Polls close in Virginia Transcript 11/7/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews
Date: November 7, 2017
Guest: Shannon Pettypiece, Steve Jarding, Annie Linskey, David Catanese
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, “THE BEAT”: Talk to us about any of the segments
tonight or the results in this big night of election races, which will be
covered continuously for the rest of the night. Keep it locked on MSNBC.
HARDBALL starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST, HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS: Virginia is for
lovers of those old confederate statues. Let`s play “HARDBALL.”
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews across the Potomac River from the old
dominion. That`s right. Virginia voted today and early exit polls show
that three out of five voters - that`s three out of five want the
Confederate statues which have been at the heart of the governor`s race
All eyes are on that marquee race for governor down there between
Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam, the lieutenant
And right now, NBC News is characterizing that race for governor as too
early to call with the polls closed.
But Democrats are bracing themselves for either a comforting victory or, of
course, another devastating defeat. Recent polling has shown Northam with
a slight edge, but within the margin of error.
Gillespie, a former aide to President George W. Bush has tried to balance
his establishment Republican bona fides, while adopting Trumpian tactics to
his own self. If he wins, he can provide fellow Republicans with a
blueprint on how to campaign in the age of Trump.
But let`s get the very latest from the race right now from our own Steve
Kornacki. Steve, what do we know?
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was 7 o` clock.
So, the polls just closed in Virginia. We`re still an hour away in New
Jersey. As you just showed, we have no actual votes in yet. We`ll keep
But what can we show you from the exit polls? Let`s take a look at a few
of the key questions that we can start to tackle there. First of all, see
if we can - let me call up - there it is. OK. That should call it up.
Here we go. The trump factor, starting in Virginia. The president, his
approval rating, according to the exit poll, clocks in at 43 percent. By
comparison, last time they had a governor`s race in Virginia, four years
ago, Barack Obama was the president, his party`s candidate did win, very
close race. His number was 46 on election day. Trump`s today coming in at
43 in this exit poll.
Also, New Jersey, you could say, a blue state, not surprisingly 32 percent
is the Trump approval rating there.
But keep your eye on this. Even more significant maybe in this New Jersey
race, how about Chris Christie. Look at the odyssey for Chris Christie
throughout his time as governor. He peaked at 77 percent back during
Hurricane Sandy, all the way down today in the exit poll, a 19 percent
approval rating for Chris Christie as his Lt. Gov. tries to succeed him
But back to Virginia, obviously, the marquee race, something else we can
tell you. The story last year in the election of Donald Trump was that
social class split among white college, white non-college voters.
What share of the electorate are we talking about here? In this exit poll,
at least the data we have right now, 43 percent of the voters in Virginia,
white college grads, 26 percent white non-college. You could see that
would be if that holds. We`ll see as more numbers comes in.
If that holds, that will be an uptick in white college graduates from 2016.
That`s something Democrats wanted to see. And you mentioned it to this
question here. Ed Gillespie, he ran on these Trump cultural issues.
The question here, Confederate monuments on government property, should
they be removed? Only 36 percent of Virginians in the exit polls said yes.
Left in place, 60 percent said leave them be. So, that one is going to get
certainly plenty of attention. That was an issue that Ed Gillespie ran on,
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you very much. Steve Kornacki, we`ll be back to you
throughout the evening. Anyway, the governor`s race isn`t the only
interesting one to watch in Virginia. All 100 seats in Virginia`s house of
delegates are up for grabs today. And Democrats are hoping to gain ground
As NBC News reports, “if Democrats surprise and gain ten or more seats in
the house of delegates, it would be a sign they are probably on track to
take back the US House of Representatives next year.
For more on this and the governor`s race, I`m joined by Jeff Schapiro,
politics columnist for “The Richmond Times-Dispatch”.
Jeff, thank you so much for joining. What do you smell out there tonight
in terms of how this race is going to speak to the country?
JEFF SCHAPIRO, POLITICS COLUMNIST, “THE RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH”: The
fundamentals in Virginia have always favored the Democrats. To the outside
world, this may seem a southern state. But it is a suburban dominated
state, in which the majority of people who live here are from somewhere
else, whether it`s out of state or overseas.
This has had a moderating effect on the state`s politics, and that`s
particularly evident in higher turnout elections. This is why Trump didn`t
win Virginia in 2016. And it looks like - excuse me, it looks like Ralph
Northam will win it for governor.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about Trump here, how`s he do? Is it that
thing where you just get more rural, the more Trump, like the days of
Oliver North? We could always tell where the Oliver North signs were going
to be on people`s lawns the further you got from D.C. It was pretty
simple. Is it not the same with Trump?
SCHAPIRO: Two-thirds of the people who live in Virginia live in cities and
suburbs. It`s in those cities and suburbs that the enmity for the
president is greatest.
And maybe it`s an accident of geography that Virginia is across the river
from you all in Washington, but there is not much that Donald Trump has
said or done that hasn`t had an immediate and measured effect on suburban
Virginia. Whether it was the perceived Muslim ban, the freeze on federal
employment, and the threatened shutdown of the federal government. The
president`s gambit to squeeze money from the Democrats for the wall on the
border with Mexico.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the house of delegates, the lower house down
there in Virginia. Do you think that`s going to give us a reading on how
the chances are for the Democrats to pick up the US House next November?
SCHAPIRO: It`s tricky, Mr. Matthews. The legislature in Virginia, when
controlled by the Democrats, and now controlled by the Republicans, has
elevated to a high art, hyper-partisan gerrymandering.
That goes a long way towards protecting a number of these Republican
incumbents. That said, there is 54 of 66 Republican seats contested. And
in northern Virginia, where the turnouts are running higher, it`s possible,
underscore that, possible, that there could be a wave effect and some of
these Republican incumbents in these fast growing, increasingly diverse
outer suburbs of D.C. could be in trouble.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Let`s get one thing straight, Jeff. You are the
sophisticated gentleman with the bow tie. I`m not Mr. Matthews. I`m
Chris Matthews. But thank you for your dignitary tonight.
