CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The circus is coming. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington, headed next week to Cleveland. That`s right, after weeks of preview and political foreplay, the 10 candidates for president on the Republican side jam together next Thursday. The prize, a big head start on the road to Iowa, with all the TV cameras following the guy who wins big. Donald Trump is the champ heading in. There`s no denying it. Say what you will about the polls, they`re powerfully consistent. They all show the New York tycoon grabbing something in the air and talking back to it with all the gusto of a boardwalk pitchman. Only this guy isn`t selling Vegomatics, he`s selling himself to lead this country. Question of the week. How do you beat him? Or maybe more important, how do you survive the night itself? Candidates are reportedly right now in heavy prep. According to Politico, quote, "While most candidates aren`t eager to tangle with Trump, they`re all preparing for a potential encounter with the current GOP front-runner. Rand Paul, for one, will spar beforehand with a Trump stand-in, adviser Rex Elsass, who is playing the billionaire in a practice session this week." Meanwhile, one Marco Rubio adviser summed up the general fear of Trump. Quote, "He`s like a rattlesnake with a toothache." That`s an impossible metaphor, by the way, "He`s the worst kind of guy to have up there because you have no idea who he`s going to go after." Eugene Robinson writes today beautifully in "The Washington Post, quote, "I feel like a kid the week before Christmas. There`s just one present under the tree, but it`s all a columnist could ever hope for, the first Republican debate. How could Thursday night in Cleveland fail to be one of the most entertaining political spectacles we`ve seen in a long time?" I`m joined right now by the aforementioned Pulitzer Prize-winning "Washington Post" columnist Eugene Robinson, senior editor at MSNBC.com Beth Fouhy and national political reporter for "The Washington Post" Robert Costa. I`ve got to start with you, Gene. The giddiness, the excitement... (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: ... because it`s going to be two hours of, we don`t know, bedlam? Everybody`s going to be looking right at Trump. EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Usually, we have an idea of what`s going to happen. We don`t know. We don`t know what`s going to happen. We don`t know how Trump is going to play this. We don`t know what the other candidates are going to do. Are they going to go after him? Are they going to pretend he`s not there and just kind of try to stay in their lane? MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) is this going to be like Uday and Qusay in the old days of Saddam Hussein, when they look around at you in the restaurant and you don`t want to catch... ROBINSON: Don`t make eye contact! (CROSSTALK) ROBINSON: No eye contact. MATTHEWS: "Let`s talk about you." (CROSSTALK) ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST": I`ve checked in with every one of these campaigns, and you know what they say? They don`t want to win this debate, they want to survive the debate! (LAUGHTER) COSTA: This is only the first of nine. They want to get through it and just hope Trump fizzles. ROBINSON: Yes, but it`s the first... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... thinking about of the TV production aspect of this. And Roger Ailes, who runs Fox, is getting all the kudos. He`s got all the excitement. He gets to draw the line, 10 only. It`s like one of those Studio 54 things. If you can get in, it`s cool. Just getting in is cool! My question -- you got Megyn Kelly out there, one of the top people in the business out there. She`s going to be asking tough questions. They`ve got to prove their stuff, too, at Fox. And I`m wondering whether it`s going to be a battle maybe between Megyn and Donald. I`m just trying to think through the drama of the night, like Roger has already thought through it a hundred times by now. Your thoughts. BETH FOUHY, MSNBC.COM: Yes, that would be -- that would be great TV, Chris. I think that`s going to be one of goals here is -- well, certainly, for Fox, is to deliver a really great show. But I think there`s other goals here, too, and I think in Jeb Bush`s case, my guess is that Jeb Bush is the actual sort of enduring front-runner, as opposed to the solid in-your-face Donald Trump front-runner that we have right now. Jeb Bush`s goal for this whole debate is just to kind of get through looking like a grown-up. He doesn`t want to get pulled into the whole Trump madness. He`s going to just continue steady as he goes. This whole Trump experience has been absolutely fantastic for Jeb because he has looked presidential. He`s looked like the grown-up. He`s out there raising a lot of money. He doesn`t need a lot of attention on himself right now. MATTHEWS: Well, that`s -- do you guys all agree that he can sort of do the rope-a-dope here, just take the punches if Donald throws them? Gene? ROBINSON: Well, if Trump throws a punch, maybe he can slip it and rope-a- dope, right? But if Megyn Kelly throws a punch -- she`s not going to just throw a punch at Trump. She`s going to throw a punch at him. So she`s going to ask him about immigration. She`s going to ask him about... MATTHEWS: Love, people coming here for love. ROBINSON: Exactly. She`s going to -- she`s going to press him on a lot of things, and we`ll see how... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... a whole list of quotes. On thing the moderator, and Chris Wallace and the other, Bret Baier -- they`ll have in front of them every quote these guys have ever said. They`ve got a tremendous xylophone they can play. Just hit this note, hit that note, put it up on the screen, like Tim Russert used to do, put it up on the screen... COSTA: That`s right. MATTHEWS: Defend that, buddy. COSTA: That`s right. MATTHEWS: It`s tough stuff. COSTA: But you have -- you can`t just play rope-a-dope. If you think you`re going to kind of sit back, let the Donald show happen, that may not be the best strategy. I`ve been briefed by a Trump adviser. They say watch. Trump may play nice. MATTHEWS: That`s what I think! (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Here`s what I thought would surprise everybody... COSTA: He can come out with policy. He`s going to come out... (CROSSTALK) COSTA: They say if he has a window, he`s going to unveil his tax plan. He`s maybe coming out with some economic ideas... MATTHEWS: Lower taxes for the average guy, right? COSTA: Lower taxes, and he`s going to try to sound Reaganesque, whatever that means. He wants to sound broadly acceptable to the Republican base. MATTHEWS: I hear he`s getting a crew cut. Just kidding. Trump is not the only bomb thrower on stage. With the concentration of candidates angling for the spotlight, we could see a lot more comments like these. Respond to these when we`re back, Beth. Here they come. