL “Scoreboard.”
This from Monmouth University, their respected poll. Hillary Clinton
has an 8-point lead over Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, 48 for Clinton, 40
for Trump, the Libertarian, Gary Johnson, sitting back at 6 percent.
Moving over to the Senate race in that state, look at this, Democrat
Katie McGinty now with a narrow 4-point lead over incumbent Republican Pat
Toomey, 45 for McGinty, 41 for Toomey. That is within the poll`s margin of
We`ll be right back.
KORNACKI: And welcome back to HARDBALL.
Donald Trump is set to deliver his big immigration speech tomorrow
night. His running mate, Mike Pence, is promising Trump will lay out his
plan in great specificity.
And, meantime, Trump surrogates have been forced to interpret his
message as best they can.
Earlier today, former Georgia Congressman Jack Kingston, a Trump
supporter, saying on MSNBC that his plan will include a deportation force.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Why doesn`t the campaign know yet whether a deportation
force is part of his immigration policy? Is it or is it not?
JACK KINGSTON (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It is part of it. We are
going to learn more Wednesday.
QUESTION: So, there will be a deportation force?
KINGSTON: Craig, I have – I can`t let the opportunity go, though, to
remind you Hillary Clinton hasn`t had a press conference in 270 days. It
would be great to know details of any of her plans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Trump`s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, had a very
different take when I asked her about it this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think you have to go back
to Mr. Trump`s speech at the convention in Cleveland, which was just a
month ago, and to see there`s no deportation force mentioned in there. He
speaks for himself and his campaign. He`s the face of this campaign. He
is running for president. He will deliver the speech tomorrow.
And you know it`s going to be the toughest on illegal immigration than
anyone`s ever been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Trump`s own statements don`t seem to be helping. Last
week, he said there can be soft softening, his word there, softening in his
position to avoid hurting people.
At the town hall, he even polled the audience to see what they thought
he should do.
Today, his son Donald Trump Jr. insisted that his father`s position
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: He wasn`t softening on
anything. He didn`t change his stance on anything. What he did was and
what he`s done all along is, he`s speaking with the people. He`s not
lecturing them like most of the politicians you see today.
He`s actually having a conversation. His policy has been the same for
the last six, seven, eight months.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: He still says deport. They all got to go?
TRUMP: That`s been the same, correct. But again you have to start
with baby steps. You have to let ICE do their job. You have to eliminate
the sanctuary cities. You have to get rid of the criminals certainly first
and foremost. You have to secure the border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, what will Trump say tomorrow and will it matter to his
Frank Rich is writer at large for “New York Magazine.” He joins us
So, Frank, it`s a jam Trump is in here. Everything that he said to
win the Republican nomination that appealed to the base of the Republican
Party, it seems like now there`s some recognition that this is offending
the voters he needs to win in November.
FRANK RICH, “NEW YORK MAGAZINE”: Exactly.
And, clearly, I don`t know what the specifics are going to be
tomorrow. Maybe there will be some big change, like Canada will pay for
the wall. But I think that it`s sort of this lame attempt to appeal to, I
guess, white suburban voters – we keep hearing that – without losing the
people who have been with him from the beginning.
I actually don`t think he will lose those people. We have already
seen Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh sort of forgive him for waffling on his
number one issue, but I don`t see how he`s going to peel off people to be
fooled by this nonsense and flip-flopping and indecisiveness.
KORNACKI: I`m also trying to figure out what he could offer.
Rhetorically, he said softening. A couple days later, he said, actually, I
think of it as a hardening. So, he sort of canceled that one out.
And he`s talked about – he acknowledged in one of those Hannity
interviews last week some of the folks here are good people, he was saying,
are great people. So, there`s a couple rhetorical things.
But any change here that would allow undocumented people to stay in
the country under a Trump presidency, I got to think is going to set off
some kind of revolt on the right.
RICH: Well, certainly, it`s the Jeb Bush policy. It`s everything all
the people who were running against him were saying.
That said, it seems to me that we have seen the history of Trump`s
base, not enough to win an election, a national election, sticking with
him. We have seen his supporters say, oh, we know he isn`t really going to
build a wall and have Mexico pay for it. We are with him. We know he will
get the job done.
And my guess is he`s betting, that like Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, they
will just crumble, and somehow they will convince someone in a mainline
suburb to flip for him.