I was but impressed by your elan, your sophistication and your nuance.
Sir, thank you so much. Jeff Schapiro of “The Richmond Times-Dispatch”.
You haven`t heard that stuff lately.
In the closing days of this race, the polls have tightened.
“RealClearPolitics” average has Northam up by 3. I think that`s the number
to keep your eye on, about 3, within the margin of error.
Just a month ago, Northam had a 6-point lead. I think it`s closed a
little, but not enough, I don`t think, for Gillespie.
Anyway, Hillary Clinton beat Trump in Virginia by 5 points last time
around, last year. It was the only southern state that Donald Trump didn`t
win. For more on how Democrats are feeling about this race and their
party, I am joined by Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez.
Tom Perez, do you know that you have the power to get rid of a presidential
nominee when you feel like it? I just heard this from Donna Brazile the
other day. Do you have that kind of power?
TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN OF THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I didn`t realize
that. I better not -
MATTHEWS: I love Donna, but I didn`t know she was that powerful.
PEREZ: I better not catch the cold next week or someone might do that to
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about this whole race tonight because
Virginia is not the old Confederacy, it`s not the old dominion anymore.
It`s got a lot of northerners living down there, a lot of single women that
work in DC, who are almost all pro-choice, and they`re sensitive about it.
You have the African-Americans who are voting in big numbers now. Is that
still a state that you guys own?
PEREZ: Well, Virginia is a purple state. There`s no doubt about it.
MATTHEWS: Is it?
PEREZ: That`s why this election will be close.
MATTHEWS: Even with Virginia, the governor and two Democratic senators?
PEREZ: But Virginia is - and 66 Republicans in the house of delegates.
And we`re changing that because that was a hyper gerrymander.
And one thing that Mr. Schapiro - I`m going to call you Mr. Matthews
MATTHEWS: Please. Just don`t do that.
PEREZ: One thing that is so important about this is I think those down
ballot races - I spoke to -
MATTHEWS: So, you buy this, this is a leading indicator of what your party
can do next November? If you pick up ten seats or so in the assembly
there, in the house of delegates, that`s a good sign?
PEREZ: I think it`s a very good sign. And we`ll see what happens tonight.
But I met with most, if not all of the challengers. And in the last three
or four cycles, Chris, Democrats only contested 45 or so seats. And so, we
ceded the other 50, 55.
We have 88 candidates this time. And they are spectacular candidates. And
they`re going to drive turnout in their districts. We`re, obviously, not
going to win 88 seats, but when you get people out the door -
MATTHEWS: How about the districts in Virginia where Hillary Clinton won
last year and you have a Republican incumbent, they must be your happy
hunting ground. That`s what you`d like to win.
PEREZ: And there are 17 of them and we need 17 seats to flip the house of
delegates. That`s a tall order to get to 17.
MATTHEWS: Will you get 17?
PEREZ: I think that`s a tall order tonight. But I think that - the last
time that Democrats won both New Jersey and Virginia governors races was
2005. And we know what happened in 2006.
And the reason we`re winning is because I spent a lot of time in both
states, people are talking about healthcare. They see what Donald Trump is
doing. That have loved ones who have an opioid addiction issue and they`re
seeing this president take away their access.
In Virginia, they haven`t expanded Medicare. Why? Because the Republican-
dominated House and Senate have said no. And people understand that.
And Virginia looks a lot like America. The diversity of America.
MATTHEWS: You`re right. Because we`ve got exit polling saying that
healthcare is the number one issue in Virginia. So, you`ve nailed that
Here`s my problem with your party, by the way. And you know I have a
problem, which is you argue about the Republican tax bill, which I think
shouldn`t get near passed, but you don`t offer an alternative to rebuild
Why do Democrats fear to talk about construction, jobs, good jobs,
railways, fixing up the country and building a big intercontinental
railroad system? Doing something that catches up to the rest of the world?
Why don`t Democrats support public enterprise?
PEREZ: I do that all the time. The Democratic Party is about bold
possibilities. It`s about making sure that we give opportunities in every
community for everyone.
MATTHEWS: Stop dithering about what the Republicans are doing and outmatch
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
PEREZ: Chris, it`s always good to be here.
MATTHEWS: Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic Party. He does not claim
the right to remove the nominee for president.
Anyway, President Trump has cast a long shadow over the race, despite
having just a 41 percent approval rating in Virginia, not so high. But I
think it went up today to 43 in the exits.
Anyway, from Seoul, South Korea, the president urged his supporters to get
out and vote for Gillespie. From South Korea, he did. Tweeting, “Ralph
Northam will allow crime to be rampant in Virginia. He is weak on crime,
weak on our great vets, anti-Second Amendment and has been horrible on the
Virginia economy. Vote Ed Gillespie today.” That`s from Seoul, South
Korea, courtesy of the president.
Gillespie has kept President Trump at arm`s length, however, even if the
president hasn`t kept Gillespie at arm`s length on the issues. Will it be
enough to win the governor`s seat?
For more, I am joined by Michael Steele, former RNC chair and an MSNBC
political analyst. If Donald Trump is such a great president, why won`t Ed
Gillespie mention him, Michael?
You chuckle, but it`s a problem. If you like the guy so much and think you
ought to get re-elected, re-nominated, whatever, because that seems to be
the impulse among 80 percent of Republicans, why not show up with him?
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIR AND MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That`s not
necessarily reflected among candidates who are running around the country,
who are going to be running in various races, they`re going to be reflected
in the people and their community.
You`ve got to be sensitive to where popular national figure or unpopular
national figure stand in your state as well. And so, the focus is - I went
through this in 2006 wearing the brand of a party that was not very popular
with the American people, and certainly not within my own state.
But you still forge ahead and you make your case to those folks about the
issues that they care about, which I think Ed Gillespie did masterfully.