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If this deal goes through, the Obama administration will become, quite literally, the world`s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism! MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AR), FMR. GOV., PRES. CANDIDATE: This president`s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. He`s so naive, he would trust the Iranians, and he would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven. SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Iranian regime and the world should know that this deal -- this deal is your deal with Iran. I mean "yours" meaning this administration. And the next president is under no legal or moral obligation to live up to it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve been told that you said we`re living in a Gestapo age? What do you mean by that? DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean very much like Nazi Germany. And I know you`re not supposed to say Nazi Germany, but I don`t care about political correctness. (END VIDEO CLIP) (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Beth, I don`t understand. I`ve never understood the doctor doing so well in these polls because nobody really thinks of him running for president, exactly. But he is signaling some kind of message, they are all, of contempt for government, for Obama, for Hillary, for everything that works or doesn`t work in Washington. And I don`t know. You say Bush is going to end up being the favorite. I just wonder if a party so steaming with contempt would go back to the establishment after all these debates. FOUHY: Yes, but let -- let -- let`s go back to the debate that we`re facing next week. I mean, they can all come out there and trash Obama, which, of course, they will, but that`s sort of, you know, just par for the course at this point with these folks. None of them is going to stand out if they do that. Somebody on this debate stage needs to stand out in a positive way, take the spotlight back off of Trump. Marco Rubio is a great example of somebody who desperately needs the spotlight back on him. He`s sort of been out of it... MATTHEWS: Yes. FOUHY: ... for quite a long time. MATTHEWS: Well said. FOUHY: And he`s -- he`s -- he`s losing his -- his status as one of the top tier candidates, I think. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Some people are beginning to fade. ROBINSON: Well, one other candidate who really has a lot to gain or lose, I think, in this is Scott Walker. He -- in a lot of these polls, it`s Trump and Bush and Walker. They`re sort of a first tier. So is Scott Walker ready for primetime? And does Megyn Kelly press him on foreign policy, for example, you know, in which he`s fairly naive, or... MATTHEWS: Or will she get him to defend extending Medicare (sic) to higher-income brackets above the poverty line... ROBINSON: Exactly. MATTHEWS: ... which will turn off the rest of that crowd out there. COSTA: But the other people -- everyone thinks just Republican activists are watching this debate closely... MATTHEWS: No, a lot of liberals are going to be watching. COSTA: A lot of liberals but... ROBINSON: Right COSTA: ... if you`re running for president, the donors are watching closely. That`s why none of these people want... MATTHEWS: You know why they`re watching it? No knock on Hillary. She`s the front-runner, and probably will be the nominee. But she`s not a great show right now. The best show in town is on the Republican side. And political people or activists are also political junkies. They love the show. COSTA: Well, everyone`s talking about... MATTHEWS: And the show is still the best thing in town. COSTA: She`s going to be listening closely because when you talk to every Republican campaign right now doing debate prep, they got a Donald strategy, a Trump strategy, and they also have a Clinton strategy. Everyone`s going to try to get the best line on Clinton. MATTHEWS: And if Hillary`s smart, she won`t be sitting around with bunch of people laughing at the Republicans. That`s the worst message... ROBINSON: No, you don`t... MATTHEWS: ... because there`s something here. There`s something there that she better pay attention to, something about contempt of government, anger, that`s real. Let me -- let me take a look at this. Any of the other candidates go after Bush? Ted Cruz knocked, by the way, the former Florida governor this week. He went after Bush on a radio interview. So he`s going after Jeb here. Let`s watch that. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) CRUZ: In the past couple of weeks, we`ve seen both Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, both of them talking about, Now, take it easy, guys. You don`t really need to oppose this Iranian nuclear deal quite so forcefully. When you send billions of dollars to jihadists trying to kill Americans, you bear responsibility for the murder that they carry out with the money you have given them. And you know, one of the reasons Republicans keep getting clobbered is we have leaders like Mitt Romney and like Jeb Bush who are afraid to say that! (END AUDIO CLIP) MATTHEWS: What is this -- this contempt -- not just for our government, but this virulent hatred of the -- not the Islamic -- the Islamic world generally, I should say? They sound like they want to feed the fire of an East-West war, where it`s all out, Christians and Jews against Muslims all across the board, a billion Muslims in Indonesia, all through Africa. They don`t even think about the extent of the Islamic world. And they want to go to war with that world. That`s the way they talk. It`s not isolating ISIL or one or two bad guys. They seem to want to take on Islam. Is that some sort of evangelical thing that works in some big churches? COSTA: I think it`s politics. They all want to... MATTHEWS: Well, why do they want to hate an entire part of the world? COSTA: I think... (CROSSTALK) COSTA: ... the incendiary commentary coming out of Cruz, the kind of rhetoric he`s using, it`s because hard right of the GOP agrees across the board on the policy on Iran, and so... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: That`s what the Saddam Hussein -- that`s what Osama bin Laden dearly wanted to happen. ROBINSON: And it`s what ISIL wants. MATTHEWS: Yes. ROBINSON: It`s what they want, is... MATTHEWS: A conflagration East versus West. That`s what they want, for all the Islamic people to fight us. Your thoughts. (INAUDIBLE) FOUHY: But Chris, if you look at polling, there`s absolutely no support -- well not no, but very little support for invading another Islamic country. MATTHEWS: Well, what`s he selling? FOUHY: This is why... MATTHEWS: So what are they selling? FOUHY: ... this is so puzzling. They`re selling this agitation and this - - and this -- and this anger and contempt, as you describe. But does that then translate into a policy position of going in, invading, occupying another Islamic country? There`s very little support for that even among Republicans. MATTHEWS: Well said. By the way, that was really well said. That`s something (INAUDIBLE) never get to the bottom line. So what are you going to do? Anyway, the X factor of this debate may be the audience out there. In the past, it`s made headlines itself with some of its reactions, such as booing a gay soldier or cheering putting people to death. Watch some of these right-wing audiences in action. