New Hampshire TRANSCRIPT: 2/10/20, All In w/ Chris Hayes

Guests: Tom Perez, Angus King, Alexi McCammond, David Plouffe

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.

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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on a special edition of ALL IN.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The final verdict is up to us. That`s what it means.

HAYES: As Democrats scramble in New Hampshire.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s about bringing our people together.

HAYES: Dramatic new polling shows Donald Trump is more beautiful than ever.

JAMES CARVILLE, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh he`s so strong, he`s so powerful, he`s so this. No, he`s not.

HAYES: Tonight, DNC Chair Tom Perez on how Democrats can unite to take on Trump. The architect of Barack Obama`s elections on where this race stands in New Hampshire and beyond. And why William Barr is now openly admitting to working with Rudy Giuliani to investigate the President`s political vote.

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: We have to be very careful.

HAYES: Live from Manchester, New Hampshire, ALL IN starts right now.

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HAYES: Hey, how are you doing? Great to see you all. Hello, everyone. Great to be here in Manchester New Hampshire. We are live with the studio audience as you probably intuited. It is a very crazy night here in New Hampshire. We, of course, have the first big primary contest of 2020 happening in just about four hours, which is the first votes being cast just after midnight. And then right now, as I`m speaking to you, on top of that, literally just across the street, the President is doing what the President does, which is rallying his followers and attacking and insulting his critics and wishing they all get locked up.

I have noticed and I think this has been something I`ve noticed in conversations in a lot of different people both here in New Hampshire and outside is there`s this kind of real unmistakable sense of fear among Democrats, particularly coming off of last week, fear of the president being reelected. Everyone here is nodding their head. And I think that`s been aided by a lot of high-profile national commentary that`s prompted this kind of hopelessness, even dread, some of which I do completely get.

I mean, the President was, of course, acquitted last week in the third-ever impeachment trial in American history. He is now firing his perceived enemies inside the U.S. government. They`re being marched out of the White House. We learned today that his Attorney General William Barr is helping Rudy Giuliani funnel dirt on Joe Biden directly into the Department of Justice. What doesn`t quite seem kosher to me.

And there`s also the fact that Trump`s approval rating has unmistakably ticked up a little bit in the last few weeks. There`s a real signal there. He`s now sitting in a just under 44 percent in the 538 polling average, which is as high as he has been since his first few months in office. Now, add to that the fact that I will caucuses were an absolute mess, and that people are unclear about who can unite the Democratic Party. And a lot of people are just walking around saying, oh god, oh god, he`s going to win, he`s going to win, he`s going to win.

But I think that the million or so stories and comments I have read about Trump being ascended this week we`re very, very, very much overstating the case. The Trump campaign would be more than happy to have you believe that the President, again, right across the street right now is some kind of Colossus. And that, by the way, is how he is planning to win. He`s planning to win by projecting that very idea that he is here, it`s why he`s here in New Hampshire night, right?

There`s no contested Republican primary. He doesn`t have to be here. The idea is to literally intimidate Democrats to scare them. Now, the president is many things. He`s a bigot, he is a liar, he`s a narcissist, but above all else, from the day that he inherited his daddy`s business and much of his fortune, he has been a con man. You can ask nearly anyone who`s ever done business with the guy. That`s fundamentally what he is. That`s his core. He`s a con man.

And the word con man is actually short for confidence man because the way that a con man pulls on the con is by gaining people`s confidence and getting people to do what he wants them to do, right? He gained your trust, he fools you into thinking he`s someone you can say, trust with your money, or your wellbeing, or your country.

By the way, the original confidence man was this New Yorker. It was a guy who would go up to strangers on the street, pretending that he knew them and strike up a conversation and then ask them if they have the trust or confidence to let them hold their watch. And they would. And he would just walk away with the watch. And that is basically the way that Donald Trump operates.

Trump is trying to do that right now. But the key message for Democrats coming off last week and as he`s there across the street at the rally is do not fall for the con. Remember, a majority of the country still opposes this man. They have approached him for all of his tenure. It`s almost unprecedented in the history of modern polling. He lost the popular vote by three million votes. He was the beneficiary of not one but at least two completely illegal conspiracies to help them get elected, one by the Russian government, the other to cover up these multiple affairs pulled off by his attorney at apparently his direction.

And that`s not to mention James Comey, and what he did during the last two weeks of the election. And with all of that, all that help, all those thumbs pressing down on the scale, he eats out of 77,000 vote margin across three states that gives an electoral college victory. And even now, after one of his best weeks of polling, he is polling probably where a president should be higher then to win reelection. He`s only a 44 percent.

I mean, heck, a majority of the country not only disapproves of him, a majority wanted the United States Senate to kick the guy out of office. It`s not to say that he`s going to be defeated, right? It`s -- I`m not making a prediction here. But the idea that this is some terrifyingly popular juggernaut is just not borne out by the facts.

The problem, of course, is that everyone`s so traumatized by 2016. I mean, I remember being here four years ago. I sometimes think of the conversation I would have with my 2016-year-old self, sitting here in Manchester about what was about to come. And nobody or a lot of people thought that he could not win.