KORNACKI: And that is – that`s the bigger-picture story of this
campaign, I think, that`s been so fascinating, because it`s been these two
pillars that Republicans have relied on in national elections for a long
time now. You have got lower income blue-collar whites that Trump has done
really well with, but they have also married that with suburban support.
And the suburban support right now is evaporating.
RICH: It`s evaporating, and not just because of this, but because of
the stuff with race.
I mean, he`s doing the stuff about race now and suddenly liking the
blacks, as he would call them, and pandering to them because he`s trying to
reach white voters. He`s not trying to reach black voters. He`s not
reaching them at all.
But I don`t think people are idiots. I don`t think white people are
idiots who are going to be fooled by this. He`s listening obviously to
Kellyanne Conway and looking at polls that he claimed to not look at in the
past, and he`s saying, oh, wait a minute, the Republican coalition is what
you just said. Who, who would have thunk it? Now we`re figuring it out as
Labor Day approaches.
KORNACKI: Yes. And what do you make of – basically, we are two
months out right now. We got a new poll. Our new NBC online poll today
puts it at six points right now.
There`s two ways of looking at six points, I guess. You could say,
maybe given everything that`s happened, it`s amazing Trump isn`t further
behind. Then again, in context with other recent elections, six points
would be a lopsided election.
And my guess is, that`s the way it`s going, but, of course, we can`t
be sure. I just don`t see the numbers for him adding up. Hillary Clinton
has run in many ways a weak campaign. It is right that she hasn`t given
press conferences. And she has been dogged by controversies.
And so my guess is, if her campaign were better, she would be ahead 15
points, not six points. But six points is looking good right now.
KORNACKI: And so much attention to Kellyanne Conway becoming the
campaign manager, the big shakeup, the most recent shakeup a few weeks ago,
the idea that it would give Trump more discipline, it would give him more
direction, it would really professionalize this campaign, do you see, just
watching this campaign sort of as a spectator, do you see a difference
between the Trump product now and a couple weeks ago?
RICH: Only this, that he gives speeches now, like the one presumably
he will give tomorrow, where he reads from a teleprompter, it`s very long,
it`s very dull, it`s very crafted language, and he will do that, and then
the next day, he will send a tweet, and that will be the end of it.
So, there are longer – longer speeches and more of them, but Trump is
still Trump. The guy is not going the change. He`s 70 years old, or about
KORNACKI: And, obviously, you have – you know politics as stagecraft
as well as anyone. That Donald Trump you`re talking about, the one we`re
going to see tomorrow, giving the prepared speech, reading from the
teleprompter, I get a sense it kills him to have to do that, because this
is a guy who is always thinking, do I have the audience`s attention?
He feels maybe he`s slipping there.
You know, he is a performer. He`s not my taste, but he`s a gifted
performer of what he does. And he might be bridling to go by the script.
He wants to be Don Rickles, or whomever, insult people, ad lib. And so you
can feel him chafing.
You know, if you`re any – you don`t have to be a student of theater.
You can just watch TV. You can see when someone is reading from a
teleprompter, bored out of his mind, doesn`t want to do it, isn`t speaking
the way he really speaks. It comes across as phony.
And that`s not what brought him here, and he knows that, which means
there`s a real tension, I`m sure, as he tries to follow the script.
KORNACKI: Not playing the game he wants to play, at least in those
Frank Rich, thanks for the time. Appreciate it.
All right, coming up: the Trump effect on Republicans all the way down
the ballot, as they try to hang on to the U.S. Senate. Things are looking
good for the Democrats to take control come November. That`s ahead.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.
The militant group ISIS says its second in command is dead. U.S.
officials say the terror suspect was targeted in a strike, but they have
not confirmed his death. Abu Muhammad al-Adnani was at the top of the
government`s kill list.
Residents along the North Carolina`s Outer Banks are bracing for
Tropical Storm Depression Eight. The National Weather Service is warning
of dangerous surf and rip currents along the shoreline.