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about who I was because I`m a gay soldier. And I didn`t want to lose my job. My question is, under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that`s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military? (BOOS) BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. (APPLAUSE) WILLIAMS: Have you struggled to sleep at night? (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, there`s the... (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: They talk about wanting to kill the enemy. They want to kill him now. COSTA: These debates are all about moments. You got to be listening when you`re on that stage because you may only have an opportunity to respond to the crowd... MATTHEWS: OK... COSTA: ... and come across as... MATTHEWS: This is what turns people off on television when they`re watching these debates. They know that every one of these candidates -- and it`s all men this time because Fiorina didn`t make this cut. They`re all going to come with their little lunch buckets, and in their lunch bucket`s going to be two or three lines they`ve worked out. ROBINSON: Yes. MATTHEWS: And everybody`s going to know these bicentennial moments are coming. What`s the public -- when there`s 10 people -- they`re all going to know these are coming, and they come out with them. If I were Trump, I`d say, You must have worked really hard on that one... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... they don`t ruin it because Megyn should say something or Chris Wallace or Bret should say, Did you memorize that? You know what I mean? ROBINSON: Oh, I wouldn`t be surprised if Megyn goes after them. I mean, I think -- I think she`s going to want -- she`s going to want to make the moments. She`s going to... MATTHEWS: I think that -- I think Roger wants her to make the moments... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... a great production. ROBINSON: She`s not going to want the audience to make the moments. MATTHEWS: Yes. ROBINSON: You know, she`s going to want the make the moment. (CROSSTALK) COSTA: You can`t sound like a robot. If you come out like a robot, Trump`s going to overwhelm you because he`s not sounding like a robot. That`s why... MATTHEWS: But they are robots! (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Last word, Beth. FOUHY: Chris -- yes, another -- another challenge for them, of course, if you think about it, is even though they`ve culled the list down to 10 from the 17 candidates who are running, 10 is a heck of a lot of people to be on stage at once. They`ll all going to have such a small window of time to generate that moment. There`s a lot of pressure on them to do that. MATTHEWS: I know. So there`s the first question. You get the first answer. Will the word "trump" -- the word "trump" -- appear in the headline on AP and the major newspapers the next morning? FOUHY: Yes. COSTA: Of course. ROBINSON: A hundred percent. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I think we`ve figured or cased this one out. Thank you, Eugene Robinson. (INAUDIBLE) everybody should get it in "The Washington Post." Robert Costa, doing a hell of a job covering this campaign, as you showed tonight. Beth Fouhy, it`s great to have you on, from our own MSNBC. Coming up -- Donald Trump versus the world. We`ve got the best attack lines between Trump and his rivals as the Republican field gets ready to confront him. We`re also seeing major fireworks out there. We can expect plenty more during next week`s debate. It`s coming Thursday. We`re going to be there. Plus, attempts to keep blacks from voting, voting rights, are on trial in the battleground state of North Carolina, and Hillary Clinton hits her Republican rivals for their party`s efforts to keep minorities from the polls. Good for her. And later on, with the roundtable, we got more from that focus group of Donald Trump supporters up in New Hampshire. What is it about this guy that grabs them so? Finally, "Let Me Finish" with a warning to those debating Donald Trump next week. Be careful. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: In Miami today, Hillary Clinton challenged the Republican leadership in Congress to end the Cuban embargo and called out Republican presidential candidates who have taken a hard line against the U.S. and Cuba normalizing relations. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRES. CANDIDATE: Even many Republicans on Capitol Hill are starting to recognize the urgency of moving forward. It`s time for their leaders to either get on board or get out of the way. The Cuba embargo needs to go once and for all. (APPLAUSE) CLINTON: Unfortunately, most of the Republican candidates for president would play right into the hard-liners` hands. They have it backwards. Engagement is not a gift to the Castros, it`s a threat to the Castros. An American embassy in Havana isn`t a concession, it`s a beacon. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It`s the hottest story in American politics right now. Donald Trump has the hot hand heading into next week`s big debate. Next Thursday night -- political fight night -- we`ll be on to cover it with a special two-hour edition of HARDBALL starting at 7:00 PM Eastern, live from Cleveland, and we`ll be back at 11:00 with another jam- packed show to break it all down and show you who landed the biggest blows. If the last month is any indication of what`s in store for us next Thursday, we`re in for a treat. Trump is playing demolition derby with the Republican field. Call it the Trump dump, if you will, because if you attack him, he`s coming for you. And here`s just a taste of the chaos, the attack, the counterattacks and the evasive maneuvers heading into the debates. Roll the tape. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRES. CANDIDATE: He`s a jackass. DONALD TRUMP (R-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What a stiff. What a stiff, Lindsey Graham. By the way, he`s registered zero in the polls, zero! RICK PERRY (R-TX), FMR. GOV., PRES. CANDIDATE: Have you no sense of decency, sir? TRUMP: He put glasses on so people will think he`s smart, and it just doesn`t work! You know, people can see through the glasses. Rick Perry should have to have an IQ test before getting on the debate stage. SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t think that the way (INAUDIBLE) behavior over the last few weeks is either dignified or worthy of the office that he seeks. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about Marco Rubio? TRUMP: I think he`s highly overrated. JEB BUSH (R-FL), FMR. GOV., PRES. CANDIDATE: If we embrace this language of divisiveness and ugliness, we`ll never win. We`ll never win. TRUMP: He`s weak on immigration. He`s in favor of Common Core. How the hell can you vote for this guy? You just can`t do it. This guy can`t negotiate his way out of a paper bag! (LAUGHTER) GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R-WI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump can speak for himself. The other day, when he went after me specifically, I just said, hey, he can speak for himself. TRUMP: Oh, finally, I can attack, finally. Wisconsin`s doing terribly. The roads are a disaster. The schools are a disaster. The hospitals and education is a disaster. He was totally in favor of Common Core. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the goal here is to find the person to be president of the United States who can get the most attention, he`s going to win hands down. TRUMP: I told this to Chris. I told it to his people. He missed his time. GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I like to honor Reagan`s 11 commandment of not attacking fellow Republicans. TRUMP: Lehman Brothers almost took down the world. He was a managing partner. I think he`s a nice man. I don`t know him. But I know, if you`re the managing partner of Lehman Brothers, Lehman Brothers almost -- you`re not looking too good, you know? SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE This is the dumbest way in the world to pick a voice to talk about what is going on in America and who is best qualified to be president. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Dana Milbank`s an opinion writer with "The Washington Post" and Liz Mair is a Republican strategist. I have been covering politics longer than you even, sir, really. And I just laugh. People couldn`t hear me laughing, because there`s something truly outrageous about Trump. And yet it doesn`t hurt anybody but the other guy, and almost all of it`s true. It just happens to be true and ridiculous, but true, these assaults on these other guys. DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Love Donald Trump, hate Donald Trump you have to acknowledge this guy is a political genius. And he`s figured out exactly... MATTHEWS: Why does truth hurt the other guys, but the public wants to hear that hurt? They want to hear the punch. MILBANK: Well, he has figured out how to game the system. Look, he started out as a liberal a while ago. And he said, what do I need to do to make waves here? I got to pick on the following issues and I have got to be savage. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You`re just like him now. Everybody is gesturing. Everybody is gesturing. Arms are flying. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Liz, I mean, every time he says something, he`s like this. MILBANK: Yes. Yes. Yes. (CROSSTALK) LIZ MAIR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Or like this, like this. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: So, I mean, everybody did think that about Rick Perry. He`s wearing glasses to look more intelligent. We all knew it. And he`s the first guy to say the obvious. MAIR: Well, that`s not what I personally thought. MATTHEWS: What did you think he was wearing glasses on TV for? MAIR: Because he has a vision problem. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: But why on TV? You don`t have to see anything on TV. I do it every night. Just look at -- what is he looking at? MAIR: I don`t wear glasses. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You don`t wear glasses... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: A lot of people that wear glasses, like Jack Kennedy, never wore them on television, because you don`t need them on TV. MAIR: I have no way of knowing that. So, I will have to take your word for it. But in any event, yes, I -- no, I think he`s landing a lot of fun punchlines that appeal to a lot of people, even if they like some of these other candidates. And I think one of the main reasons why is that people generally don`t like politicians, and he`s positioned himself as an anti- politician. MATTHEWS: OK, strategy. Put your strategist`s hat on. MAIR: Sure. MATTHEWS: You got an opponent coming in there against him. Do you attack him or wait for him to attack you and then you can counterattack and people will root for you? Which way? MAIR: I would probably attack him first. And the route that I would go is, I would focus on his support for a Canadian-style health care system. If you look at what came out of... MATTHEWS: So accuse him of being a lefty. MAIR: Well, but that specifically, not all the other things, right? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Not being pro-choice, even though he said it once. MAIR: Right. If you go and you look at that focus group that was done of New Hampshire voters, that was the thing that people didn`t know about, and when they heard about, they were like, eh, that`s not good. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: The other team. MAIR: Especially because he`s also criticized Obamacare. So, people are like, wait, you`re against Obamacare, but you`re for like some sort of socialized medical system. MATTHEWS: So, you say go on the attack, take him on? MAIR: I would say go with regard to that specifically. The other thing that I would say is, since he is probably going to try to hit all these guys preemptively on illegal immigration, especially if you`re somebody like Jeb Bush, just be ready to go there with regard to his employment of unauthorized immigrants. MATTHEWS: Hiring illegals. MAIR: Yes, exactly, because... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Call him a hypocrite. MAIR: Yes, that`s something I think is going to damage him with his core audience. MILBANK: Right. Well, as you saw it with the clips there, just attacking Donald Trump is generally a recipe for failure because he`s so... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: It`s a boomerang. MILBANK: He`s so good at coming back at that. MAIR: Although I do think with Perry it`s been benefiting him a little bit. But like with Lindsey Graham, I don`t know what that`s doing for him. MATTHEWS: Well, they`re all flat-footed. They make their punch, and then they stand there like flat-footed. (CROSSTALK) MILBANK: But they look so earnest and then he looks funny and real. That`s why people in New Hampshire say, he`s like me, although he`s not like anybody in the world, except for the Donald. So I think you`re right. You do attack him, but you attack him as a left-winger. And there`s plenty of room to do that. He`s got a long track record there. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Because people will believe a guy who lives in New York and makes a lot of money is a liberal. They don`t know what a conservative in New York looks like. (CROSSTALK) MILBANK: He had an entirely different position on immigration. MAIR: Yes, although a lot of the attacks that people have been trying to lob against him about donations to Democrats, like palling around with Hillary Clinton, that stuff doesn`t seem to be sticking with voters. I really would go hard with the socialized medicine and the Canadian health care. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: That`s a big shot behavior, inviting her to at the wedding. Anyway, Rand -- I was at the wedding. Anyway, Rand Paul is now suiting up for a battle with Trump. Rand Paul, last night, he attributed Trump`s rise to a temporary loss of sanity. Let`s watch him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Why is he doing so well right now, Donald Trump? SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Television works, Wolf. If you would give some other candidates time from 8:00 in the morning until 8:00 at night all day long every day for three weeks, I`m guessing some other candidates might rise as well. This is a temporary sort of loss of sanity, but we`re going to come back to our senses and look for somebody serious to lead the country at some point. BLITZER: Do you think that 20 percent who are supporting Donald Trump, Republicans, according to this latest poll, have a loss of sanity? PAUL: No, I think what they are, is they`re hungry for somebody who will tell the truth. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: You know, that kind of whining ain`t going to work with the public. Gee whiz, he`s getting all the press. How come we can`t have some press? Because you`re not interesting. That is a whine right there from Rand Paul. MAIR: Well, I think it makes Rand Paul sound more like he`s doing my job here and being the strategist and the analyst, as opposed to being Rand Paul, who is the dude who is supposed to be leading the 13-hour filibusters and going to war with anybody who infringes on civil liberties and such and such. And I think that`s unfortunate, one of the reasons that I think we have seen a slide. The civil liberties issue isn`t as dominant as it was previously and he just -- he doesn`t have a lot to sort of grip with. MATTHEWS: Quick -- I asked all the producers here, who are smart people, what -- who has a better chance of being president than Donald Trump in the Republican top 10 there? And most people come up with the rule. They think Jeb has a better chance, they think. Rubio has a better chance. They think that Walker has a better chance and maybe Kasich. But another way of saying that is about six or seven of the guys on that stage with him have a lesser chance than he does. (CROSSTALK) MILBANK: Right. And that doesn`t even include the... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Does he attack up or attack down? The rule in politics is always attack up. You look better. Does he hit the top front-runners or go after the little guys, too? MILBANK: Does Donald Trump? MATTHEWS: Yes. MILBANK: Well, I don`t think of Donald Trump as being so discerning. I think he`s just sitting back there being himself. (CROSSTALK) MILBANK: It`s a blunderbuss. He`s just firing in every which direction. MATTHEWS: So, he`s going to... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... with everybody? MILBANK: Yes, he`s fighting every which direction. (CROSSTALK) MAIR: I`m not sure there`s a strategy there. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I think people like it when you attack up. MILBANK: He`s just -- he`s the id of the Republican electorate. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Who is the superego? (LAUGHTER) MILBANK: That would be Jeb, I... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: He doesn`t have an id. That`s his problem. Thank you. He`s the older brother. Thank you, Dana Milbank. Thank you, Liz Mair. Up next, voting rights on trial in North Carolina. And Hillary Clinton calls out her GOP counterparts for supporting right-wing efforts to block the black vote down there, the minority vote. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, several of the 2016 presidential candidates campaigned at the National Urban League`s rMD-BO_convention down in Fort Lauderdale today. And former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the largely African- American crowd that they need to fight to make their votes count. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Political operatives are trying every trick in the book to prevent African-Americans from voting. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: She also took a swipe at Jeb Bush and his Right to Rise super PAC. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: Too often, we see a mismatch between what some candidates say in venues like this and what they actually do when they`re elected. And you cannot seriously talk about the right to rise and support laws that deny the right to vote. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Also today, a federal judge heard final arguments in a case brought by the Department of Justice and voting rights advocates to rescind North Carolina`s 2013 laws designed to block broad access to the ballot box, laws that roughly cut in half the number of early voting days and requiring voters to register 20 days in advance of an election, rather than on Election Day. Joining me right now is the former -- actually, former Obama pollster Cornell Belcher. Thank you, Cornell. Let me -- this thing that -- all this seems to have started since Obama carried North Carolina in 2008. It just seems like, all of a sudden, we have to have all these new rules because guess what? A Southern state voted for Obama. So let`s fix that. All of a sudden, we`re hearing about voter I.D. laws and no more Souls to the Polls. All this seems to be targeted at the black vote. CORNELL BELCHER, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: Well, and also, my state, my Southern state, Virginia, is still in the South, although they keep trying to move it out of the South. I mean, when you see where the African-American vote is having the most impact, it is in those traditional Southern places. And it`s not surprising that the moment the Voting Rights Act was rolled back, they start doing the things that the Voting Rights Act was put in place to stop them from doing. And that`s sort of blocking access and making it harder for minorities and poor people to actually go to the polls. MATTHEWS: This is what Jim Crow was all about. BELCHER: Yes. MATTHEWS: After Reconstruction was thrown away in 1876, everything was about preventing blacks from any more, like they had held office up until 1876, after the war, make sure that doesn`t happen again. BELCHER: That blacks couldn`t have power. I`m from the South. And there`s always been an old saying that my father used to say. Look, blacks and whites could always get along in the South. Quite frankly, blacks and whites could always get along in the South. Blacks just couldn`t have power. And when blacks tried to get power, that`s when the trouble started. And when you see state after state here now making it harder for minorities to vote, you