But you got to be really clear-eyed about what the present situation is. The President, of course, does have a chance to be reelected. He has the incumbent president. So of course, he can win. We know that. Of course, he can win. He can also be beat. And I get the frustration and the hopelessness among some Democrats. They look at the president and they think, how does anyone still support this guy? After all this, how does anyone still support this guy? And they see and hear his unhinged speeches and we`ll get low lights later on, and his insults and his venality, and his corruption, and they wonder how anyone could possibly want four more years of this.

I mean, just the other day, there was a story about how he`s bilking the federal government to the tune of $650 a night for the secret service that has to follow him when he goes to his own properties. Public money right in his pocket. And that was like a one-day story. And I get it that drives people nuts, right? Like what will bring him down?

But put all that aside for a moment because it is also true that Donald Trump`s agenda at its core is the Republican Party`s agenda, and that that agenda is really unpopular. Today gave us an amazing, fantastic example of this courtroom. So he`s riding high on his best week ever, 44 percent, right. And what does he do? He puts out a budget with more than a trillion dollars in cuts to Medicare, and to Medicaid, and to Social Security, and the Affordable Care Act. And the budget also serves a reminder that Oh, yes, by the way, the administration is in court right now as I speak to you trying to destroy the ACA root and branch. Just upend everyone`s health insurance in one fell swoop.

And the ACA, by the way, is also 10 points more popular than the President himself. His administration has gutted the Clean Water Act, which guess what, people love clean water. This is not rocket science, the politics of it. They`ve laid waste to environmental regulations. They put a coal lobbyist in charge of the EPA and are now proposing to cut the budget of the EPA as of today by 26 percent.

They also cut taxes worth trillions of dollars for rich people and for corporations. And when he signed that bill, and I think this is really important to remember, it was basically the lowest ebb of his popularity, signing his big legislative achievement. That was the lowest least popular he ever got.

Trump is vulnerable on all this stuff. He`s vulnerable on Medicare cuts, and tax cuts for the rich, and environmental degradation and deregulation. He`s vulnerable on that because the American people are on the democrat side on this whole range of issues. Almost all of what the President is doing and has done independent of the state of the economy, which is a big if, right? The stuff he`s actually doing almost all of it is wildly unpopular.

Just today, in fact, Quinnipiac released a new general election poll. Did you see this? Six different head to head matchups? Six different democrats beating Trump and head to head battles. Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren, both beat him by four points. Amy Klobuchar beats him by six. Joe Biden beat him by seven. Bernie Sanders beats Donald Trump by eight points. And Mike Bloomberg right now is beating him by nine points.

The lesson of that is, he`s weak, he`s vulnerable. Politically, he`s beatable. He wants you to believe that he`s strong but he`s not. He`s not a colossus. He`s a con man. So Democrats don`t have to be afraid of the guy across the street. They just got to get out there and they have to do the work to beat him. That`s it. No shortcuts.

It is hard work, however, the work of beating him. And I just -- if you don`t believe that, just asked my next guest how his work has been going this week. He`s the chair of the Democratic National Committee. His name is Tom Perez. Tom, how is your week been?

TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: You know what? Notwithstanding the challenges we had in Iowa, I am really excited about New Hampshire. And I was there last weekend and I want to thank all the voters there that I spoke to. And I heard that fear. And I want to remind you of 1991. It`s very similar to where we`re at now.

In 1991 George Herbert Walker Bush, his approval ratings were actually north of 70 percent. And we had seven or eight candidates for president. And we didn`t know who that nominee was going to be. And there was a lot of hand-wringing and a lot of fear. And what we all know what happened in 1992? Folks, we have the similar situation now. We have a deep bench.

Every single one of these candidates, as Chris just pointed out, can beat Donald Trump. I could go on Fifth Avenue and find a stranger that would be a better candidate than Donald Trump. But folks, I come to you with additional optimism -- I come to you with additional optimism because look at 2017, look at 2018, look at 2019. What do they all have in common? Democrats won at scale.

There were 15 Democratic governors, when I took over at the DNC. There are 24 now. We now have speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most influential and impactful speaker in American history. We have flipped 10 legislative chambers from red to blue. We have the majority of state attorneys general. Folks, we can do this. We`ve been doing it.

And then look at last November. Last November in Kentucky, and in Louisiana, those governor`s races, Donald Trump put himself on the ballot in a state that he won by 30 points, Chris, 30 points. He couldn`t drag Matt Bevin across the finish line. Same thing in Louisiana, John Bel Edwards won reelection. What was the common denominator in these elections? Health care. We feel that great candidates, we talked about the issues that mattered most.

HAYES: Yes. So --

PEREZ: Chris, one more thing.

HAYES: -- all the history -- yes.

PEREZ: One more thing if I could. You said something and I want to underscore today`s budget. Budgets are moral documents. They reflect the values of whatever the governing body is here. A president who wants to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, who wants to chop EPA by 26 percent, that reflects the moral decay of this administration, the lies of this administration. We`re going to win because we`re going to organize and talk about all these issues.