MATTHEWS: You`re not on the sidelines in this race, Michael. Don`t talk
like you are on the sidelines because you are in there fishing in troubled
waters. I know what you are up to. You are trying to get African-
Americans Democrats not to vote Democrat -
STEELE: No. Stop it. Stop it. I`m not going to let you go. You`re not
going to sit here and get away with that. That`s not what I`m doing at
all. I have not done that at all. And anyone who says that, including
“POLITICO” are dead wrong.
The fact of the matter is that myself and J.C. Watts who was on this
program last night made it clear last night that the concerns that we
raised was the way the Democratic Party and this Democratic candidate
treated the African-American candidate for lieutenant governor. And the
type of literature they put out that was two-faced, where he was on the
literature when it went to certain neighborhoods in the northern parts of
Virginia and he was off the literature in other parts of Virginia.
MATTHEWS: I thought that was because he wasn`t in good straights with the
international laborers unions?
STEELE: Oh, Chris, please. Spare me. Come on. Stop it. Because not in
good straights with the unions, really? You tell me you think it`s OK.
Chris, you`re going to tell me -
MATTHEWS: You say (INAUDIBLE) and you are here arguing the issue, which is
to say -
STEELE: Well, I`m just saying, the fact that you just want to side step it
because you know daggone well that if a Republican put up two pamphlets,
one showing a black candidate and the other one taking that black candidate
off his pamphlet that you would be screaming to high heavens.
So, you`re not going to get away with it. You`re not going to play this
game. It`s important that black Republicans push back on it.
MATTHEWS: I share such suspicions as those you just voiced. I just wanted
to know whether you are in this fight or you`re watching it. Which is it?
STEELE: Oh, I`m in the fight for Ed, absolutely. No. There`s no doubt
MATTHEWS: That`s what I wanted to know. And you`re making your points,
thank you. Michael Steele, as always, well done with some charm.
We`ll be tracking by the way the returns from Virginia all night long
tonight. Again, NBC News is characterizing the governor`s race, polls have
closed, but it`s too early to call.
We`ll be right back with the bombshell news on the Russian investigation.
There is always some Russian. There is Trump campaign foreign adviser.
Carter Page says he coordinated with top campaign officials, five of them,
before and after his trip to Moscow last July after maintaining he made the
trip as a private citizen and he met with top Russian officials while he
The glue gets thicker and stronger between the Russians and the Trumpees.
This is Trump`s long-time bodyguard who`s interviewed by the House
Intelligence Committee. Trump doesn`t like that guy being interviewed. I
can tell you.
And this is “HARDBALL” where the action is.
MATTHEWS: We`re getting word right now that President Trump attempted a
trip to the Demilitarized Zone, the 30th Parallel between North and South
Korea, but he was turned back by not problem of - military problems, but
NBC`s Kelly O`Donnell joins us now from Seoul with the story. Kelly, it
looks like sunshine over there right now?
KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE AND CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT:
Well, there is heavy fog here, Chris. And this is a breaking development
because, in advance of this trip, the White House had said President Trump
would not go to the Demilitarized Zone.
Vice president Mike Pence had visited when he did an Asian tour earlier in
the administration. So, this was an important and surprise development
that has now fallen apart.
The pool, traveling with the president, had this information and it was
held for a period of time as they made an attempt with Marine One to get to
the Demilitarized Zone. They were turned back due to fog, restaged, tried
to go again and then determined what we call a weather call that they would
not be able to make this trip.
It would have been important, especially because the layout at the roughly
150-mile strip between North Korea and South Korea is a place where,
according to those other lawmakers who have visited and people like Mike
Pence, you can look right into the eyes of North Korean soldiers who are
staged on the other side.
There was an enormous uptick of security around President Trump for this
attempt that did not succeed due to weather. Obviously, the president had
tried to make this a surprise, in part, because of the security threats
that would be inherent for this kind of a visit.
And leading up to this attempt, President Trump had notably turned the
volume down on his own rhetoric, not repeating some of his more belligerent
provocative language that we have seen from him back in the United States.
Much more toned down while here in Seoul.
Of course, Seoul itself is only roughly 35 miles from the North Korean
border. So, this was an attempt to make a surprise visit, which would have
been an opportunity for the president to look right into North Korea, a
show of strength, perhaps, certainly an opportunity for him to get some
But, apparently, weather has foiled that attempt for President Trump to be
right on the border with North Korea. Chris?
MATTHEWS: Great reporting from Kelly O`Donnell in Seoul, South Korea.
The latest in the Russian investigation and much more as we are trying to -
or actually starting to see very early results in the Virginia governor`s
race. Right now, the governor`s race, we`re calling it too early to call.
Back after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We continue to watch that Virginia governor`s race right now, but there`s
new information tonight on the Russian investigation.
The newly released transcript of Carter Page`s testimony before the House
Intelligence Committee last week reveals more about the former Trump
campaign adviser`s trip to Moscow in July of 2016, right in the middle of
Page said under oath that, prior to making the trip, he informed five –
that`s five – campaign officials of his travel plans, including Jeff
Sessions, the future A.G., and Hope Hicks, the future White House
communications director – and both serve the administration – as well as
then campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
While Page said he traveled as a private citizen to give a speech at the
university in Moscow, an e-mail shows he offers to coordinate the details
of his speech with the campaign.
The transcript also reveals that, after his event in Moscow, Page reported
to campaign officials in an e-mail that, “I will send you guys a readout
soon regarding some incredible insights and outreach I have received from a
few Russian legislators and senior members of the presidential
administration here” – close quote.
While Page told the committee he did not recall what he said about adding
new language to the RNC platform on Ukraine before the convention, an e-
mail shows Page congratulating his colleagues in the campaign after the
change was made – quote – “As for the Ukraine amendment, excellent work.”
I`m joined right now by Ken Dilanian, an investigative reporter with NBC
News. Shannon Pettypiece is White House correspondent for Bloomberg News.
And Robert Costa is national political reporter with “The Washington Post”
and an MSNBC political analyst.