understand the demographic changes that are going on in America. And Barack Obama to a certain extent is a sea change moment in American history, because all of a sudden that Reagan coalition that controlled the White House for all those years, we saw Mitt Romney run up the score in that Reagan coalition and actually get more votes than Ronald Reagan, and Mitt Romney was a horrible candidate. You saw that new voter, that younger, browner vote turn out in droves and elect someone that the vast, vast majority of the white vote decided they did not want. MATTHEWS: There was no white vote to offset the great minority vote. BELCHER: No. MATTHEWS: I`m look at something here. We were down in North Carolina last year. And we noticed something that was going on. Even when the right wing isn`t able to get through these provisions making it harder for black people to vote, minorities to vote, right? BELCHER: Right. MATTHEWS: There was a fear among the people that they were in effect, that people were afraid like hell. And that`s why they put up a sign, get out there, you won`t need an I.D. this time, because people were afraid that the news was saying it is going to be much tougher to vote, so people were afraid they wouldn`t vote. So it worked. BELCHER: Well, intimidation -- intimidation has always been a part of, quite frankly, politics in lots of parts of this country, particularly in the South. Most people would say that the lynching that you saw going on there was intimidation and part of politics. What`s interesting about it is when we tested some of this stuff in 2012, we saw in fact a certain cohort of the African-American electorate actually get more energized by them trying to sort of block -- trying to block it. MATTHEWS: I love that. I love that. BELCHER: But also this North Carolina case also shows that where some African-Americans actually did get disenfranchised because of these laws. And when you win a state or lose a state by a couple of thousand points, a couple hundred points, it makes it a big deal. MATTHEWS: I know. Cornell, thanks so much for joining us. By the way, your dad`s very smart. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Because there`s a difference between Northern and Southern prejudice about African-Americans by white people. It`s very different. BELCHER: Yes. MATTHEWS: There`s a difference. Keep your distance in the North. In the South, oh, we can be close together, but I`m the boss. BELCHER: Right. Just don`t have power. MATTHEWS: A very different kind of prejudice. Both are pretty bad. Up next, we will hear more from those -- and, by the way, both are going away, I think, some day. New Hampshire focus groups about Donald Trump`s candidacy, they are something to listen to, including one who says he will vote for Trump if he runs as an independent, even if that helps Hillary win. In other words, a conservative would rather Hillary win, so he gets to vote for this guy in the third party. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening. Boeing says that it`s sending a technical team to help analyze the airplane part that was found on Reunion Island that`s being sent to France for further investigation. A Delta pilot attempts to land at New York`s JFK Airport reported a close encounter with a drone about 100 feet below that aircraft. The plane with 159 people on board landed without incident. And the Coast Guard is suspending its search for two teenagers who were seen a week ago as they headed out on a fishing trip. Their boat was found on Sunday -- back to HARDBALL. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t think he represents the Republican Party, and his views are way out of the mainstream of what Republicans think. He`s not a stupid guy. So I don`t assume he`s like -- he thinks that every Mexican crossing the border is a rapist. I mean, so he`s doing this to inflame and to incite. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was, of course, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush talking about the new Republican front-runner, Donald Trump. Jeb might not thing too much of the brash New York City billionaire, but voters in the first presidential primary state of New Hampshire certainly do. As we showed you yesterday, Bloomberg conducted a focus group of Trump supporters up there in New Hampshire on what they find so appealing about Trump. Here`s a bit more of that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn`t care what people think. He tells the truth, what we need to do. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like he said, I won`t be bought off, whereas, anybody else, I have the money, will be -- have a chance of being bought off. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And get Washington-itis, which is so many politicians, they go to Washington, and they become completely -- you know, they don`t work for their constituents anymore. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: They also spoke about what concerns them about Trump. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Potentially, he could cross over with some inappropriate comment that`s going to turn a large number of people off, and it would very much concern me if he -- at that point he was the nominee. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In my opinion what hurt Romney was his success and his money and that could be Trump`s downfall as much as it`s his asset. It could also be a weakness because of the way people perceive wealth. You know, some see it as success and others see it as greed. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think he can shoot himself in the foot. (END VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Joining the roundtable right now, Michelle Bernard of Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy, and former Virginia Congressman Tom Davis, a Republican, and former Texas Congressman Martin Frost, a Democrat. They`re the co-authors of a big new book "The Partisan Divide", which we`re going to talk about shortly, "The Partisan Divide." Let`s start -- first, you got to pay for your supper here, guys. Tom, you said before we came on the air that you think that Bush is handling the Trump phenomenon correctly now. TOM DAVIS (R-VA), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, he is now. He started off attacking him and that`s wrong. I think you have to be respectful of the message that he`s sending. You want to put distance between how you deliver that at this point. But there`s a chunk of voters that sooner or later because Trump is so undisciplined are looking for somebody else. If you`ve been the guy attacking the message, that you`re out of luck. MATTHEWS: Martin? MARTIN FROST (D-TX), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Look, Trump is appealing to anger. Those are the people he`s going after. They`re mad. They`re not sure exactly what they`re mad about, but they don`t like big business, they don`t like big labor. And here they are going to support