HAYES: So I want to -- I don`t want to belabor what happened with Iowa, but I do feel important to ask a simple question, which is, who is responsible for it, and what will be done to hold the people responsible for account? Because I don`t think there was any grand nefarious conspiracy, but clearly, there was some pretty horrible screw-ups here and it feels like there`s been no clear accounting of them so far.

PEREZ: Well, let me be very clear. We all fell short. While the Iowa party administers the election, we provide help. We have a partnership with our state parties. We`re all in this together. We all succeed together, and when we fall, we fall together, and we fell short. And I`m here to say, I apologize for that.

I know that the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, there`s nobody more disappointed than Troy Price. We`re learning from our mistakes. We have -- we`re counting ballots in 143 precincts that were requested. The party will get that done, it will get that done soon, and it will get that done right. And what we`re doing is we`re learning from that.

We already have a team of people on place -- in place in Nevada working with a spectacular party and a spectacular array of talented people to learn from that mistake. And so, one thing I`ve learned, Chris, is you know, on a good day, never get too giddy, on a bad day never get too down. We had a couple of bad days last week, undeniably. And you know what, there are a lot of good days ahead of us including 265 days from now when we win the presidency.

HAYES: So let me -- let me ask you about another decision the DNC recently made. The DNC changed the qualifying metrics for presidential debates and it removed the requirement of a certain amount of small-dollar donations, clearly, because Michael Bloomberg is never going to qualify under that rubric, because he`s not taking any donations, but he`s now pulling in a position where it looks like he will qualify.

There are some people who say you basically said you couldn`t change the rules, you couldn`t do a climate debate, you couldn`t do this, you couldn`t do that. And then you didn`t change the rules to accommodate this one billionaire in the race. What is your response to that?

PEREZ: That`s not correct, and let me explain back in October or so, I outlined where we would go after voting began. A year ago, we were looking for what I call proxies for what would get somebody on the debate stage. And we had polling, but polling alone wouldn`t be enough, Chris, because polling a year out measures little more than name ID.

And so we added a grassroots fundraising threshold, which I think was a spectacular innovation. And I hope it is always here for cycles to come. But what I also said that back then and again this fall, is when people start voting, the best proxy for who should be on the debate stage will be the polling at the time of voting, plus people who have accumulated delegates.

So we now have a two-tiered threshold. If you have no less than 10 percent -- if you have 10 percent or more, or you get at least one delegate tomorrow in New Hampshire, or last week in Iowa, you make the debate stage. My job is to make sure that the most viable candidate as measured by those two measures around the debate stage.

And I`ve heard people who have said it`s not fair. Why should somebody be able to buy their way through self-funding under the debate stage? And I would say two things to that, Chris. Number one, we will have in our platform, campaign finance reform, overturning Citizens United, absolutely. But until then, these are the rules.

Unfortunately, you have a remedy. If you are concerned about how anyone got on the debate stage, go vote. That is your ultimate remedy. And people are going to be voting in droves in New Hampshire in just a few hours. And our job is to make sure -- our job is to make sure that people can kick the tires on the candidates.

HAYES: All right, Tom Perez, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, thank you for making some time on a busy night.

PEREZ: My pleasure.

HAYES: When we get back, Bill Barr came out today and basically admitted that the Justice Department is now accepting Rudy Giuliani`s dirt on Trump`s political opponents. The embolden administration`s move to consolidate power after this.

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HAYES: Several Republican senators actually tried to intervene and stop the Friday night massacre in which the President fired witnesses who testified against him in the impeachment inquiry clearly out of retribution for doing so and almost definitely in violation of the law. And then we find out the President`s personal attorney has an entree in the Department of Justice. Senator Lindsey Graham told us so on live T.V.

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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): -- is receiving information coming out of the Ukraine from Rudy to see, he told me, that they`ve created a process that Rudy could give information, and they would see if it`s verified.

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HAYES: OK, that`s weird. And then today, Attorney General Bill Barr confirmed that yes, indeed, Rudy Giuliani, the man who is currently under investigation by the same DOJ and who`s two associates attempted to get the whole Biden investigation started are now facing prosecution. That Rudy Giuliani is funneling information directly to Justice Department. It really looks like a quasi-authoritarian compromising of the prosecutorial authority of said government.

Joining me now is center who has been very outspoken about the President`s lawless moved to consolidate power, Angus King, Independent of Maine. So Senator King, the most charitable interpretation of this set of facts is basically that no one takes Rudy seriously and everyone is trying to pawn him off on someone else, and everyone is kind of yes-bossing Trump about this. But this really does -- this is the President`s personal attorney funneling the very dirt over which he was impeached over directly Department of Justice. Is that okay?

SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): No, it`s not OK. There`s a whole structure. There`s a State Department, there`s ambassadors, there`s the Department of Justice. And the idea that the personal attorney is doing this kind of work, I thought, frankly, one of the most damning pieces of the famous phone call which wasn`t perfect was the mention of Rudy Giuliani.