Ken, it`s great to have you on.
Can you just give me a full picture now? Take some time. What do we know
about Carter Page, his relationship with the Trump campaign? For months,
if not a year now, he said, oh, I was a private citizen on a tourist visa,
whatever, acting like he had nothing to do with Trump and his plan to
become president and deal with Russia his way.
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: that`s right,
So I think his testimony moves the story forward in two important
dimensions. One, we have confirmed once and for all that he did meet with
senior Russian government and business officials after he suggested for a
month, as you said, that he did not. He met with a deputy prime minister,
who passed on his good wishes to Trump.
He met with the number two person at a major oil and gas company. This was
a high-level trip. And while Carter Page may say he was taking it in his
personal capacity, it seems fairly obvious that the reason these important
Russians were meeting with Carter Page was because he was Trump`s foreign
The second thing this testimony shows is that he coordinated this trip with
the campaign. He sought permission from these senior campaign officials.
And one of them, J.D. Gordon, told NBC News today that he tried to block
the trip because he didn`t think it was a good idea for Carter Page to go,
and Page went around him to other officials, who green-lighted it.
And then, lastly, we know that he reported back about the success of the
trip and the coordination and the conversations he had with these Russian
officials. He told the campaign about it.
So, if we believe – and it seems fairly clear that Carter Page was
somebody that Russians were trying to use to infiltrate the Trump campaign,
Russians were trying to seduce, recruit, whatever verb you want to use.
It`s very clear that seniors in the Trump campaign were on notice that this
was going on. They either didn`t understand it or disregarded it – Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Ken.
Let me go to Shannon right now about the implications.
It seems to me, you are talking the question – I don`t think it`s a
question anymore – the idea of collusion between the Russians and the
Trump people, when they changed the platform, the plank dealing with
Ukraine to a pro-Russian position, and then they go back, good work,
excellent work back and forth, it sounds to me like they`re doing the work
of a collusion.
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG NEWS: That is certainly how some people are
interpreting all this.
MATTHEWS: I don`t know how you don`t interpret it that way. You are doing
stuff that they want done. And you are getting – you are giving credit to
those who got it done for you.
PETTYPIECE: And the story keeps changing, and we keep peeling back layers
of this story.
Like the meeting about adoption, that turned out to be a meeting about
sanctions. Like Carter Page, who was just supposed to be a list on a name,
and then – or a name on a list of foreign policy advisers. Then everyone
forgot about him.
And then we – come out all these contacts, like George Papadopoulos. Who
is that? I couldn`t remember who that was.
PETTYPIECE: And then, again, all of these campaign contacts, and like I
think we will probably find additional information about this campaign
MATTHEWS: Well, Robert, this whole problem is this unpeeling of an onion,
basically, where we just keep unpeeling it, unpeeling it.
Trump`s position from the beginning has been there was no Russian attempt
to intervene in our election. That`s fallen away a long time ago.
Then there was no connection between us and them. And you can see this
flirtation back and forth involving Sessions an Carter Page and all these
How does Trump look with a straight face to somebody like you, who covers
him, and say – and stick to that original position, there was no
ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hard to say.
And we have been waiting so long, because, watching the special counsel,
it`s hard to speculate what Bob Mueller is up to. But we are seeing a lot
of action this week on Capitol Hill. You are seeing the congressional
committees publishing the transcript with Carter Page.
COSTA: But what this really tells us, if you look at that list you put up
on the screen of the five people he was talking to inside of the campaign,
the most important person, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, now the attorney
MATTHEWS: He says there was no relationship.
COSTA: But he is coming to Capitol Hill next week to testify before the
Judiciary Committee. Democrats are going to have tough questions for the
attorney general about the whole scope of that relationship with Carter
MATTHEWS: Well, Shannon, it seems that is – beautifully set up by Robert
– one of those moments where like Bill Clinton goes in for his grand jury
testimony, when you know what the situation is. You know there is a
conflict between what he said before and what he has to answer for.
And it gets into this language, what do you mean is, is, and those things.
Do you remember any relationship? Well, not that was reached to
But he – the way he was saying it before, Sessions was, we never met, we
never did anything. It turns out, we met, we met, we met. And then he
says, well, there`s no discussions about collusion. Well, they did discuss
MATTHEWS: And they did discuss what the Russians wanted.
PETTYPIECE: I think there`s going to be a debate over what`s a meeting,
which almost came up with Carter Page.
PETTYPIECE: Well, I mean, we met in passing. I don`t necessarily call
that a meeting.
PETTYPIECE: What`s a meeting?
Where, you know, we`re getting down…
MATTHEWS: Well, we now know that he has admitted that he was in a meeting
where head to shut off Papadopoulos and tell him to close down his argument
for a deal for another meeting.
We know it all went on. How close are we getting to an argument here that
there was collusion, Robert?
COSTA: There was this outer rim of the campaign. It`s arguable.
MATTHEWS: Trump had nothing to do with this?
COSTA: Well, I`m not ready to say that at all.
I think you look at Sam Clovis and George Papadopoulos, all these people
who were kind of inside of the campaign, but not talking to Trump daily.
They were still in the campaign. And they were having all of these
And what Bob Mueller and investigators on Capitol Hill are trying to piece
together, where is the real network here? Where is the connection? Who
MATTHEWS: History lesson, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, all those guys
went down before Nixon went down.
PETTYPIECE: Well, don`t forget we still have Manafort and Flynn out there.
And there`s a lot of speculation about a Flynn indictment coming, and then
I think more is to come on Manafort.
MATTHEWS: OK, what do you know about the Flynn indictment coming? Are
they going to squeeze them man – the father to protect the son? What are
they trying to get out of this guy?
It was done in the Rosenberg case. You threaten one part of the family and
say, we`re going to go after the part you love. You can save that part.
You can`t save yourself, so make the deal.
PETTYPIECE: Well, we have seen Mueller moving in a very smart, methodical
way. So, that`s certainly the type of thing you would see a seasoned
prosecutor like this do.