Meanwhile, in Florida, Tropical Depression Nine is expected to
strengthen to a tropical storm. Governor Rick Scott is urging residents in
the Tampa area and north to prepare – back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Cindy and I voted. We are looking for
a good turnout on the vote today. We`re tired. You can see why – can see
by these young people that we have been inspired by so many of our young
interns, well over 200 of them, that have been working incredible hours and
getting out the vote. And that`s why we are very confident about the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Senator John McCain earlier today out in Arizona. He`s
confident he will win the primary there against former state legislator
Today marks what we are calling primary palooza, voters in several
states hitting the polls, casting ballots in some major races. The most
contentious one might be down in Florida. That`s where Congresswoman
Debbie Wasserman Schultz is fighting to hang on to her seat and her
political career. The former DNC chair is up against Tim Canova. He`s a
challenger who is backed by former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
And there`s Marco Rubio and John McCain, both of them trying to avoid
the down-ballot backlash that could come from their soft support of Donald
Trump this November.
So, with just a little more than two months now until decision day
2016, Democrats could be, could be on track to take back the Senate. Let`s
take a look at how that works.
For that, let`s fire up the trusty old big board. So, Senate control,
that is a big issue here. It`s not just the presidential race. It`s what
happens underneath. Right now, Democrats with 46 votes in the Senate.
Now, if Hillary Clinton wins – the White House party basically gets to
break the tie in the Senate.
So, if Hillary Clinton wins, the Democrats would need to pick up four.
If Trump were to win, the Democrats would need to pick up five. Let`s show
you why the Democrats look like they are in good position right now.
First of all, it`s this. These are all the Democratic-held seats
right now, all of the Democratic-held seats that Democrats are in danger of
losing right now that Republicans could win this fall. There`s only one
right now, Nevada, Harry Reid retiring out there. Nevada, a swing state, a
state where Donald Trump actually has been doing better than some people
expected. He`s very close in the polls there.
Republicans could take that Senate seat out there in Nevada, but look
at the rest of this map. You don`t see many targets for Republicans right
there. Republicans are playing defense. They are playing defense in a big
way. How big? Look at this. These are the Republican-held seats that are
in play or potentially in play.
Now, not all of these are created equally. Some of these targets here
are stretches for Democrats. But all of them have the possibility to be
competitive. These are seats that Republicans hold right now that
Democrats believe they have a shot of winning. We can take you through a
couple of them to give you a sense of it.
Look at Illinois. Illinois Democrats think they have a very good
shot. Wisconsin. How about New Hampshire? You have got the Democratic
governor there, Maggie Hassan. There have been polls putting her ahead
high single digits, double digits. She`s looking potentially good up there
in New Hampshire.
There are some very ripe targets here for Democrats. Now, they have
gotten some bad news as well. They are trying to make a run at Republican
Rob Portman in Ohio, has not been going well. Looks like the Democrats
might be pulling some money out of there. So, that one might be falling
off the board a bit.
We showed you just a minute ago a new poll has the Democrats up in
Pennsylvania. So, again, these are all potential targets. McCain out here
in Arizona, he`s ahead in the polls right now. The Democrats have a
congresswoman challenging him, Ann Kirkpatrick, going to put some real
money behind her.
If Trump were to lose Arizona, if there`s a backlash against Trump at
the top of the ticket, could that help the Democrats in the Senate race,
even in a state like North Carolina, even a state like Florida?
A lot of opportunities here for Democrats playing offense in a bunch
of states, not playing defense in many. So, if they can get to four with
the Hillary Clinton win, that would put them back in control of the Senate.
I don`t mean to get too far ahead of myself here, but another thing to
keep in mind, the Senate class that`s up in 2018, I know this is kind of
crazy, but the Senate class that`s up in 2018, a lot of vulnerable
Democrats there. So, there are also Democrats looking at this and saying
they want to get well above 50 this time, because they could be in for a
lot of defense they have to play in 2018.
So, that`s the lay of the land in the race for the U.S. Senate right
And joining me now, Stuart Stevens. He was Mitt Romney`s 2012 chief
strategist. And Jay Newton-Small, Washington correspondent for “TIME”
So, Stuart, the dilemma of John McCain, the dilemma of Marco Rubio,
every embattled Republican Senate candidate running this fall, you need
your party`s base. You need all those Republican voters who voted for
Donald Trump in the primary and want to turn out to vote for him in
November, but you need swing voters too, the very voters Donald Trump is
having trouble connecting with.
How do you get both of them if you`re a Republican?