If it was all about corruption generally or about burden-sharing or all the things that White House Counsel talked about during the trial, why did the President say to the president of Ukraine, talk to Rudy? Talk to Rudy Giuliani. He was a great mayor. It`s a -- it`s a -- he`s on his own mission. It doesn`t involve U.S. policy. It doesn`t involve the national interest of the United States. It`s a -- it`s a political errand, as somebody said. And the fact that that he`s now being sort of welcomed into the -- into the Justice Department is pretty disturbing.

HAYES: You had warned about the sort of consequences of an acquittal vote against the president, particularly in terms of how he would take that signal and use -- continue to abuse his authority. We`ve seen him now fire not just Alexander Vindman who testified under subpoena, but also his brother, and there`s been no cause given for why his brother was also marched out of the White House, as well as Gordon Sondland who of course does serve at the pleasure of the President, but clearly it was retribution for his testimony.

And now we`re seeing Lindsey Graham talking about Giuliani being in touched with Barr. What do you make of the first week and a half or so after that acquittal in terms of how it lines up with what your worries are or were about what signal the President would receive?

KING: Well, I think one of the most worrisome things and in the -- in the trial, the president`s lawyers kept talking about the elections are the solution or let`s wait for the elections, the problem is the offense that was at the heart of this was finagling the election, meddling in the election that`s coming up. And what bothered me was that the President has expressed not a whiff of remorse, not any indication that he has any idea that he did anything wrong. And what that means is, he`s liable to keep doing it.

I mean, there`s a very little likelihood that he feels chastened or somehow, you know, he`ll change his conduct. And, and we`re headed into an election and he`s already said he would welcome help from other countries. And this is now -- let me -- Chris, let me back up a step up from this. The really worrisome thing about what happened last week is the long-term implications. Because our country is based on the principle of divided power. That`s what the Constitution is all about. It puts power all over the place in the Congress, in the two houses, in the presidency, in the States. And the whole idea of the principal is a concentration of power and one set of hands is dangerous.

And the Congress, in my view, has been committing kind of slow-motion suicide. For the past 70 years. We`ve essentially given up the war power which is expressly in the Constitution for the Congress. We`ve given up the trade power. The president now, you know, imposes tariffs, you know, on Canada, for Lord sake, on our neighbors on his own, unilaterally.

Last year, we let him take money out of -- out of the appropriations bill that Congress had passed through the proper processes. He basically said, I don`t Like your priorities. I want to build my wall. I`m going to take three and a half billion dollars out of yours and put it toward the wall. And then last week, we basically said, a president can stonewall Congress entirely in an impeachment proceeding which essentially renders the impeachment clause nullity. It just eviscerates it. And the implication is, what about ordinary oversight?

The point I`m trying to make is that power is migrating from Congress to the President. And last week it didn`t migrated. And that`s what`s really, in the long term concerning. Maybe President Trump won`t abuse it. Certainly, history is not in -- doesn`t reassure us on that front. But what about -- I`m worried about five, 10 20 years from now.

And, you know, like I say, the framers set up this complicated structure on purpose. And by the way, presidents aren`t grabbing the power, Congress is advocating it. And this is what bothers me so much about what happened last week.

HAYES: All right, Senator Angus King of the State of Maine. Thank you so much, sir.

KING: Chris, good to be with you.

HAYES: Still to come, how to lose in New Hampshire and still win the White House? The architect behind Barack Obama`s 2008 and 2012 campaign joins me here to talk 2020.

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HAYES:  So, exactly 12 years ago I was here in Manchester, New Hampshire, covering the Democratic primary that year. Barack Obama just pulled off this improbable win in Iowa, and he was polling ahead in New Hampshire. And the conventional wisdom when I was here right before that election was he would win in New Hampshire and then cruise to the nomination. That didn`t happen. Hillary Clinton shocked everyone with an upset victory, and that set up this long, hard fought delegate slog between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

And one of the big secret weapons in that fight was Barack Obama`s campaign manager, a guy named David Plouffe. Now Plouffe focused on exploiting the delegate math rules to accrue the kind of lead that ultimately gave Barack Obama the nomination. That year, for instance, ahead of Super Tuesday, rather than fight to become the nominal winner in a place like California where candidates would divvy up delegates between them, Obama, instead, campaigned in states like Idaho and Utah where he pulled off these decisive wins.

Barack Obama handily won all but a single Super Tuesday caucus. He won more than half the days primaries. He raked in more delegates than he would have fighting for a headline win in a place like California while ceding the smaller contests.

This pattern of competing for delegate rich wins proved very successful. Ultimately, it`s what won Barack Obama the Democratic Party nomination in 2008.

And that strategy continued in the general election. David Plouffe suggested going for the state of Virginia, a state that had not gone for Democrats since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. And sure enough, Virginia went for Barack Obama.

And so tonight, on the eve of New Hampshire primaries we roll into actual voting, the guy I wanted to talk to about how to mastermind a winning Democratic strategy is David Plouffe and he joins me next.