MATTHEWS: He`s frightening.
Anyway, thank you, Ken Dilanian, sir. Thank you, Shannon Pettypiece and
We`re still tracking, of course – we`re going to going to do it throughout
the next – the results coming in from Virginia in that hot governor`s
Again, NBC News – this gets kind of dull, doesn`t it? – characterizing
the governor`s race as too early to call. It`s only 7:30. Of course, it`s
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Polls in Virginia right now have closed for over an hour, a half-hour now,
and we are watching the returns coming in, in that governor`s race, which
is, we`re saying, too early to call right now.
Well, both – we could have known that, because this is going to be a close
Both Ralph Northam and Ed Gillespie face a set of demographic challenges in
tonight`s race in Virginia, where political divisions are reflected along
geographic lines. No surprise there.
To win, Northam needs to run up the score in Northern Virginia, which is a
lot like the rest of the country, it`s is not very Southern, which has a
large population center of people all over the country and a Democratic
stronghold, largely, I say, because there of so many single women.
In turn, for Gillespie to win, he needs to offset that margin in the rural
parts of the commonwealth, where people have Southern accents in places
like Western Virginia.
For more, let`s check back with the expert, Steve Kornacki.
Steve, tell me if I`m right or wrong. But it seems like that is the way we
look at it.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Northern Virginia is the
place to look. And that`s where I want to kind of dig a little deeper
And we are starting to get some numbers. Now, keep in mind, look,
Gillespie is leading statewide right now. We do know that it tends to be
Northern Virginia, that comes in, the bulk of it comes in late. Keep that
But let`s focus on those counties right outside the Washington, D.C.,
basically talking about – sorry – I should get this pen selected –
basically talking about – well, I shouldn`t – it – God – all right.
Anyway, 25 percent or so of the vote is going to come from those counties
right outside of Washington, D.C. Now, here`s the thing to be looking at.
When we showed you those exit polls earlier, we showed almost half the
college-educated white vote was going to Northam. That`s a very high
number for a Democrat to be getting. And that immediately sets alarm bells
off, saying, boy, are the Democrats doing even better than expected in
these Northern Virginia suburbs?
Let me give you something where we`re starting to get – if I can get this
thing to work. It seems to have frozen.
I`m going to give you the numbers.
Prince William County, we`re starting to get some numbers. That`s right
here on the map, Northern Virginia. Now, keep this in mind. Ed Gillespie
ran for the Senate three years ago in Virginia. In this county, Prince
William, he lost by only three points. His goal was to be competitive
there tonight, not necessarily win, be competitive.
But, last year, this county swung hard against Trump. Trump lost it by 21.
We don`t have all the votes in there right now. But right now you have
Gillespie trailing by 29 points in the votes that have been counted so far.
So the question here for Gillespie was, could he bring it back to more of a
2014 level in Northern Virginia, or was he going to be stuck with the Trump
stigma? Early indications may be pointing in that direction.
MATTHEWS: So he`s getting what – Gillespie is getting the Trump vote?
KORNACKI: No, Gillespie is getting the stigma in Northern Virginia,
because he ran as that sort of Bush-style Republican in 2014. He couldn`t
win Northern Virginia. But he could keep the losses in check.
MATTHEWS: I understand.
Getting the Trump vote is not a good thing in Virginia.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you so much, Steve Kornacki.
I`m joined right now by Steve Jarding, who a Democratic strategist from
down there, author of “Foxes in the Henhouse: How the Republicans Stole the
South and the Heartland and What the Democrats Must Do to Run `em Out,” and
Cornell Belcher, of course, also a Democratic strategist and an MSNBC
Gentleman, let me get your two schools of thought on this. I was amazed
over the last couple weeks, Steve, that the Gillespie, who is all wrong for
Virginia, he`s from – he`s Catholic U up in Washington. He grew up in New
Jersey. He`s establishment. He`s a lifelong lobbyist. He`s part of the
Republican leadership in the RNC.
There is nothing Southern about him, really. And he`s up against this guy
Northam, who, whatever you say about him, has a nice Southern accent and
seems homegrown. And yet these numbers keep coming out as it`s close.
What do you make, Steve, make of it?
STEVE JARDING, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think a part of what you are
seeing, Chris, is the Trump folks are fired up.
They do – they`re going to turn out all the time. I don`t see them going
anywhere. They are going to keep turning out. And they`re going to turn
out for a Republican.
So, Gillespie has that. What you have seen Gillespie try to do in Virginia
is try to moderate himself in many ways, not in all ways. Obviously, the
moving of the monuments and things like that play into that base.
But I think he is trying to have his cake and eat it too a little bit,
where I`m going to keep that Trump base, but I`m going to try to eat into
Northern Virginia and hopefully keep the lieutenant governor down, win big
enough in Southwest and Southside Virginia, where Republicans traditionally
have done well.
But you saw Mark Warner in `01, you saw Jim Webb do well in Southside and
Southwest. So, Democrats have evened the score there a little bit.
But I think Gillespie`s strategy is make myself look safe to enough voters,
and then rely on the base to come in without having to do too much to keep
them. And he`s made it a close race.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me you ask the first question. I will ask the same
question to Steve, first to you.
Northam, the Democratic nominee, he`s also lieutenant governor, was he wise
to say tear down all the Confederate statues right up front? That was the
first thing he did. Was he smart to do that politically, Steve?
JARDING: Well, I guess we will find out shortly, right, Chris.
I think the polls in Virginia, at least the ones I have seen, most
Virginians say don`t tear them down.
MATTHEWS: We have an exit poll that just came in. It`s probably based on
early voting today, but it does say 60 percent of the state say leave them
alone, leave them standing.
Cornell, what is your thinking about this, politically? Was it a smart
move to challenge the old order that much?
CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, my thinking is, look, if
that`s what you believe, take the stand and fight for it.
