CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Cleveland where we witnessed of course one wild debate. Expectations were of course high and the candidates certainly delivered. Trump stole the show right out of the gate. He said, I will not pledge loyalty to the party I`m now debating within. It was an extraordinary moment. Moderator Bret Baier asked the candidates to all take the pledge by putting their hands -- actually, he told them that they weren`t going to take it to put their hand in the air and Trump put his hand up and said, I`m not ruling out a third party. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRET BAIER, DEBATE MODERATOR: Raise your hand now if you won`t make that pledge tonight. (CHEERS) BAIER: Mr. Trump. (BOOS) BAIER: So Mr. Trump, to be clear, you`re standing on a Republican primary debate. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I fully understand. BAIER: The place where the RNC will give nominee the nod. TRUMP: I fully understand. BAIER: And that experts say an independent run would almost certainly hand the race over to Democrats and likely another Clinton. You can`t say tonight that you can make that pledge? TRUMP: I cannot say I have to respect the person that if it`s not me, the person that wins. If I do win and I`m leading by quite a bit, that`s what I want to do. I can totally make that pledge if I`m the nominee, I will pledge I will not run as an independent but -- and I am discussing it with everybody, but I`m, you know, talking about a lot of leverage. We want to win, and we will win. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Whose the we? The point is he`s not a we. Anyway, Trump was just getting started. Things got heated when moderator Megyn Kelly pressed Trump about his rhetoric about -- well, you might call it rhetoric -- about women. Let`s watch this heated moment. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MEGYN KELLY, DEBATE MODERATOR: You`ve called women you don`t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals. Your twitter account -- TRUMP: Only Rosie O`Donnell. (LAUGHTER) KELLY: It was well beyond Rosie O`Donnell. TRUMP: Yes, I`m sure it was. KELLY: Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women`s looks. You once told a contestant on "Celebrity Apprentice" it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president? And how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton who is likely to be the Democratic nominee that you are part of the war on women? TRUMP: I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. And I don`t frankly have time for total political correctness. What I say is what I say, and honestly, Megyn, if you don`t like it, I`m sorry. I`ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be based on the way you have treated me but I wouldn`t do that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, I think the key line in his response was this hand movement, which I can get tough with you if you stay like that with me. A threat. Almost like a direct threat I would say. Things also got hot when moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump about his company`s bankruptcies, four of them. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Four times I took advantage of the law and frankly so has everybody else in my position. CHRIS WALLACE, DEBATE MODERATOR: Well, sir, let`s just talk about the latest example which is Trump Entertainment Resorts, which went bankrupt in 2009. In that case alone, lenders to your company lost over $1 billion and more than 1100 people were laid off. TRUMP: Well -- WALLACE: Is that the way that you`d run this country? TRUMP: Let me just tell you about the lenders. First of all, these lenders aren`t babies. These are total killers. These are not the nice sweet little people that you think, OK? You know, I mean, you`re living in a world of the make-believe. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Absolutely extraordinary if you follow that line of reasoning. Kasie Hunt is joining us now, she`s MSNBC`s political correspondent. Of course Eugene Robinson a columnist with the "Washington Post," and also we have Robert Costa, a reporter with the "Washington Post" who does the A section work over there. I have to tell you, I got to do my Trump thing, I put my hands out because I don`t know how -- there is nothing he can`t get around. First of all, he trashes the looks of women and says, I`m only talking about, what`s her name? (CROSSTALK) EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POLICE COLUMNIST: Rosie O`Donnell, right. MATTHEWS: Rosie O`Donnell. Then he says I`m only -- I only screw stiff people out of money in the trillions because they`re bad guys. ROBINSON: Yes. MATTHEWS: They`re bad guy. So it`s OK if I -- KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL REPORTER: Not the little guys. Not the little guys. ROBINSON: You know, I watched -- I watched the debate at a watch party at the American Conservative Union had around the corner of the house -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Yes. ROBINSON: The house of blues, right. And first of all, wild cheers for Trump. MATTHEWS: On those points? ROBINSON: Yes. Got cheered on those points. He got through all those three points, the third party pledge, the -- MATTHEWS: Rosie O`Donnell. ROBINSON: Comments about women and the bankruptcy thing. Got through all of those just fine. The only time the applause for Trump kind of quieted down a bit was actually toward the end of the debate when he seemed to kind of run out of steam. HUNT: Yes. ROBINSON: After, you know, how many times can you repeat that everybody is stupid. And that`s what kind of sad. MATTHEWS: I think a two-hour debate was too long a length for him. ROBINSON: It was. HUNT: That was about the time that Jeb Bush`s people started to feel more confident. That`s when I started to get notes saying, hey, like, this debate is shifting in our favor. There are some moments here that ultimately Trump is going to come to regret. Now we`ll see if that`s actually the case. But they felt much better about