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HAYES:  David Plouffe served as campaign manager for Barack Obama`s 2008 bid for the Democratic nomination and the White House. He led a campaign that overcame huge name recognition disadvantages by using delegate math and he`s here with me tonight. Good to have you here, David.

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER, BARACK OBAMA:  Good to be here, Chris.

HAYES:  So, I think there are two ways to look at these nominating processes. One is that there is a kind of domino effect, like 2004 was the one I always think of where it was competitive and then Kerry won, and then it just kind of rolled, and before you knew it everyone was like, well I guess this is the person for the nomination.

And the others are these longer drawn out delegate battles, 2008 being the kind of most intense of those. How are you thinking about the delegate battle here -- if in fact this looks like a long road of competition?

PLOUFFE:  So, we`ll nerd out a little bit.

HAYES:  Yeah, let`s do it.

PLOUFFE:  Well, I think that is the question. It`s not about which state you win or big states as delegates, right. So, 2000 and 2004 we saw with Gordon, Kerry, it ended pretty quickly. Our race went to the end, very close delegates, and `16 went deep. And so I think that`s the question.

And I think right now the only candidate that I could see with a pathway to seize a delegate lead that they may not give up early is Bernie Sanders, because he will be viable in most congressional districts on Super Tuesday. He`ll be viable statewide.

And so the question is the race changes so much in the next 18 days. We basically shoot out of South Carolina. Some of the candidates that will be on the ballot here tomorrow night will be live, some won`t. You have got Bloomberg looming out there. So, that really is -- this all comes down -- the other thing is it`s by congressional district.

HAYES:  Right.

PLOUFFE:  So, congressional district that offers three delegates, or five delegates, if you`re the one who wins that congressional district you get an extra delegate, which I know sounds like we`re talking crazy math here, but that`s how we`re going to decide our nomination if it`s close.

HAYES:  So, the viability threshold is important to explain just for folks that don`t know this, so 15 percent, if you don`t get 15 percent in a given state, you get zero delegates.

PLOUFFE:  State or congressional districts. So states do it by state Senate district, like Texas.

HAYES:  OK.

PLOUFFE:  So, yeah, basically you have got to get 15 percent to be eligible for delegates. And if you`re the only one above 15 percent, then you get all the delegates.

HAYES:  Right, so you -- the way that works is if a split field is big enough and you have got a bunch of people that are getting 14 and 12 and 13, and there is someone who has got 28 percent, that person -- there is a conceivable world in which that person seizes all the delegates of say a congressional district even if they`re only getting 28 percent of the actual raw vote total, because all those other people are there taking their little shares and they`re under the viability threshold.

PLOUFFE:  Yeah, so here in New Hampshire, the candidates are going to pretty much every town, much less county. They did the same thing in Iowa. Pretty soon as the calendar goes national, you`re making your scheduling decisions, your resource allocation decisions, unless you`re Bloomberg, you can spend whatever you want at a very local level based on delegate acquisition if you`re running a smart campaign.

HAYES:  That`s so fascinating.

PLOUFFE:  It gets super -- and those are big decisions. So, if you`re only going to be in Alabama or Georgia, OK, or Arizona three times you`ve got to make those visits count, and you`ve got to make your spending and you allocation of your staff count.

HAYES:  Now, the only way to be able to sort of even make those decisions is you have to have some sort of funding base that can keep a nationwide campaign operation going, right? In the case of say, Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders they have a big grassroots fund-raising. In the case of Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, they`re mostly raising money from hard -- you know, large, hard dollar donors. And then there`s Michael Bloomberg.

And the Bloomberg question mark is just -- I feel like it just doesn`t -- there`s no precedent for it.

PLOUFFE:  None.

HAYES:  I mean, he`s dropping $350 million. He can drop a billion dollars next week if he wants to and a billion dollars the week after that and a billion dollars the week after that, and no one knows what that does.

PLOUFFE:  Right, we`ve never seen anything like it.

So the one thing I`d say about Bloomberg, if you believe national polls, he has gone from 0 or 1 to 15. He spent a lot of money to get there. T he path from 15 to 30, though, is about 50 times harder than 0 to 15.

HAYES:  That`s a great point. You have got the low-hanging fruit, which is you`re getting in front of people`s faces and their sort of attention, because you`re buying all these ads. But real, real big chunk of support, you can`t just run ads to get that.

PLOUFFE:  Right, you know, my sense is for Bloomberg, he doesn`t control his destiny, is my view. So for him to really get to the point where he`s a threat to be the Democratic nominee, I think he needs a Joe Biden and probably a Pete Buttigieg and an Amy Klobuchar to fade, so he becomes the standard, otherwise you`re splitting up that more left center vote two, three ways.

You know, we saw what happened in `16. You know, Trump didn`t start getting over 40 percent of the vote until pretty deep in the calendar. Now, they have winner take all. But you had Cruz, Rubio, Kasich, all in the race, and Jeb Bush, deep into the calendar.