STUART STEVENS, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: I think both
of those candidates, McCain and Rubio, have pretty independent images.
Of course, McCain ran being a maverick. I don`t think he is going to
have any trouble doing that. The greater challenge, you always want the
top of your ticket to be winning. I think there`s only a couple examples
of Senate races where the other party won when the top of the ticket was
losing in really tight, close Senate races.
But this is a very strange year, as we keep saying. I don`t know if
voters aren`t just going to see Donald Trump as something distinct and
different and make different decisions about the Senate.
I think it`s beholden upon each of these Senate candidates to make a
compelling case that one of two people is probably going to be president,
they will be the best senator regardless of who that president is.
KORNACKI: You know, Jay, we haven`t seen – we see a lot of these
Republican incumbents, a lot like McCain and Rubio, who are sort of
straddling it right now on this Trump question. You have Mark Kirk in
Illinois. He may be the single most endangered Republican senator. He has
rescinded his endorsement of Trump.
But a lot of them right now sort of trying to keep in the middle of
it. Do you expect, by Election Day, we will have more Republican
candidates more overtly distancing themselves from Trump?
JAY NEWTON-SMALL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, “TIME”: Steve, I think,
by tomorrow, you might see John McCain distancing himself more from Donald
Trump. You have got Donald Trump coming into the state of Arizona to give
a speech about – that major speech you were talking earlier about
And that`s a tough subject for John McCain, when he`s pivoting to a
general election against a Democrat and an electorate in Arizona that is
upwards of 30 percent Latino. And so having Donald Trump come to his state
in particular right after he`s won the primary to give this immigration
speech, a lot of people are speculating that John McCain might un-endorse
Donald Trump as quickly as tomorrow, especially if he gives this very sort
of hot speech about immigration, building that wall, in the state of
KORNACKI: And speaking of Arizona, that`s a state, it`s voted for the
Republicans ever since 1996, polls, though, showing a close race there
between Trump and Clinton, Trump up by five in the latest CNN poll.
Stuart, John McCain, more of a personal question. You know him a
little better, I think, than a lot of people do. He had the reputation for
all those years, he was John McCain the maverick, the Straight Talk
Express, the guy who would tell you exactly what`s on his mind.
He`s been in a bit of a bind here, but, look, obviously, Donald Trump
is a guy who went after John McCain very personally, said – basically said
he doesn`t consider him a war hero because he got captured.
Do you think, by the end of this campaign, we will see that old
version of John McCain going after Donald Trump at all or answering any of
STEVENS: I don`t think that John McCain is going to get in a fight
with Donald Trump, because he`s not running against Donald Trump.
He`s going to talk about what he`s going to do as senator and the
connection that he has with Arizona voters. You know, more than almost
probably any candidate in America, John McCain is a man that represents
courage, who stands up for what he believes. I just don`t think that
that`s a hill he needs to climb to win in November.
KORNACKI: And, Stuart, I just want to ask you, while you`re here,
another big name people are trying to figure out what he`s going to do in
terms of Trump, and it`s your former candidate. It`s Mitt Romney.
He`s obviously made his displeasure with Trump clear. But the
question is, do you expect him to get involved and endorse one of these
third-party candidates? I know he has close personal connections with Bill
Weld, who is the Libertarian V.P. candidate. There`s Evan McMullin who is
running as well.
Do you expect Romney is going to actually weigh in on this race?
STEVENS: I have no idea what he will do in the presidential.
I think he`s going to spend the amount of time trying to help the
Senate stay Republican. A lot of candidates have asked for his help. I
think that`s going to be his focus and help Congressman Ryan hold the House
and help push the Ryan agenda. That`s really where Governor Romney is
going to be concentrating.
KORNACKI: All right. Stuart Stevens, Jay Newton-Small, thanks for
And up next, what is happening in the state of Maine? The governor
said he would consider resigning, then he tweeted that reports of his
demise are greatly exaggerated. Tonight, protesters calling for the
governor to step down immediately.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Governor Paul LePage of Maine today sent mixed signals about his
political future. Both parties in the state legislature in Maine have been
pressuring LePage to either step down or take corrective actions following
a profanity-laced voice mail to a Democratic lawmaker. LePage who is a big
Trump supporter told the local Maine radio station this morning that he may
not finish out his second term as governor.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HOST: Can we anticipate that you`re going to finish out your term?