this. (CROSSTALK) ROBINSON: Right. But the first two-thirds, three-quarters was all Trump. MATTHEWS: Did you ever get a sense that anybody thought that Jeb was really on top of the situation? HUNT: For the first half of this debate, I don`t think so at all. He didn`t make any major mistakes necessarily. MATTHEWS: Yes. HUNT: But at the same time, he was given opportunities with the exception of the first answer when he went straight to his record as governor of Florida, which is exactly what he wanted to do in this debate. MATTHEWS: Yes. HUNT: After that, he was defensive and then he was a little bit muddled in his response. MATTHEWS: OK. I love guys that write A section leads. ROBINSON: Yes. MATTHEWS: And I want to know the lead is on the wires and the "Washington Post." What was the lead of the debate tonight? Go to tomorrow morning, front page main bar. ROBERT COSTA, WASHINGTON POST: So we got Trump playing by his own rules. You look at that first answer he gave, brutally honest. He`s playing to the part of the party that doesn`t even like the party. They like that he`s not facing up to the establishment. MATTHEWS: Is that the lead? The Trump of both part. COSTA: He`s not playing by his own rules, total Trump, he`s disrupting the entire field. They don`t know how to handle him. He -- they are tossing him this question, pledge loyalty to the party. He says no thanks. He`s challenged on women. Shrugs it off. They don`t know how to control this phenomenon and it`s not ending any time. MATTHEWS: OK. Look. Here we got some news here because you got breaking news now, moments ago, Kasie, I interviewed Donald Trump in the debate spin room. Let`s listen to that exchange. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I thought it was an unfair question. They didn`t ask those questions of anybody else and I thought it was an unfair question but you know what, the answers were good obviously because everybody thinks I won. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you going to call Roger Ailes about it? TRUMP: No, I wouldn`t do that. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why ran for office Mr. Trump? UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Trump, I mean, with all due respect, maybe none of the other candidates have said anything along those lines about women. TRUMP: All I know is everybody came up to me and said I had the tough -- they weren`t even questions, there were statements that they asked, but you know what, it doesn`t matter. I answered them well and I`m very happy and I really had a good time. I thought it was an amazing debate and I got to know some of the folks that I really didn`t know and they really are quality people. (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Trump -- UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Who is your most worthy opponent? UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Who do you think -- TRUMP: I think I have a lot of worthy opponents. I got to know some of them tonight I really didn`t know and I think there are a lot of worthy opponents. I think you have some really good people on that stage tonight. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Trump, Rand Paul -- UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think that you could beat Hillary Clinton as an independent? TRUMP: I think I would beat Hillary Clinton definitely as a Republican, independent is tougher, there is no question about that but I would be here definitely as a Republican. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: So he`s given it some thought, this third party run, not just as an option. HUNT: He has to say that, and Reince Priebus was in the spin room saying that it would be a death wish for him to go as a third party candidate. MATTHEWS: Why would it be a death wish? HUNT: Because no, he listed him in the same category as Ross Perot, for example. People who ultimately -- the winner is going to be a Republican or Democrat, and -- MATTHEWS: Well, why would that be a death wish for Trump? Be a death wish for Reince Priebus? HUNT: Well, that may be more accurate. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: He`s the one that`s going to lose here. Robert, do you think -- this is fascinating because we watched a two-hour debate and it seemed to be the news was made in the first minute. Do you think there is a sense that FOX has no role? Why would FOX be in charge of party discipline? Why would they feel that they have the responsibility to crack the whip of party discipline in a debate? They are just hosting the debate. It`s not the party. Is FOX part of the Republican Party? COSTA: No. I think FOX was trying to provoke. ROBINSON: Yes. COSTA: FOX is trying to get -- they see the front runner there. They want to get him talking. I thought they`re going to either ask about the Clinton call or they`re going to ask about the independent bid. He knew those were coming. MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, let me get back to Trump tonight. Did he -- if you have to look at a poll and predict the next series of polls, the next five, for example. ROBINSON: OK. Five. MATTHEWS: Between now and September 16th when they look at this CNN. ROBINSON: Yes. MATTHEWS: Because we know we now do the bunches of five. Will he go up or down? ROBINSON: I think he goes up. I think he goes up. You know, not another meteoric rise, that it won`t be double where he is. MATTHEWS: But he hasn`t crested? ROBINSON: No, I don`t think he`s crested. I don`t think. Do you? HUNT: I mean, look, I think -- MATTHEWS: Did he make your headlines tonight is my first question? You said yes. HUNT: I think yes. I think that`s clear. ROBINSON: Yes. Oh, yes. Oh, Yes. HUNT: I think right out of the gate he made headlines. MATTHEWS: So the people who didn`t watch tonight will hear the headline. HUNT: Well, I think, look, I think the question is, OK, a lot of these early polls, they`re polling people who are paying the closest attention. And those are the conservative activist. And a lot of them are the people who are the most jazzed up by Trump. I think The question here is, did this wider audience, and it is going to be a wider audience, did they receive that the same way those activists do and did they get behind him and feel angry and energized or is it a broader audience that says you know what, I want somebody that seems a little more measured, I want somebody who has experienced potentially a commander-in-chief more than Trump. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Here`s the question. The press gets some doors open for it tonight. I`m talking about journalistic enterprise from now on. COSTA: Yes. Yes. MATTHEWS: The fact we`re now focusing on four bankruptcies. The fact we`re talking about some trash talk about women in the past. Did FOX do a service for journalism by opening up those doors? COSTA: Well, we`ve been looking in -- everybody has been looking into the businesses. It`s only going to continue. Your question, though, about Trump cresting, who else had the same amount of energy and the same amount of correct response on that stage? If you want to beat Trump, you`ve got to have some momentum. You`ve got to get attention. You`ve got to get some buzz. No one else had it. He had it. He had some stumbles but he still came out as the king. MATTHEWS: Well, he may have gotten -- HUNT: I do think that there are a couple of people that really better themselves tonight, though. First among them probably John Kasich. I think he`s somebody that first of all he has the crowd on his side which, as Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney both know, can really matter in a debate setting like this. And second of all, he stood out on that stage more than I think many of the others. He had a couple of good moments and that`s what he needs to be doing right now. COSTA: Compassion. Human. MATTHEWS: Yes. Let`s take a look at him. The Ohio Governor John Kasich talking about what pushed Trump to the top of the polls. Let`s listen to his assessment. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was just saying to Chris Christie, they say we`re outspoken, we need to take lessons from Donald Trump if we`re really going to -- if we`re going to learn. Here`s the thing about Donald Trump. Donald Trump is hitting a nerve in this country. He is. He`s hitting a nerve. People are frustrated. They are fed up. They don`t think the government is working for them. And for people that want to just tune him out, they are making a mistake. Mr. Trump is touching a nerve because people want the wall to be built. They want to see an end to illegal immigration. They want to see it and we all do. But we all have different ways of getting there and you`re going to hear from all of us tonight about what our ideas are. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, there he is giving him credit for being the booster rocket for the conservative issues. Maybe that`s not the right solution, the wall, but he`s raised the issue of illegal immigration in the way that connects with the average Republican voter. COSTA: I think Kasie nailed it. Kasich sneaks into this debate 10th spot, goes right for Trump`s coalition. ROBINSON: Yes. COSTA: While embraces the Donald. HUNT: Yes. COSTA: Says I`m your kind of guy. I`m a combative working class Ohio governor. So he`s thinking if Trump fizzles out, those could be my voters. ROBINSON: Right. MATTHEWS: Yes. Who else is playing that card? COSTA: Cruz. But Cruz didn`t really play it tonight. ROBINSON: No, he didn`t. HUNT: But Cruz barely played it tonight. COSTA: Not as much as Kasich. MATTHEWS: They`re all buying tickets on the Trump express, hoping that Trump won`t make it. ROBINSON: Yes. But, you don`t -- Trump did a couple of things to help himself tonight. Despite maybe there were a couple of stumbles but one thing he did, for example, was when FOX went after him, he hit back. OK. He didn`t sort of meekly accept the premise of their questioning, he didn`t apologize. He hit back either with a certain amount of -- MATTHEWS: What about his implicit threat to Megyn, when he goes like this, like, it may get a little tougher for you? (CROSSTALK) ROBINSON: I don`t -- I don`t -- MATTHEWS: What does that mean? A little tougher for you? ROBINSON: I don`t know New York (INAUDIBLE). I don`t get that. MATTHEWS: I just like, what`s that mean? A little tougher for you? HUNT: Well, you heard him double down on that. I mean, I asked him about whether, you know, he was essentially saying no one else got asked questions like this on that stage and to which I asked him, well, has anyone else made comments like this and he says well, everybody that I`ve talked to says that the question was unfair. MATTHEWS: Really? HUNT: So he`s going after Megyn Kelly is doubling down. MATTHEWS: How many people has he talked to since the program ended? HUNT: That`s a great question. ROBINSON: Many people. Many, many people. MATTHEWS: Huge number of people. ROBINSON: Huge. MATTHEWS: Robert Costa, Kasie and Gene are all sticking with me. Coming up, we`re going to get reaction tonight to the up and comer on this stage tonight. Ohio Governor John Kasich, and this is HARDBALL, live coverage of the Republican debate live from Cleveland. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL live in the streets of Cleveland with some interesting people joining us in the streets. Anyway, we`ve just been watching the first debate. Who came up on top tonight and got questions, got the best punches and put another way, who is Hillary Clinton watching tonight and perhaps fearing? That`s a strong word. But Kasie and Gene Robinson are both still with me. And joining me right now is former United States senator from New Hampshire, John Sununu, who is a big backer of John Kasich. By the way, here`s John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, talking about same-sex marriage tonight. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KASICH: Because somebody doesn`t think the way I do doesn`t mean that I can`t care about them or can`t love them. So if one of my daughters happened to be that, of course I would love them and I would accept them. Issues like that, issues like that are planted to divide us. I think the simple fact of the matter is and this is where I would agree with Jeb, and I`ve been saying it all along, we need to give everybody a chance, treat everybody with respect and let them share in this great American dream. God gives me unconditional love, I`m going to give it to my family and my friends and the people around me. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: You know, that is an amazing appeal of compassion that reminds me of Bobby Kennedy, who was part Irish cop and part guy who talked like that and cared like that. And will that work in the Republican Party today when there is so much anger and bitterness about things? JOHN SUNUNU, FORMER U.S. REPUBLICAN SENATOR: Absolutely. And the power of that answer and many of John Kasich`s answers tonight was that it was the truth. You know, he just -- he talked about what he had done as a congressman, what he had done in Ohio, what drives and motivates him, his vision, and when you talk about those things passionately and from experience, then leadership qualities come through. I mean, they see that you`re poised. They see that you`re presidential so you don`t have to say, I`m a leader or I`m presidential. It comes through in the passion and the clarity with which we answer questions and that`s why John Kasich did so well tonight. MATTHEWS: Is there still a cloth coat Republican Party? Not a country club party? (CROSSTALK) SUNUNU: That`s like two generations ago. I`m not even sure what that means. MATTHEWS: What it means is guys who are -- SUNUNU: There is a Republican Party that -- MATTHEWS: Working class guys. SUNUNU: Sure. Working class? Absolutely. You know, Reagan Republicans, Reagan Democrats, that want someone that has experience, that`s tough, that`s honest, that will tell somebody, I don`t agree with you and in that question, he was saying, I don`t necessarily agree with everyone on this, but that won`t stop me from being a visionary and an inclusive president. MATTHEWS: OK. You got two message centers tonight. One guy talking about being a guy who grew up in pretty low economic circumstances and a couple of them were like that. And then you have the bragger out there, saying, I`m rich as hell, I say what I want about women. SUNUNU: Yes. MATTHEWS: And you`re going to vote for me because you look up to a guy like me. What is the more appealing image? The guy who`s worked his way to being a good governor or a guy who`s worked his way to making $10 billion? SUNUNU: At the end of the day primary voters know they`re choosing a candidate for the presidency of the United States and that requires discipline and vision and leadership and not rhetoric, not attention getting, not reality TV. I don`t think Donald Trump helped him tonight but we`ll see. MATTHEWS: When do the lines cross? SUNUNU: It`s a long way to go. MATTHEWS: When do Trump`s lines start to go down? SUNUNU: Who knows? MATTHEWS: And Kasich -- SUNUNU: Kasich`s team thinks Donald Trump`s numbers will go up. Maybe they will. I think at the end of the day, though, you know, Republican primary voters want someone that doesn`t need on-the-job-training, they want someone that`s ready for that role today, and that`s one of John Kasich`s strengths. ROBINSON: See, I think the X factor, Senator, is something that my colleague Bob Costa said, which is Republicans who don`t like to party, who don`t like politics and politicians. It`s not just Republicans, by the way. There are a lot of Democrats, too. They`re just fed up with the political system and the way it functions or fails to function. SUNUNU: Sure. Sure. Those voters were there. Those voters were there for Pat Buchanan. They were there for Ross Perot. ROBINSON: Yes. SUNUNU: And neither of them ever won the nomination. I think it`s tough to build a coalition if you`re starting from that point. And that`s the challenge. It doesn`t mean it can`t be done but people that speak with a conservative vision as John Kasich has, has governed with conservative principles but inclusively. That`s the kind of candidate that`s been successful in previous Republican primaries but also Republicans who get elected president of the United States. ROBINSON: You know, I certainly do agree that John Kasich cemented himself as part of the conversation, a real part of the conservation. MATTHEWS: Yes. He just squeaked into this conversation, too, let`s not forget. ROBINSON: Yes. I mean -- MATTHEWS: He just made the cut. Anyway, let`s take a look at this response from Jeb Bush who seems to be sort of near the top but not very exciting right now, to a question about Iraq. Apparently he bobbled this one. Let`s take a watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Knowing what we know now with faulty intelligence and not having security be the first priority when we invaded, it was a mistake. Here`s the lesson that we should take from this which relates to this whole subject, Barack Obama became president and he abandoned Iraqi. He left. And when he left, al Qaeda was done for, ISIS was created because of the void that we left, and that void now exists as a caliphate the size of Indiana. To honor the people that died, we need to -- we need to stop the -- Iran agreement, for sure, because the Iranian mullahs have their blood on their hands and we need to take out ISIS with every tool at our disposal. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: I don`t know how you can keep talking like that. With all the evidence that runs against him. We know now there was never any evidence that they had nuclear weapons. We know now that Dick Cheney went out and said there were. We know there wasn`t just mistakes of intelligence, there was never any intelligence they had nuclear weapons, and we sold that to the American people, that that was why we had to go to war. And we breaking up Iraq is a fact and the reason there is an ISIS is we broke up Iraq. We put the Shia in charge, the Sunnis had to go somewhere. We take the entire Sunni-led army out of their jobs. They went off and joined the leadership core of ISIS. These are the facts. The idea that we should have stayed there forever and somehow avoided the problem that we created seems to be contradictory in fact. Gene, your thoughts about this. This is so sad to listen to a loyal brother just cover for his brother like that. ROBINSON: Yes. I mean, and that`s what he`s doing, right? Because he`s reached this position after that long, long week of fumbling around and trying not to say it was (INAUDIBLE), he says it was based on what we know now. You know, I think -- MATTHEWS: We didn`t know it then. ROBINSON: Is the correct version? Well, yes. He should have known. HUNT: I think this underscores the narrative that we had going into this debate. You have Trump grabbing the headlines, and you have Jeb Bush struggling to show in these kinds of settings that he is the front runner. MATTHEWS: Yes. HUNT: And while maybe his pocketbook is huge and we haven`t gotten to the advertising stage -- by the way, I`m wondering when Mike Murphy is going to start airing super PAC ads on his behalf and I think maybe the campaign is wondering that as well. MATTHEWS: Can you do biography ads of a guy that everybody knows? Can you start selling a narrative about somebody they`re already bored with? HUNT: This was his chance to introduce himself -- MATTHEWS: Yes. HUNT: -- to Republicans as something other than just Bush and I`m not convinced he pulled it off. ROBINSON: And I got to say at the Republican watch party where I watched the debate, there was no passion for Jeb Bush. You did not see -- you saw flashes of passion for most of the other candidates in some way, shape or form. I got to say, I didn`t see that for Jeb Bush. MATTHEWS: No. I think he learned a lot tonight. ROBINSON: Now maybe that was a few sample of -- MATTHEWS: I think that`s the dog that didn`t bark tonight. The excitement for Jeb Bush. (CROSSTALK) SUNUNU: It may bark in the coming weeks. I mean, you know -- MATTHEWS: For Jeb? SUNUNU: Yes. We`ll see how it plays out. Kasie is right. For all the candidates, you can`t forget, these early debates are about introducing yourself even if you`re pretty well-known. ROBINSON: Yes. SUNUNU: What`s your vision? What kind of leadership and experience do you have? What kind of temperament do you have? Are you presidential and you can`t assume that the voters know who you are and some of the candidates did better at that tonight and some didn`t. MATTHEWS: Your guy did great. SUNUNU: He did. He really did well. MATTHEWS: Kasich did well tonight. I think everybody in the panel thought so all night long. John Sununu, sir, thank you for joining us tonight here on behalf of John Kasich. SUNUNU: Thank you, Chris. MATTHEWS: Our coverage from Cleveland continues in a minute and later, John Stewart`s grand finale. We`ll show you a bit of that. If you weren`t watching that station, Comedy Central. And this is HARDBALL on MSNBC, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Certainly, I think going third party is a death wish. And so I don`t think that`s any secret at all. But I don`t see that happening. You know, you can`t win an election against Hillary Clinton unless you`re running as a Republican. So Donald Trump gets that and so we do, too. I`ve had great conversations with him and that at each step of the way, he`s getting more and more comfortable in this process. So I`m just telling you my own personal opinion and my own experience in working here with Donald Trump. I think things are going to be just fine. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That`s of course the inimitable Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, talking about Donald Trump tonight in the debate spin room. With me now is former Ohio state senator and now Ohio Democratic Party engagement chair, Nina Turner, and Kasie and Gene are still with me. Now what`s an engagement chair? That`s a new one for me. I thought I knew all the apparent public offices. What`s an engagement chair? NINA TURNER, OHIO DEMOCRATIC PARTY ENGAGEMENT CHAIR: Well, you go out engage the people -- MATTHEWS: Yes. The outreach. TURNER: Right. MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about this may not square with your partisan views, which I love to not square with sometimes, I don`t mind fighting. I think Kasich did well tonight. I mean, I`ve seen governors of other states tonight, and they`re Democrat or Republican, he seems like one of the better governors out there. TURNER: Well, Chris, it might surprise you, I think the governor did, too, and I have warned my Democratic colleagues not to sleep on Governor Kasich. He is from the great state of Ohio, the great swing state of Ohio. He won in 2014 overwhelmingly with some help from the Democrats because we did not have a strong gubernatorial candidate. MATTHEWS: Yes. He won with 60 points. TURNER: Yes. MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about what wasn`t talked about tonight. And, you know, I`m proud of the fact that on this show HARDBALL and other shows on MSNBC we have been talking about denial of voting rights. TURNER: Yes. MATTHEWS: I mean, almost every week because it would seem to be an American value. That even though if you`re losing the campaign because of demographics, you figure, well, I got to get our act together. But you don`t start preventing people from voting. TURNER: Yes. MATTHEWS: Shows to the polls, some of these traditional African-American ways of voting, African-American ways of voting. TURNER: On Sunday. Yes. MATTHEWS: And just saying well, let`s tighten that up a little bit. We can get it. TURNER: Yes. MATTHEWS: And then states like Pennsylvania that openly said this is how they can win elections, the Republicans. TURNER: Right. MATTHEWS: Well, how about here in Ohio? And by the way, it never came up tonight in this two-hour debate. TURNER: No. And this is the 50 -- well, you know, past midnight but the 50-year anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and none of the commentators had the courage to ask the candidates where they stood on voting rights and the Republicans had the pure unadulterated