HAYES:  And they were able -- and that was sort of the different situation because they had winner take all. One of the worries about this set of rules -- right, so it`s proportionate and it`s sort of complicated by congressional district state, is that you can end up in a situation in which just no one actually gets enough to get an outright majority, the outright number you need to get to the nomination.

PLOUFFE:  Right, so I`ll say two things. Let`s talk about California. California, who the hell knows what`s going to happen in California. But there is a scenario where if Biden is still in the race and competing and Warren is and Mayor Pete and Klobuchar and Bloomberg takes the stage on March 3, what if all five of those are getting 12, 14, 15 -- Gabbard, Yang, Steyer get a few, that`s like 65 percent of the vote.

So, let`s say Bernie is the one getting 30 or 35. He could net over 100 delegates out of California alone.

So, the question is will someone...

HAYES:  That is fascinating. So, what I`m hearing from you is that from a purely sort of like analytical perspective, there is a universe in which if you`re thinking about the delegate math for Sanders, you want that field to stay pretty crowded.

PLOUFFE:  Oh, yeah. You want a lot of company.

And I think there`s a sense that, OK, we have New Hampshire tomorrow night, then there`s Nevada, then South Carolina, then we get to Super Tuesday and then the rest of March. Like the clock is not just ticking, it`s almost midnight really as it relates to delegates unless basically Bernie and one other candidate -- I guess there is a scenario it could be Bernie and two candidates, or just splitting everything up.

To your point, yeah, it`s possible that we`re going to have somebody who doesn`t have a majority of the pledged delegates. I believe that whoever is the plurality leader, unless literally it`s a delegate or two, but even if someone has a 50 to 100, we`re really going to take the nomination from them in Milwaukee? I`m not sure the party recovers from that for decades.

HAYES:  I completely agree with that, right, that if you go into the convention with a plurality lead, the idea of that convention being like...

PLOUFFE:  Sorry, thanks for playing.

HAYES:  Thanks for playing...

PLOUFFE:  And the party bosses have decided the person who got the most delegates is now not going to be the nominee. Like parties don`t recover from that for a long time.

HAYES:  Do you think the other sort of aspect of this in terms of people staying in the race, right, when we talk about momentum, it`s a kind of weird ephemeral term. But what it really means often is fund-raising, right? Like you need certain performances to then go raise money to then stay in for the next week and go up in the air.

I mean, for folks like, say, Amy Klobuchar or -- she`s sort of the perfect one, because she`s sort of like in this liminal space right now, like is that how you conceive of what momentum means for her?

PLOUFFE:  It does, but I think it`s a faulty metric.

HAYES:  You do?

PLOUFFE:  We have got Donald Trump looming. He`s literally a half block down the street bellowing. And, you know, if he wins a second term, will we recover from it? I think it`s an open question, so we need to beat him.

So, if you do well, momentum, so you can raise money, but you don`t have a credible chance to be the Democratic nominee, like I think people have -- it`s easy for me to say, I`m not in the campaign. You have got to get off the stage and let the people who actually can win battle it out. Because his advantage -- money, technology, position in the field, positioning in his presidency -- is such an advantage. Incumbents tend not to lose. George H.W. Bush lost to Clinton, but had he treated his campaign more seriously, I don`t think he would have.

HAYES:  He was also in the teeth of a recession.

PLOUFFE:  But even with that, you know.

So, I think we have to understand that Trump has the advantage of incumbency, and we`ve never seen somebody with this much money. I mean, The Atlantic story that came out last week about their billion dollar disinformation campaign. I don`t really tell people to read The Atlantic, you know, you should read it, because it`s what we`re up against, OK. It is sophistication from a digital marketing side we`ve never seen in American politics.

So, my view is maybe you have some money. Maybe you can come in third place, get some delegates. If you can`t win -- so I would urge the media to focus on that. Who has a credible chance from a delegate standpoint to be the Democratic nominee.

HAYES:  So -- and what I`m hearing from you is that just -- in sort of a reality check sense, like posting a bunch of 12 or 13 or 14 percent performances just doesn`t -- particularly the deeper you go, it does not amount to essentially a credible chance at a delegate lead?

PLOUFFE:  It`s better than getting 4, ending in 5th place, right, you can feel good when you get out. But, yeah, particularly when we get on March 3.

I mean, basically between March 3 and March 17, you know most of the country votes, most of the delegates get awarded. So, if you are not accumulating the number of delegates, particularly if you believe there`s not going to be a brokered convention where somebody who is not the delegate leader can come in on the fifth ballot, OK, but that`s highly unlikely.

HAYES:  Yeah, I think I`m with you on that. I`m actually glad you said that because I think it`s sort of an important point.

David Plouffe, that was fantastic and illuminating.

(APPLAUSE)

HAYES:  Up next, what we know about where we stand going into tomorrow and the Bloomberg campaign surge that is worth keeping an eye on. We`ll talk about it right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  One of the things I think you can safely say on the eve of the first of nation primary is that Senator Bernie Sanders is a front-runner here in New Hampshire. After basically splitting Iowa with South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sanders continues to pull ahead in New Hampshire outside the margin of error, and it`s a primary that he won 2016.