GOV. PAUL LEPAGE (R), MAINE: I don`t know, George. As I said
earlier, I`m looking at all options. I think some things I have been asked
to do are beyond my ability and I`m not going to say that I`m not going to
finish it. I`m not saying that I am going to finish it. If I`ve lost my
ability to convince the Maine people that`s what we need and that`s the
type of people we need in Augusta, then you know, maybe it is time to move
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Later this afternoon, the embattled governor tweeted out
regarding rumors of resignation, to paraphrase Mark Twain, “The reports of
my political demise are greatly exaggerated.”
NBC News reporter Tammy Leitner joins us now from Augusta. That`s the
capital up there in Maine. Protesters are out there demanding the
Tammy, are they going to get what they want or is he digging in now?
TAMMY LEITNER, NBC NEWS: That`s a good question, Steve. I don`t
Hundreds of protesters out here calling for the governor`s
resignation. They say he`s a bully who makes racist remarks and they are
tired of his threats.
Now, keep in mind, at this exact same time, across town, Republicans
are meeting trying to decide how to handle the governor, whether he should
be censured or not. This all started because of a voice mail that he left
last week for Representative Drew Gattine. Now, in that, it was recorded
and there were expletives. He threatened him and at one point, he said, “I
want you to record this and make it public because I`m coming after you” –
KORNACKI: All right. NBC`s Tammy Leitner up there in Augusta – some
drama in Maine. We`ll keep an eye on that.
And up next, new information on how the Clinton campaign is preparing
for the challenge of debating Donald Trump. They are talking to
psychologists and people who know Trump well, trying to figure out how to
bait him into a big mistake on the stage. That`s ahead.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
KORNACKI: Donald Trump has just landed in Washington state. He`s
holding a fund-raiser and rally at 10:00 Eastern in the city of Everett.
But a lot of political experts are wondering why Trump is spending time in
a state that last voted for a Republican 32 years ago, back in the Reagan
landslide of `84.
Washington has gone Democratic ever since. That was including 1988,
when it was one of just ten states won by Michael Dukakis. Trump`s trip to
Washington follows campaign stops in other non-battleground states,
including Connecticut and Mississippi.
We`re back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think it`s going to be one
of the highest rated shows in television history. We`ll find out. But I
look forward to the debates. I think they`re going to be very important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Donald Trump showing some confidence last week in a FOX
interview. He`s referring to the first presidential debate as a show.
Now, in an interview with “The New York Times”, Trump also says he has
little use for debate prep. Quote, “I believe you can prep too much for
these things,” he said. Adding, “It`s possible we`ll do a mock debate, but
I don`t see a real need.”
But Trump`s casual approach stands in stark contrast with Hillary
Clinton`s. Her team is working with the ghost writer of Trump`s
autobiography, “The Art of the Deal”. It also called on a group of
psychologists to pinpoint likely trigger points that may provoke the
Republican nominee into making mistakes.
Quote, “The Clinton camp believes Mr. Trump is most insecure about his
intelligence, his net worth and his image as a successful businessman, and
those are the areas that they are working with Ms. Clinton to target.”
We`re joined now by the HARDBALL roundtable. Annie Karni is a
political reporter with “Politico”, Kevin Cirilli is reporter with
Bloomberg Politics, and Carolyn Ryan is senior editor for politics at “The
New York Times”.
Carolyn, it`s your paper`s story. So, I go to you first. Hillary
Clinton wants to bait Donald Trump into some kind of mistake, some kind of
error on the stage, it sounds like.
CAROLYN RYAN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. It`s part of this – you`ve
seen the general trend where she wants the election to be about Donald
Trump, his lack of suitedness for the job, his kind of temperament. And I
think she`s a very good debater and she`s also good at enticing sometimes
these male candidates to become over-confident.
You remember the famous moment when Rick Lazio kind of invaded her
space. They`ve watched Trump, they`ve seen how easy it is to poke him and
that`s really what they want to have happen. What they want the memorable
clips to be, is sort of these Trump eruptions.
KORNACKI: I mean, it`s a funny question to ask, Annie, because – I
mean, we`ve all seen Donald Trump in 15 debates now, or whatever it was.
But do they know what they`re getting into? Because this is a different
setting for Trump.