I think Democrats have suffered far too long by being mealymouthed and
trying to take it – have it both ways.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but is it worth losing an election? Is it something to die
for? Is it a fight worth dying for?
BELCHER: He`s not – Chris, he is not going to lose an – he is not going
to lose an election in Virginia fighting for – you know, saying that take
down the Confederate Flags.
This is a state, by the way, Chris, that Obama won back-to-back majorities,
and Hillary Clinton, who was not the best candidate, also carried, what,
four or five points. And we have two Democratic sitting senators and Terry
McAuliffe as governor.
I don`t think Democrats should play defensive in a state like Virginia. If
he believes we should take down the Confederate monuments, well, then he
should fight for it and make his case. Don`t try to have it both ways.
MATTHEWS: Where are you on that?
MATTHEWS: I want to ask Cornell, because I want to ask everybody. I`m
going to ask you the same question, Steve.
We know have battlefields in Virginia, lots of them. And you have got the
Bull Runs. You have got all kinds of stuff out in Virginia. Much of the
war was fought in Virginia. Should you take the Confederate monuments off
of the battlefield, Cornell? Just leave the Northern…
BELCHER: The truth of the matter is – the truth of the matter is, even
among African-American voters, when we did polling with minority voters in
Virginia, they don`t see it as the top issue concern for them, right? They
are much more concerned with…
MATTHEWS: How about you? I`m nailing you here, Cornell. I want an
answer. Where do you stand on taking them off the battlefield?
BELCHER: With me? Absolutely. Absolutely.
Let me be perfectly clear.
MATTHEWS: I`m listening.
BELCHER: I think they were traitors to the United States of America, and
that should come down, period. That`s how I feel.
MATTHEWS: I think you are not running for office. When you run for
office, let me know, because that`s got a lot of nerve behind it.
Steve, where are you on this? Keep the statues up or take them down?
JARDING: Well, listen, I respect the side that says that`s a part of our
history. I get it. We got a lot history in museums. I think you can put
them in museums.
I think you can honor our history and still not disparage what the South
tried to do, that the South tried to split the Union.
So I think the bigger issue, though, honestly, Chris, is that Democrats
very often let these single polarizing issues define them. This race is
not about that. Republicans are voting against health care. They`re
voting against food stamps. They`re voting against programs for education,
for their kids.
JARDING: Look at what Trump is doing on education. The Republicans in
Congress have done nothing, nothing to put money in the pockets of working
JARDING: … talking about?
MATTHEWS: I`m going to talk about what I think about the statues.
MATTHEWS: I think Hollywood is guilty. Hollywood, starting in the `30s,
started building up the old South that never existed. It was all this,
what`s her name, Scarlett O`Hara, and all that nonsense about the wonders
and joys of the old South.
They never showed the slaves being beaten, put in chains. You never saw a
slave in chains. All those movies were romanticized crap to make the old
white tyranny look good. Anyway, it was awful. And we were brought up on
Anyway, thank you.
I don`t know why we were.
Thank you, Steve Jarding and Cornell Belcher.
I`m closer to you than you think, Cornell.
Up next: the HARDBALL Roundtable on the two big contests of the evening,
including that race for – I don`t think it`s much of a race for Jersey
governor, because I think Christie really stunk up that state.
Polls close at the top of the hour on that one.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
You continue to watch the governor`s race down in Virginia, across the
river from here, which NBC News has characterized, as I said, two early to
call. The polls just closed at 7:00 Eastern.
Anyway, meanwhile, the other big race for governor tonight, not exactly a
squeaker, we don`t think, is in New Jersey, where polls were closed at 8:00
I am joined right now by the roundtable tonight, Annie Linskey, chief
national correspondent for “The Boston Globe”, you love it when I say your
name. And Vivian Salama is a reporter for NBC News, our own. And David
Catanese is a senior politics writer with “U.S. News and World Report”.
David, you were making a point before, that this Republican candidate for
governor in Virginia, we`re all watching, it`s the marquee election, is not
exactly got the same cut of the jib as Donald J. Trump.
DAVID CATANESE, SENIOR POLITICS WRITER, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: No, he`s
a establishment Republican. He`s a former Republican National Committee
chairman. He`s a lobbyist. I mean, this was a party guy. Now, he tries -
MATTHEWS: He`s also a Northerner.
CATANESE: He`s a North – he`s from New Jersey.
CATANESE: But he also, you know, he tried to use the Trump playbook late
in the game, using cultural issues.
MATTHEWS: Name them.
CATANESE: Confederate statues, saying they should be kept up, talking
CATANESE: MS-13 gangs.
MATTHEWS: Saying that the Democratic candidate was against outlawing
sanctuary cities, he was like voting negatively to make a point.
CATANESE: Right. And also, allowing felons out, you know, out of prison.
MATTHEWS: We are looking, by the way, at the early, it is not a call, but
we`re looking at the row boat. In these, to the experts of Virginia that
have educated me all day, it`s not a surprise that Ed Gillespie will get
the boat in from rural areas faster, ironically, they got an earlier vote.
CATANESE: Good numbers I think for Northam, because usually, southern
Virginia pours in first.
CATANESE: And a Republican always has a lead, right, a three, four-point
lead, and then we see northern –
MATTHEWS: A winner for an hour or two.
CATANESE: He`s a winner for an hour or two, and then Northern Virginia –
MATTHEWS: They always do the raw vote, since I watched the Nixon-Kennedy
in the `60s, don`t pay attention to the raw vote. But we have to give you
the news – Vivian.
VIVIAN SALAMA, NBC NEWS REPORTER: I mean, so what we see in Virginia,
traditionally, the year after a presidential election, is they will often
go for a party not in the White House, and so, with the exception of
McAuliffe`s second term.
MATTHEWS: Like buyer`s remorse.
SALAMA: Whatever you want to call it, that has been the pattern so far.
And so, whether or not we`re going to see that again, we don`t know, but,
you know, President Obama had really kind of dominated and pushed that
state into the blue area for a while and then obviously now, you know,
President Trump is trying to sway it back.