He is also polling ahead nationally in the latest Quinnipiac Poll, although just taking 25 percent of the support in the Democratic field, so it`s not like he`s currently running away with it.

Now a certain New York billionaire continues to rise among the groups of contenders just below him. To talk about this wide open Democratic primary, I want to welcome Zerlina Maxwell, co-host of Signal Boost on Sirius/XM Radio; Alexi McCammond, political reporter at Axios; and Sahil Kapur, national political reporter for NBC News. It`s great to have you guys here.

(APPLAUSE)

HAYES:  The New Hampshire polling has been quite fluid, actually, so clearly there was a big change for Pete Buttigieg. It looks like that sort of bump has ended, but it does strike me as a fairly dynamic race right now. What do you think?

ZERLINA MAXWELL, HOST, SIGNAL BOOST:  I think it`s very dynamic. And I think that this is going to be a test of the campaigns` ground games. If you`ve built that infrastructure, and I`m talking a year ago. Beginning to hire those organizers, open the offices, and try to recruit volunteers so you`re building your movement, that`s the test that we`re going to see tomorrow.

And I think when you have nearly half of the folks in this state undecided, I mean, are folks in this room really undecided?

HAYES:  There`s a lot of undecided people.

MAXWELL:  I understand there`s a lot of good candidates, right. It`s better that the not having any choices.

So, I think if you like someone, get behind that person, work for that person, don`t let it be a self-fulfilling prophecy, where we`re afraid to pick so we don`t pick. I think we all have to participate.

ALEXI MCCAMMOND, AXIOS:  Sorry, the fluidity of the polls, too, not just Pete Buttigieg, but Amy Klobuchar. I think that is so surprising in so many ways. In Iowa I would talk to voters who bring up her name more often then we ever heard nationally, and certainly more than reflected in national polls, but I was at an event with her earlier today and there were a handful of undecided people there, but a handful of people who said, you know, this one speech is what put me over the edge for Klobuchar.

Her team feels very good about the fact that she`s been hitting the airwaves during impeachment more than any other senator who is also running for president. She added another event tonight at 9:30 p.m., because she`s like if I`m going to be awake I should be talking to voters, you know, and that is really fascinating to see what is happening to her.

SAHIL KAPUR, NBC NEWS:  And there are a lot of independents, obviously, in New Hampshire that could make a big difference. Bernie Sanders is the front-runner in New Hampshire, according to the polling averages. He`s becoming the front-runner nationally. I think a victory here could make him the clear front-runner nationally, especially given the way Joe Biden is hemorrhaging support.

HAYES:  I mean, the Biden situation to me seems like the big question story right now, and it`s related to the Bloomberg situation, right. Like part of what is very weird about this race at this moment is that usually at this race it`s you know who is running, and they`re on the campaign trail together and it`s a winnowing effect.

And here that`s happened, but then this thing has like crept up on the horizon, which is someone who has spent $320 million, it`s about $29 million per point of polling I think someone calculated today, who is now third in Quinnipiac. And this was really striking to me, this is black support for Democratic candidates before and after Iowa. Pre-Iowa, Biden, 49 percent, Sanders, 17, Bloomberg, 7, Post-Iowa, Biden, 27, that`s a loss of 22 points, Sanders 19 and Bloomberg 22. Like, he is freezing in some ways the race from outside of the actual arena of competing in these states.

KAPUR:  And this is why it`s so dangerous for Biden, because he is hemorrhaging support in two of his strongest areas right now, African- American voters who have held him up nationally, as the front-runner consistently throughout the last eight or nine months, and the issue of electability. He`s crashed by about 17 points in two weeks on the issue of electability. The single biggest beneficiary on both fronts:  Mike Bloomberg.

HAYES:  And they -- I mean, the Biden people make a totally -- a very legitimate argument, right, which is the following. We shouldn`t be judging the viability of these folks who are running for the Democratic nomination after two contests in two states that just aren`t -- you know, they`re great states, but they don`t represent what the Democratic primary electorate looks like nationally.

The problem, though, is like this electability argument that everyone has been making so long ends up being this kind of like self-fulfilling prophecy.

MAXWELL:  They came up against the order of the states.

You know, I agree with their argument that the order of the states either you go on the same day, but you just need a more representative sample of the Democratic primary electorate, so we can get an accurate sense of what people think.

So, I think that they`re right on that. The problem is they started with the electability argument. Had they not gone with that argument, had they gone with a this is -- these are my messages for the constituencies that will build the coalition, then I think they would have been in a better position now, because they would be like New Hampshire and Iowa are one thing, but we are building that coalition that begins in South Carolina and Nevada.

HAYES:  And even it is not like -- it is an apples to apples, right. It isn`t the case that winning you know 25 percent in Iowa means you`re the most electability either in the Democratic primary or in the national, but electability itself is just like weird invoked squishy concept that has -- that if you say I`m the person who can win and then you don`t win, then it becomes hard.