a very wealthy guy. It doesn`t make a lot of sense on its face but he`s tapped into anger in this country. MATTHEWS: Here`s the question I have, just as a political observer, how does a party that is showing so much anger and contempt for the establishment -- left, right and center -- pick Jeb Bush after all this is over with? How can all this fire lead to that next spring? MICHELLE BERNARD, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN: Because can do -- because the question is, when does Donald Trump burn out if he burst out -- MATTHEWS: The anger is still going to be there. BERNARD: Well, the anger is still going to be there. But -- MATTEHWS: Why would the anger go to Jeb Bush who personifies the way things are. BERNARD: Well, if you look at some of the things that people raised in the Bloomberg interview for example about what worries them about Donald Trump, those are the things I think that may lead to a Jeb Bush, saying the wrong thing. MATTHEWS: Oh, great. (CROSSTALK) BERNARD: But, seriously, from the person who is not an elected official, if you`re sitting back and you liked Chris Christie, as people did. Chris Christie has the same problem that Donald Trump had and the electorate is still angry and it`s going to cause other politicians to get smart. But Donald Trump may not get any smarter. MATTHEWS: How do you -- I agree with all that. Everybody knows this guy can blow up in a day with some terrible comment about somebody. But he hasn`t been able to do it yet as hard as he`s tried. My question, how can a party that seems to be in love with this wild man out there who is saying everything you hear from these guys, they`re all a bunch of bums, by the way, except me. How do they go back and say, OK, now, we`re going to end up with Bush and Kasich? DAVIS: It`s last man standing. I mean, basically -- MATTHEWS: And they will get out and vote for the guy who is last man standing. You remember going to Wendy`s late at night, there`s nothing else open. I mean, why get excited about the last place open at night? BERNARD: Kasich is a dark horse. DAVIS: You may not get excited about it, but at the end of the day, he`s got the money to sustain it, the delegates to sustain it. The Republicans will rally around whoever they nominate at this point -- MATTHEWS: Is that what you think, Michelle? They want to beat Hillary enough they`ll go with anybody? BERNARD: Absolutely. And I also think Kasich has a very good shot at it. He is affable, he`s is personable -- MATTHEWS: You`re stealing my sun. (CROSSTALK) BERNARD: Kasich, Bush and Christie I believe have a very good shot at it. MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the rules. Trump has set this up almost like Ross Perot. If the Republicans treat me right, then I`ll back them in the general election. But if they don`t treat me right, I`m going to run against them? What does treating him right or wrong mean, Mr. Frost? FROST: It`s impossible to say. What happens is he suddenly falls off the list, then he`s been treated wrong. Now, Chris has a very interesting point. Perot`s from Dallas where I represented, I knew Perot. My initial reaction was, well, this will happen, Trump will be like Perot. Those are the voters he`ll get. One of my friends in the black community has been very active. He`s not Perot, he`s George Wallace. He`s appealing to downscale, non-college educated whites, not necessarily in the racial way that Wallace did, though -- MATTHEWS: But somebody has to appeal to them. FROST: He`s come close. MATTHEWS: What`s wrong with appealing to them? FROST: Well, they aren`t the majority of the country. MATTHEWS: Yes. DAVIS: But they`re part of a coalition. MATTHEWS: Big part of the Republican Party now. FROST: That`s right. They were a part of the Democratic Party in `68, now they`re part of the Republican Party. You pull that out of the Republican Party and you elect Hillary. MATTHEWS: Yes, Nixon called them cloth cut Republicans. If you lose them, you lose a lot of Republicans. That`s why I think. And I wonder whether, that`s why I guess we started here in the segment, which is Bush has to be so careful to outlast Trump but not to blast him. BERNARD: And that`s another reason why he might be the last man standing. He is not going to offend Latinos, African-Americans and a whole groups of people. FROST: I don`t give advice to Republicans generally but the best Republican ticket is a Midwestern governor and Rubio as president. That`s how they maximize the vote -- MATTHEWS: Kasich and Rubio? FROST: Or Walker and Rubio. MATTHEWS: I`m a big believer. I`ve been following Ohio since I was 10 or 12 years old. It is the most fascinating state. FROST: Absolutely. MATTHEWS: It decides elections. If the Republicans don`t get it, they don`t win. BERNARD: Can I put in a word for a female V.P. on the Republican ticket? MATTHEWS: Who do you like? BERNARD: I like the governor of South Carolina with Kasich. MATTHEWS: Well, she showed some stuff. DAVIS: You got a good governor in New Mexico, too. MATTHEWS: The roundtable is staying with us. And up next, these two veterans tell us how to fix the gaping partisan divide. That`s a big mouthful. That`s coming. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, Jeb Bush sat down with NBC`s Lester Holt and Lester asked Bush if he ever thought he`d be trailing Donald Trump heading into the first debate, and what`s behind his rise. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: Did you ever foresee a scenario in which you would be number two to Donald Trump in the first debate? JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I didn`t know where I was going to be, for sure. (CROSSTALK) BUSH: I don`t know. This is a long haul. So, my focus is on what the world looks like in January coming going into the February caucuses and primaries. I was surprised that Donald Trump has surged. I think he`s captured the deep frustration that people feel. I mean, I get that. I get the lack of rule of law, the sanctuary cities, the open borders, all those things. He`s, in a very graphic way, appealed to people`s anger about those things. And I think it`s important to be respectful of that, make the case that we can fix these things and over time, the Trump phenomena will either succeed or fail based on his proposals. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: I think that guy needs more excitement. We`ll be right back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable. Former Republican Congressman Tom Davis and former Democratic Congressman Martin Frost teamed up to write a book about the bitter relations between Democrats and Republicans and the crisis it`s creating in Congress today. It`s called "The Partisan Divide". There it is. They write, quote, "We are appalled by the current state of politics in America. It hasn`t always been like this and doesn`t have to be like this in the future." While fundraising and congressional redistricting are just two examples Davis and Frost say are the symptoms creating the gridlock on Capitol Hill. They want to see more bipartisan interaction and less time spent raising money. Whatever happened to the poker games, they asked, and formal dinners where members of both parties can actually get to know each other. And they say we need to bring back earmarks so more deals could be made to get things done in Congress. Tom Davis, you proposed something that the politically correct people say, that`s bad. Earmarks had a bad name. It means getting something in a bigger appropriations bill to fix maybe Boston College, give them a new library, the Tip O`Neill Library, or something like that. These are all things which are the big dig in Boston. DAVIS: Somebody is -- MATTHEWS: These were all good things. DAVIS: Somebody earmarks it somewhere along the line. Why not Congress? The first 100 years of the Republican, it was all earmarks. MATTHEWS: Explain earmarks, you have one of special interest to you, right? DAVIS: Something that`s helpful to your district. But you`re appropriating the money. The money comes from your state allocation. MATTHEWS: OK. Tell me how that would improve the system if you brought them back? DAVIS: Well, first of all, members have skin in the game. You have something in the bill to vote for. Now, really, every incentives to vote against these spending bills. FROST: So you wouldn`t have CRs necessarily. You wouldn`t govern by continuing resolution. MATTHEWS: You`d pass appropriations. So, the Congress people, and you both been there, you know the valuable thing is to be able to put something in your newsletter that you put out. It says, this month I was able to win an appropriation for the new building of this in Texas. DAVIS: It gives you reason to be for it. Number two, it`s a huge transfer of authority from the legislative branch to the executive branch. They`re suing Obama over taking usurping legislative branch authority. They just transfer the major power Congress has, the power of the purse of the executive branch by doing away. FROST: Earmarks, it was only about 2 percent of the appropriations that were actually earmarked. MATTHEWS: Martin, let`s talk to the progressives watching right now, and you can jump on this obviously, because all we talk about this. The Congress looks like -- the House of Representatives looks like it`s in Republican hands for the time, as far as we can see. FROST: For this decade. Not as far as we can see and it`s because of gerrymandering, the Republicans are very smart. They captured a lot of state legislatures last -- right before the last redistricting, and they did it fairly well, Pennsylvania Democrats carry a majority of the vote, Republicans get 13 of the 18 congressional seats. MATTHEWS: And the Democrats get five. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Even though most people in Pennsylvania usually vote Democrat for Congress, they end up with only five seats and the other side ends up - - FROST: What we recommend is nonpartisan redistricting commissions. You only have five seats to do that right now. Those districts aren`t as (INAUDIBLE) and they are more competitive. MATTHEWS: What about a primary where everybody gets to run like in California? FROST: Well, we suggested that. I would consider that too. We ought to consider that. MATTHEWS: Do you like it? FROST: He loves it. I`m less excited about it. MATTHEWS: Because it`s going to create interesting fights. You know, Sam Farr get challenged by Jimmy Panetta in California. You don`t know what`s going to happen. FROST: My friend Howard Berman lost because of that. MATTHEWS: Yes, because he had to go right in that Los Angeles district and it didn`t work for him very well. DAVIS: The interesting thing is the fastest growing group in the electorate are independents. But they`re out of the system because most of these races are decided in primaries. FROST: They don`t vote in the primaries. MATTHEWS: Who are independents, ex-Democrats or ex-Republicans? DAVIS: More Republicans right now. FROST: Both. BERNARD: Both and a lot of African Americans are self-identifying as independents. (CROSSTALK) FROST: They`re precluded by law from voting in primaries in many states. In other states, they don`t vote in primaries. So, what you have is a very narrow part of the electorate determining the nomination. That person wins the general election, people don`t talk to each other because they`re afraid they`re going to be attacked in the primary by somebody in the extreme. MATTHEWS: I know. In a totally Democratic big city district, you cannot lose a general. You can`t. Anyway, thank you. FROST: Or in the Republican district. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michelle Bernard, Tom Davis, Martin Frost. Thank you, gentlemen. Please some back and we`ll talk more. The book out right now is called "The Partisan Divide". When we return, let me finish with the warning to those debating Donald Trump next week. And I mean, a stern warning. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a warning to those debating Donald Trump next week. Don`t for a minute think he`s not onto something. Don`t ever get the idea that his claim on public sentiment right now, clear as hell in the polls, is something to be ignored, because the public are out there cheering him right now and cannot safely be ignored. There is, and some Trump success proves it, a deep contempt out there for the political class`s failure to protect this country`s interests. Say what you will about the reasons for it. Place to blame on whichever party you choose, but these are the facts. One, we have no enforced method for stopping illegal immigration. It continues right now, will continue tonight, will be ongoing tomorrow. People come into this country illegally and no one in the government, not in Congress, not in the administration has proved capable or even willing to stop it. Two, we are spending huge deficits every year adding to the national debt, year after year, until it now matches the total capacity our entire economy. Three, American manufacturing is now on its last legs. We consume. We do not make. Not like we did. Not like we must, if we are to support a solid and secure workforce. Meanwhile, China is producing like a bandit. It makes many Americans worry. Four, we face an ISIS we seem incapable of defeating. We start wars that do not make sense, yet, we cannot fight the war we didn`t start. And this is the country, this is the government, and this is the attitude the American people now share with Donald Trump. He`s doing well because he is talking like the person out there who has no public voice. If the other candidates believe they can show contempt for Trump, they should tread very carefully because it might just sell like they`re showing contempt for Trump`s message, and doing that would be to show contempt for the very people who will decide this next election, and they will be listening. That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
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