Whether or not he is successful or not, it depends. Whether or not that`s
an indication of how he has been doing, it`s too early to tell I think.
MATTHEWS: In some states like Massachusetts that when you vote for
governor, you don`t vote ideologically, in Utah, for years, they elect a
Democratic governor just to balance things off for the Republican senators,
Massachusetts, regular or every other time picks a Republican even though
it`s a liberal state.
ANNIE LINSKEY, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Virginia is like that. They can pick Republican governors.
They did, Bob McDonnell.
LINSKEY: You know, I do think, you know, you`ve got to say here, Northam
is not exactly the most dynamic candidate. I mean, you know, certainly,
the fundamentals are looking good tonight for him, you know? But I mean,
my goodness, it felt a little big to me like –
MATTHEWS: Tim Kaine is not very dynamic, but he`s very popular. Anyway,
let`s go to New Jersey where polls closed at the top of hour, reporters
captured Governor Christie engaging in an argument, I like Christie
fighting, with a voter outside his polling collection.
Let`s watch a portion of that action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: It`s easier to sit here and complain.
It`s easier to sit –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t have the money like you.
CHRISTIE: Oh, really, I`m sure, I`m sure. Easier to sit here and
complain, but you know what, that`s the joy of public service. It`s
serving folks, it`s serving folks –
CHRISTIE: Yes, it`s serving folks like you that is really such a unique
joy. It really is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Why does he like to fight with anybody who wants to fight?
CATANESE: This is a final bow.
MATTHEWS: There`s a Sinatra quality here. If you want to fight, I`ll
fight with you, you know?
CATANESE: This is a guy with a what 15 percent approval rating in
Virginia. He never gave –
MATTHEWS: She wants to be a part of –
CATANESE: Well, she was the lieutenant – you know, he gave his lieutenant
governor virtually no chance at his race.
MATTHEWS: Guadagno, yes. Why did she run? Does anybody know why she –
CATANESE: He`s lieutenant governor. She was next in lean to run. They
didn`t have anyone else.
MATTHEWS: She got her head bashed in, gale force headwinds here, right?
CATANESE: Yes, a super storm, you might say.
MATTHEWS: Been there.
CATANESE: It`s going to be tough for her tonight. I think that`s an easy
win for the Democrats.
MATTHEWS: Right now, I`m looking at something and it`s fascinated me, I
have been saying for the Democrats to win the Congress back, win the House
of Representatives, they probably won`t get the Senate. They need double
digits in the national polls because the way the gerrymandering and also
issues with Democratic votes tend to be crowded in the big cities. They
got it. They`re up to double digits right, and they got the highest spread
in recorded history practically right now.
They can win the House back if things continue the way they`re going.
LINSKEY: Well, you know, Democrats managed to mess these moments up, you
know, time and time again, they still need a message. And they still need
to be – look at the Georgia –
MATTHEWS: He said, we got one? I said, yes, that`s –
LINSKEY: What is it?
MATTHEWS: I know it.
LINSKEY: Exactly right. They have this problem again and again. I think
they have got, the party has a lot of work to do if they want to. It`s a
MATTHEWS: They think it`s a seesaw. If Trump goes down, they go up. They
think it`s automatic. That`s why they`re planning so careful.
SALAMA: The other question is whether the Democrats can rally behind a
leader? The party is in disarray. Well, exactly, is there someone that
can really kind of rally the troops and say, let`s do this together? Have
a unified message to get the party together again after what happened last
year? That`s the big question going forward.
MATTHEWS: We`re not even there.
SALAMA: Not even close.
MATTHEWS: There are so many freshmen and sophomore, but there`s no obvious
presidential candidate except Joe Biden.
CATANESSE: I would not over-read the results of tonight to say it`s going
to mean anything about 2018. Remember in 2013, Terry McAuliffe won –
MATTHEWS: You are telling people not to stay up tonight and watch all
CATANESE: No, I`m trying to stay up and watch all night.
MATTHEWS: There is a seat there, it goes down into a dangerous hole in the
CATANESE: Wow. All right. No, I mean, look, Terry McAuliffe won the
governorship in 2013, Republican in the 2014 rallied. They had a great
MATTHEWS: In all the papers across the country, top of the fold of the
East Coast of what happens tonight in Virginia, I do think it counts, I
think the delegate races count a lot. If Hillary is able to win in a
delegate race, where she run for president? Look out, I`m talking up big.
Annie Linskey, she`ll be talking it up in “The Globe”. Vivian Salama,
thank you, my colleague. And David Catanese, who is a pessimist about news
value and the polls in New Jersey will be closed at the top of the hour,
that`s 8:00 p.m. Eastern. We`ll get the first look at who will succeed
Chris Christie. That state cannot wait to succeed Chris Christie, the
Garden State. That`s coming up with 8:00 Eastern.
And the vote keeps pouring in, in Virginia, more than 30 percent in now.
NBC says this race still too early to call.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, up next, we`re going to take a look at the election that
transformed American politics. My colleague Lawrence O`Donnell is here
with a look at his new book about the 1968 presidential election. As the
returns continue tonight to come in for the Virginia governor`s race, we`ll
be covering them.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Let`s get one more look at Virginia governor`s race right now.
It`s being counted. Steve Kornacki joins us.
STEVE KORNACKI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris, I
mean, we could tell you Democrats are looking at what they`re seeing right
now, they are feeling very good. Let me give you a microcosm of what it
is. We talked about northern Virginia. Look, Democrats always do well
here in northern Virginia. Trump got absolutely buried. The challenge for
Gillespie coming until was, just don`t get buried like Trump did.
Here`s a perfect example what was we`re seeing in northern Virginia. Look
at this, Loudoun County here, what you see, Northam the Democrat winning by
20. What was the margin in this county last year? It was Hillary Clinton
by 17 over Donald Trump. This is worse than Trump.
And, by the way, when Ed Gillespie ran in the same county for the U.S.