MCCAMMOND:  Well, it`s also how are you making that argument? One, how are voters making that argument? How do they define what it takes to beat Donald Trump? I ask people all the time whenever I`m talking to voters, and a lot of people sort of stare back at me and they have to think about it, because they`re like, well, I don`t really know, but I know that my top priority is replacing Donald Trump.

But Joe Biden, to your point, has been making this argument the entire time about Donald Trump and why he is the person best positioned to beat him, but he`s selling himself as a product. He`s not selling anything bigger around him. And himself as a product is no longer as appealing to folks as it was last year at this time or, you know, earlier in the cycle.

KAPUR:  And this, by the way, is a critical question for Pete Buttigieg. Can he translate a very strong -- a delegate victory in Iowa and a very strong finish in New Hampshire to the kind of broad coalition you need to win a primary? He has soared all the way from zero percent to 4 percent with black voters in the last two weeks since winning Iowa, that`s not going to cut it. He needs to show much more support.

HAYES:  That also gets to the point that Plouffe was just making, which I think is really interesting, which is like you can hang around at 10, 11, 12, or 13 percent, you can`t win the nomination. And so at a certain point, it really becomes a question of like how many -- how long people will stay in the race at that level and for how long? And what that does to the dynamics of the race.

Why are you smiling?

MAXWELL:  Well, there`s a couple folks that come to mind that I`m like they could drop out today and it would be fine. And I think that, you know, they`re taking some of the attention/oxygen from candidates who could benefit from it, so that`s why I was smiling.

HAYES:  I thought you wanted me to drop out.

MAXWELL:  No, no, I was thinking about some names in my head, they were like ticking through.

KAPUR:  To this point, one scenario that some Democratic establishment figures are starting to freak out is that Bernie Sanders is rapidly consolidating the progressive vote, right, and on the moderate end you h ave Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Mike Bloomberg, all private citizens right now, none of them appear likely to leave the race any time soon. To the extent that you believe in the lanes (ph) theory, and I know it`s not a perfect theory, this could be a scenario where Bernie Sanders walks away with it if these other candidates stay in a crowded field.

HAYES:  That part of the plus lesson there, the top line is, the way that delegates are apportioned, once you accrue a delegate lead, it is hard to get it back, like that`s the sort of the message.

MAXWELL:  Bernie Sanders knows that.

HAYES:  Bernie Sanders knows that exactly from last time.

MCCAMMOND:  And his team today, you know what they are doing in California, holding events with young voters, because they know young voters matters, they know California matters for the delegate map, and they not just focused on New Hampshire and Iowa, they are doing all these different strategies.

And who else is spending a lot in California? Mike Bloomberg, because he is playing a delegate game and nothing else.

HAYES:  I mean, part of the issue, too, right, is that, you know, these two people, Bloomberg and Sanders, are the two people who both through diametrically opposed means, have the finances to do this.

I mean, it`s not like I`m sure Amy Klobuchar would be loved to doing California events. The reason those two are playing there is because Sanders raised $35 million last month, and Michael Bloomberg, a billion dollars can fall out of his pocket and he wouldn`t notice.

MAXWELL:  Yeah, literally.

MCCAMMOND:  That`s the question for all these campaigns, are they running out of money? What does it mean when they`re not fund-raising as much as they can, whether that`s online or through other means. And someone like Joe Biden, right. The question is have you maxed out those donors that you`ve already dipped into who cannot give to you anymore?

MAXWELL:  Well, this is why I think -- one of the campaigns I`ve been focused on very intently that folks are sort of missing in this conversation is Elizabeth Warren. And the reason why is because she`s not taking money from those corporate donors, she`s just using individual donors. So, she`s not as strong as a Bernie Sanders, but she`s definitely in there. Additionally, half of her support is Hillary folks, half of her support is Bernie folks. That`s really interesting when you`re thinking about the lanes theory and the person who can attract people from both sides.

KAPUR:  This is why she`s talking about the unity message. She`s pitching herself in the closing stages as a rare candidate, maybe the only one, who can unite the progressive faction and the moderate faction. And polls do show that she`s the number one second choice for a lot of voters.

The question for her is if she can`t win in New Hampshire where can she win? This is a neighboring state to her.

HAYES:  And the big question for her also ends up being that that grassroots fund-raising -- can you keep the engine going to say, look, we`ve got to go to Nevada and South Carolina and get to Super Tuesday and see what happens there. And that`s looming on everyone`s minds.

Zerlina Maxwell, Alexi McCammond, and Sahil Kapur, that was great, thank you so much.

Thanks to everyone here in Manchester for coming out to our live show. You`ve all been amazing. You`ve been wonderful. This Friday we`ll be back in New York with a live audience at 30 Rock. That is this Friday, February 14, Valentine`s Day. Come be romanced by the political discourse. Maybe that`s your thing, I don`t know. If it is, tickets are free and available now on our website. Grab a friend and come join us.

That`s ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END