I mean, the debates in the Republican primaries had ten candidates on
stage. He could disappear for 15 minutes at a time. This is one-on-one
combat. It`s a different dynamic.
ANNIE KARNI, POLITICO: It`s a completely different thing and the
stakes are much higher. He was the main story and he always the center
podium in the primary debates, but there were long stretches where he
didn`t have to speak. Big question here is does he have enough to say for
90 minutes or two hours or however long the debate is, without repeating
himself, or if she goads him into really being specific about his policies,
can he do that.
I think his reluctance to prepare, I think it`s very typical. Bernie
Sanders didn`t want to do debate prep. I think like Barack Obama and Bill
Clinton, I talked to people who ran their debate preps, these candidates
never want to make time for it. You often have to force them in. They had
to bring in George Mitchell to play the opponent for Bill Clinton because
it was someone he respected to get him to put the work in. So, I think
Trump saying, I don`t want to make time for it is actually pretty normal.
I think Hillary Clinton and her studiousness and immersing herself in
policy books is actually the aberration in terms of wanting to do debate
KORNACKI: She doesn`t mind the homework. “The Times” also reports
that the Clinton campaign is conducting a forensic style analysis of
Trump`s debate performance in the primaries. Let`s take a look back at a
few occasions where Trump may have looked a little unpresidential in those
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
TRUMP: Look at those hands. Are they small hands? And he referred
to my hands, if they`re small, something else must be small. I guarantee
you, there`s no problem, I guarantee it.
That`s another lie. I never went bankrupt. That`s another lie.
Don`t worry about it, little Marco.
MODERATOR: Gentlemen! Gentlemen!
Gentlemen, you got to do better than that.
TRUMP: This guy has never won.
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How tough is it to take
property from an old woman?
TRUMP: Let me talk. Quiet. A lot of times –
Honestly, Megyn, if you don`t like it, I`m sorry. I`ve been very nice
to you, although I could probably maybe not be based on the way you have
treated me, but I wouldn`t do that.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KORNACKI: So if Hillary Clinton identifies one of those trigger
points, will Donald Trump react like that, do you think, in the general
KEVIN CIRILLI, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, I think what was so interesting
during the primary season, that really put his opponents on the defensive,
and kind of caught them off guard a little bit. The pressure for Donald
Trump is going to be, can he get Hillary Clinton to talk about things that
candidly she hasn`t talked about in months, the e-mail server and, of
course, all of the other controversies that are surrounding her.
But there was another moment in one of the debates, perhaps Donald
Trump`s strongest moment, and that was when he responded to Senator Ted
Cruz on New York values. And I think that if that Donald Trump shows up to
play at the debate against Hillary Clinton, it`s gonna be really
interesting to see, number one, how she responds, and also how she defends
RYAN: The other thing that we`re looking in these stories and
blueprints about the debate, it`s not just one-on-one. He`s going to have
to subject himself to a moderator, to follow-up questions, to aggressive
and maybe contentious questions about policy. And this is something he`s
been skillfully dodging, especially recently. He`s going on Hannity. He`s
going to friendly kind of venues on FOX.
CIRILLI: At least he`s giving interviews.
RYAN: Absolutely. I admire that. But this is –
KORNACKI: You`re right. Ten candidates on a stage, a lot of people
say it`s not even a debate, it`s more of a show. This will be more of a
traditional debate. The round table is staying with us.
Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. Not a hard
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
KORNACKI: All right. We`re back with the HARDBALL round table. It`s
the lightning round here, something I don`t know.
Annie, we`ll start with you.
KARNI: Hillary Clinton is on track to have her biggest fundraising
month yet. She`s raised like $50 million with Tim Kaine raising it for
her. She`s going to be probably over $90 million, beating her January
KORNACKI: All right. I didn`t know that.
CIRILLI: Pastor Mark Burns is going to double-down on his tweet. I
think the apology stands, I think he`s going to double-down, though.
KORNACKI: All right. He certainly seemed to go in that direction
RYAN: Look for Democratic money to start pouring into the House
races. It might be a distant hope, but they want to make the Republicans
fight all over the country and spend money.
KORNACKI: All right. There it is. Thank you. Tonight`s roundtable,
Annie Karni, Kevin Cirilli, Carolyn Ryan.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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