Senate three years ago, he won it. He won it by a few hundred votes. And
tonight he`s losing by 20. He`s losing it worse than Trump.
We are seeing this throughout northern Virginia in the returns we`re seeing
right now. The Gillespie goal was, don`t get buried like Trump. He may
get buried worse than Trump.
MATTHEWS: Whoa. Looks like Northam.
Anyway, thank you, Steve Kornacki.
1968 was a tumultuous year in American politics. In his new book “Playing
with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics”,
my colleague Lawrence O`Donnell writes the 1960s were a decade like no
other, a high-speed kaleidoscope of the civil rights movement,
assassinations, Bob Dylan, the Vietnam War, hippies, and American`s first
I`m joined right now by himself, Lawrence O`Donnell, host of “THE LAST
WORD” on MSNBC.
It`s an honor to have you on, Lawrence. So, you know, I think Bill Clinton
once said, if you like the `60s you`re probably a Democrat. If you hated
the `60s, you`re probably a Republican. Reflect on that, because this is a
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST, THE LAST WORD: Well, sure, because the
`60s was probably the single most high-speed culture change, societal
change, political change of the 20th century, by far it was. For example,
Chris, as you know, no guy`s hair looked the same, no one at any age
between 1960 and 1970. People thought differently. People who were
segregationists in 1960 were not by 1970.
And so, what you saw was a kind of progress that some people wanted to hold
back as they always do with this kind of progress. And so, the Democrats
were perceived as the party by the time you get to 1968 who were leading
that kind of progress.
And as you know, Chris, about of that, if someone told you they were
Republican, you didn`t know if that person was a liberal or a conservative.
MATTHEWS: That`s true.
O`DONNELL: If someone said they were a Democrat, you didn`t know if that
person was a liberal or a segregationist. All that started to clarify and
get locked in cement in 1968, so that now if you say you`re a Democrat,
everyone thinks they know everything that you think about everything.
MATTHEWS: How did we have such exciting prospects for `68 coming in with
Gene McCarthy in late `67, and Bobby Kennedy joined the fight, Johnson
quitting? How did we end up with two dull candidates, unexciting
candidates like Nixon and Hubert Humphrey? How did we end up sort of a
downer at the end of the year?
O`DONNELL: Well, it`s the assassination that put us on the – the Bobby
Kennedy assassination that put us on that inevitable road to Hubert
Humphrey on the Democrats` side. But what that campaign began with, Chris,
was bravery, was a senator standing up and saying, I`m going to run against
the president of my own party. That was something that was unheard of.
And it was done by this obscure senator at the time, Gene McCarthy.
Everyone was surprised when he did it.
As you know, Bobby Kennedy thought about running before Gene McCarthy
announced. And Bobby decided against it. Then he was never comfortable
with his decision, he kept going back and forth. Gene McCarthy had some
success in New Hampshire.
And Chris, I was in high school. I thought Gene McCarthy won New
Hampshire. And I thought that for decades after the fact.
MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s the way it played.
O`DONNELL: Because that`s the way it played. Turns out he came in a very
strong second, as you know, Bobby Kennedy jumps into the race, Lyndon
Johnson says, I quit, because as you know, Chris, every single possible
candidate in 1968, every one of them, was worried about one candidate. And
that one candidate was Bobby Kennedy.
Nixon was afraid of him.
O`DONNELL: LBJ was afraid of him. Gene McCarthy was afraid of him.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I got that, I know that.
O`DONNELL: Everyone was.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the results. I voted for Humphrey. But I
thought I did so because of civil rights and because I thought Ed Muskie
was one hell of a running mate. You probably did too.
I thought Nixon, Tricky Dickey, would get us out of the war, he`d say
that`s the Democrat war, I`m getting the hell out of that stupid war, and
yet he gets in there, and thanks to Henry Kissinger, he prolongs it for an
entire term, half the Americans killed in that war are killed after Nixon
comes to office.
That was not what the voters voted for. They did not vote for Nixon to
keep that war going four more years. They voted for him to say, I`ve got a
secret plan to get out of this thing.
O`DONNELL: Exactly. He had that Trump – Trump was saying last year, I`ll
beat ISIS, I can do this, the generals can`t do it but I can, I know how to
do it. He kept, of course that plan a secret because he didn`t have one.
Nixon implied that he had a secret plan to end that war, but he got
obsessed with the same thing that LBJ was obsessed with, and eventually
destroyed LBJ, and that was, I don`t want to be the first president to lose
MATTHEWS: You`re so right.
O`DONNELL: And so, Nixon spent all that time trying to come up with an
image that looked like he wasn`t losing a war, which we did definitely
MATTHEWS: Yes, well said. Well written, of course.
Lawrence O`Donnell, the book once again is “Playing with Fire”, great
title, “The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics”.
Thank you, Lawrence.
Let me finish tonight with this lore that Lawrence reflects of the late
1960s. This is not new to me. Ever since living through that time, I`ve
felt the pull of a time when there was a zest in the air, an edge of
excitement, especially in those weeks of the late 1967 and early 1968 when
I marched to the Pentagon, an anti-war march, and watched the great good
fight, as Lawrence mentioned, between Bobby Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy.
My children have picked up on this lore of the 1960s, asked me about it,
how we lived it. The fun we had, the craziness of some of it. And let`s
be honest, the music and the characters were the best ever, not just the
tragic figures of our time. Dr. Martin Luther King and the Kennedy
brothers, but Bob Dylan, great songs like “Eve of Destruction.”
Now, it`s all coming closer again and for the best of reasons, I think.
People of all ages are feeling the pull of a time when leaders spoke of
values, when people sat around and argued the great issues of war and
peace, and the individual versus the nation. We look with envy at a time
when people thought big and put their competing hopes aside.
Well, tonight, today, we have a president who never speaks of right or
wrong, who never cites a moral compass for himself or our country are. He
acts as if the only thing that matters on this earth is the act itself, his
That`s HARDBALL for now.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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