gall to send out a tweet saying that they want to give homage to those who sacrifice. Well, the way that you support those who gave their blood, sweat and tears for voting rights. MATTHEWS: Yes. TURNER: Is to increase access to voting, not to suppress it. And so I say that sometimes my Republican colleagues subscribe to if we can`t beat them, we cheat them, and the way we cheat them is to redistricting in a way that the voter doesn`t get a chance to choose those are running for office and then through trying to suppress the vote. We live through that. MATTHEWS: Gene, it`s hard to sell young people on the fact but you know it`s a fact. ROBINSON: Yes. MATTHEWS: When voting rights and civil rights passed in `64 and `65. ROBINSON: Yes. MATTHEWS: The Republicans voted almost to the last man. ROBINSON: Absolutely. TURNER: Yes. MATTHEWS: Only a handful opposed in the whole Congress. ROBINSON: The Republicans never would have passed because of southern Democrats who blocked it. TURNER: That`s right. ROBINSON: Never would have gotten through. I grew up in Southern Carolina. Voting Rights Act is very personal. It`s the place to be, to say the least. (CROSSTALK) TURNER: That`s right. That`s right. ROBINSON: You know, and this happens whether today or yesterday, appeals court struck down the Texas Voter ID law the Republican passed and promoted because it curtails voting rights. It violates the voting rights or what is left of it. MATTHEWS: So it just bothered me again tonight when I see, Kasie, how the two political parties are ships passing in the night. Hillary Clinton will talk about child development, education, all the things that parents, especially mothers, care about. Republicans really didn`t get to any of that stuff tonight. Really? HUNT: It did not. MATTHEWS: It just -- as if they don`t have kids, they don`t have families. I mean, those issues become almost Democratic issues, and tonight, a lot more talk about Republican stuff, you know, security particularly. HUNT: One thing that I would actually watch for as we heads towards this general election is the question that Megyn Kelly asked Scott Walker on abortion in particular. She talked about the life of an unborn child versus the life of a mother because in some instances Walker has opposed abortion when -- MATTHEWS: Even not health but life. HUNT: And life. MATTHEWS: Yes. HUNT: And that could, I think, carry through in the event Walker is the nominee, something you can hear again in the general election. MATTHEWS: But is there any hospital, by the way, Catholic or not, Mormon or not, that honors that, better the child than the mother? ROBINSON: Not that I know of. MATTHEWS: I`ve never heard of that. I`ve never heard of that protocol. Does that exist? TURNER: But whether Walker makes it or not, and I agree, but just the disdain that was shown for women in general, I mean, everybody has a mother. MATTHEWS: Yes. TURNER: You know, some woman that you love and to just blanketly say that you don`t care, treating women as if we`re just carriers and that`s it. MATTHEWS: Yes. TURNER: It was just totally -- MATTHEWS: Well, it was worse than that. (LAUGHTER) TURNER: This (INAUDIBLE) of women. MATTHEWS: His glossary of words choices like dog. TURNER: Yes. MATTHEWS: I mean, I don`t want to get through them all but Megyn mentioned a lot of them today. TURNER: Oh my gosh. MATTHEWS: And I thought, I think he actually did look for Donald Trump embarrassed while she was reading the particulars. I mean, he was almost blanching, almost. TURNER: But the audience clapped, though, Chris. The audience -- some folks in that audience clapped at that. And so that to me shows a problem that sexism is still OK. MATTHEWS: Well -- ROBINSON: In part that was the dynamic, though. And part it was the dynamic of Megyn going after Trump and Trump hitting back and some of the applause I heard more for the hitting back, I hope. TURNER: Well, I would hope, too. I`m not so sure. ROBINSON: I`m being optimistic. HUNT: This is tricky dynamic, too, because it`s usually always a winning issue for Republicans to go after the media and there have been so many moments in debates in the past where a candidate has gone after the moderator and succeeded. MATTHEWS: Yes. HUNT: In the case where you have FOX News doing it. MATTHEWS: Well said. HUNT: You have a woman, Megyn Kelly, she`s shown a willingness to get these candidates under -- MATTHEWS: So ironically tomorrow there may be some Democratic ad writers who are calling out Roger Ailes, can we use -- can we have rights to use Megyn Kelly going after Trump and his response? ROBINSON: Really. MATTHEWS: That would be fascinating with a little FOX thing at the bottom. Anyway, Nina Turner, thank you. TURNER: Thank you. MATTHEWS: Good luck in politics. Thanks for being with us about the Voting Rights Act. Gene, of course, Gene Robinson of the "Washington Post." Kasie Hunt is going to stick with us as our live coverage from Cleveland continues after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back on this. I have to tell you, a beautiful night. If you`re going to stay out all night, stay out all night in this kind of weather in Cleveland. This has been about -- this is like San Francisco weather out here tonight. About 72 degrees and no apparent schnitzing. It`s not bad. And you went out here. We have to see if tonight`s debate, how it`s going to affect the polls. HUNT: All day. MATTHEWS: Of course in the next couple of days but it always will. But there is no question that Donald Trump will remain the center of attention for now. He clearly is. Look at the wire stories for tomorrow. Every paper in the country is going to lead with what he said. I`m not guaranteeing I`m going to run with the Republicans. Of all the other candidates Rand Paul of course was the most aggressive in attacking Trump. Here is how Paul went after him when Trump said he wouldn`t rule out an independent bid for the White House, a third party. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. RAND PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He buys and sells politicians of all stripes. He`s already -- hey, look, look. He`s already hedging his bet on the Clintons, OK? So if he doesn`t run as a Republican, maybe he supports Clinton or maybe runs as an independent but I`d say that he`s already hedging his bets because he`s used to buying politicians. TRUMP: Well, I`ve given you plenty of money. BRET BAIER, DEBATE MODERATOR: You can`t make -- we`re going to move on. You`re not going to make the pledge tonight. TRUMP: I will not make the pledge at this time. BAIER: OK. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Chip Englander is Rand Paul`s campaign manager. Thank you. And also with us, our MSNBC guys, Kasie Hunt is with us again, and the great Steve Kornacki who is always in short sleeves. Always on top. (CROSSTALK) STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC`S "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI": Think weather. MATTHEWS: Always in short sleeves. Anyway, was this a connect or did you guys plan early on you were going to take on the Donald? Right out of there, right out off the bat you went after him. CHIP ENGLANDER, RAND PAUL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I think Senator Paul, he won the debate in the first two minutes when he was the only candidate willing to hold Trump accountable for saying hey, I`d run as a third party and hand the White House to Hillary Clinton. I mean, that`s what it`s going to take to win this primary, really to beat the Clinton machine. MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s possible to get into a tango -- a tangle with Donald Trump who seems to own the home court advantage on television to get a mano-a-mano with him like that? Do you think he`d win? ENGLANDER: I think we did win that one. I think it was pretty clear. I mean, Senator Paul was aggressive and got the point across and I think people really responded. I think people -- I don`t think that -- I think that exchange really demonstrated quite a bit the senator`s ability to be articulate and even do it against someone like Trump who thrives in these situations. MATTHEWS: What do you make of this, Steve? Because tonight I thought Paul was good at doing what he does which is defend his libertarian values against the security state. Now of course in a Republican fight, it always seems to go back to Giuliani versus, you know, Ron Paul again. It always goes back to that 9/11, say 9/11 and immediately you win the security argument. You know, I knew people that were killed. That sentiment, which is fair enough, of course, just drives the audience and the audience goes -- they don`t think in terms of who is in my pocket, who`s in my computer, who`s in my house. KORNACKI: Well, that was the other big squabble of the night. You had Donald Trump versus the moderators and Rand Paul, but you also had Rand Paul and Chris Christie and I think just politically Paul and Christie both helped themselves there. I think, you know, we`ve talked in the last few weeks about Rand Paul sort of falling out of the news a little bit. This was a chance for him to reclaim some of his turf in this fight, picking that battle with Chris Christie. At the same time, we said going in, Chris Christie was looking for one of those moments where the Chris Christie that the Republican Party fell in love with a few years ago, the guy will all those beautiful moments. MATTHEWS: The bully? KORNACKI: So he got a chance to mix it up with Rand Paul. So one of those things I think they both got something out of that moment. MATTHEWS: Well, what about when they got high schoolish? When one guy says, yes, you were out there hugging Obama and the other guy said, you`re nothing but hot air. I mean, it did sound like just a high school argument. HUNT: Well, I mean, because that`s to a certain extent, when you get into an argument with Chris Christie, you never know which way it`s going to go. But at the same time, this is a place where, you know, Christie is really speaking from a depth of personal experience on the 9/11 issue in a way that some of these other candidates are not. I mean, to be able to say look, I`ve gone to FISA court, I`ve had to get warrants, I tried to do things, and that`s in part why I think the argument with -- MATTHEWS: He didn`t just do that. He get personal and went after your candidate, Senator Rand Paul, where as he put it, giving floor statements on the Senate and then in half hour putting them on the Web. ENGLANDER: Yes, I think Senator Paul again, he was being bold, not backing down, and demonstrated that he was somebody who will stand up for the entire Bill of Rights. We can`t pick and choose which parts this -- the debate was. It wasn`t just about platitudes and slogans and throwing things out. But people are looking for somebody who`s out there, who`s willing to stand up and defend the whole constitution and that they really believe isn`t going to be just another politician sort of going along, getting along, saying nice things. MATTHEWS: And your guy is not just another politician. I give him that. Anyway, after the debate tonight, Donald Trump explained on the show "Hannity" why he didn`t make the pledge to not run as an independent. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Why should I give up that leverage? If they don`t treat me well -- you know, you`re talking about the establishment Republicans, if they don`t treat me well, Sean, why should I make that pledge? You know, I may at some point do it because I`m starting to really like the establishment people? Reince and the whole group have really been nice lately and -- but, you know, at this moment it`s great leverage and I might as well use it. I mean, this country should use leverage in trade deals. They don`t believe in it because they don`t know what they`re doing so I knew that was going to be a little bit controversial but it was exciting, a really good way to -- (CROSSTALK) SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: You`re not afraid to just say I`m not -- TRUMP: I`m not afraid. HANNITY: You know what, you hope -- if you didn`t win, you would hope that you would be able to support the Republican nomination. TRUMP: One hundred percent correct. I just want to be treated well, be treated with respect. One hundred percent correct. HANNITY: OK. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Steve, the -- we`re just seeing the militancy of Donald Trump, no justice, no peace. I mean, that`s what he`s basically saying. No justice, no peace, unless I get treated right, I`m going to war with you guys. KORNACKI: It`s interesting, you play in the FOX tonight. And I think this is the big story in the next few days now. We saw a couple of weeks ago Donald Trump made the comment about John McCain and the law of politics says you can`t say what he just said and get away with it. Well, he did. We learned that law didn`t necessarily apply. Here`s another one. We`re going to find whether it applies or not. Can you as a Republican candidate for president essentially go to war with FOX News and survive? Because the coverage on FOX after this debate tonight has been absolutely brutal on Donald Trump. MATTHEWS: Did he have this thing in there? KORNACKI: From the minute -- MATTHEWS: Megyn, I`m coming for you if you won`t be nice to me? KORNACKI: From the minute -- he went after their marquee personalities, they have their focus on Trump. MATTHEWS: I know it was coming. KORNACKI: Everybody in the focus groups says this is a bad night. MATTHEWS: I have been saying for days he`s going to meet his waterloo with Megyn Kelly because you don`t go to war with her because she is in fact judge and juror. She looks at you, she gets that look, like, no. KORNACKI: And he stayed on, as you -- I think you had that interview with him in the spin room afterwards. He -- you know, he kept on saying, look, she wasn`t nice to me tonight. He didn`t back off. MATTHEWS: He think she`s -- KORNACKI: He doubled down on it. HUNT: And it`s dangerous. If Donald Trump loses FOX News, then it is distinctly possible that will have a direct impact on his poll numbers. Now who knows? They`ve been Teflon so far. MATTHEWS: Well, Donald, come on over here to MS, we`ll give you a nice platform and talk. It may work you over a little bit but we would like you over here occasionally. Donald Trump. Anyway, Chip Englander, thank you. Thanks for being with us on behalf of Rand Paul. When we come back, the other big story tonight, Jon Stewart. Well, this was really history tonight. All the heroes, right, Letterman, they are all going. Jon Stewart left the stage tonight. His final appearance on "The Daily Show," a really, really brilliant show, and this is HARDBALL, a place for politics. Live in Cleveland for the first Republican debate. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back from Cleveland and the coverage of the first Republican debate. Tonight the "Huffington Post`s" Howard Fineman is here with me, along with Kasie Hunt and Steve Kornacki. Well, as the Republicans bashed each other on the debate stage tonight, Jon Stewart signed off from "The Daily Show." After an unbelievable 16 years he showed his emotions a bit in his farewell tonight and here he is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JON STEWART, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: I`ve been in show business a long time. I`ve worked in a lot of different atmospheres at varying levels of toxicity, and this is the most beautiful place I`ve ever been. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: The most beautiful place I`ve ever been. That`s a common sentiment among guys like him and even me. Anyway, tomorrow night, watch our special on Jon Stewart, it`s called "Jon Stewart Has Left the Building." And it airs here on MSNBC tomorrow night, Friday night at 9:00 Eastern. 9:00 Eastern. That is going to be a novel item for us all. Howard, you`re with us. Where are you, Howard? There you are. You just came in quietly. So tonight the big news he won`t guarantee he`s running with the Republican Party. HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST: Well, I`ll end the night the way I began it which is by saying that this is not right now a debate between individuals, it`s a debate between two ideas of politics. One of them is the politics that we`re familiar with, that you and I have been covering forever. The other is an anything goes, parties don`t matter, traditions don`t matter, briefing books don`t matter, kind of politics and that`s -- MATTHEWS: Manners don`t matter toward women. FINEMAN: And that -- and manners don`t matter. As a matter of fact, the less manners you have the better apparently. MATTHEWS: Carly Fiorina made noise tonight by saying Hillary Clinton lies. She just said lies, lies -- FINEMAN: Well, that`s the nature -- MATTHEWS: That`s serious business. FINEMAN: That is the nature of politics right now is the accusatory tone. It`s the don`t mess with me attitude. It`s the paranoia and the legitimate fears. I mean, Trump may have stumbled tonight. I actually think that he stumbled a little more than you all are giving him credit or discredit for doing. MATTHEWS: On the women`s issue? FINEMAN: On a whole lot of things. On the women`s issue, on the fact that even though he`s claiming not to be a politician, he was slipping and sliding around there on some explanations that made no sense that sounded very much like a politician to me but when John Kasich, who we`ve rightly been praising here tonight, also says listen to what Donald Trump is saying on, for example, fears about immigration, that in a way is giving Trumpism credit even if it`s saying Trump himself -- you used the phrase booster rocket before. MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: That`s sort of what I -- MATTHEWS: They want to -- FINEMAN: That`s how I see Trump. HUNT: Well, and Howard, I think Howard hit on a good point which is that the longer Trump stays in this and the more he veers toward actually becoming one of these politicians, the more dangerous territory he is in from the perspective of losing the people that he`s attached to, and I`m also wondering a little bit what`s happening behind the scenes particularly with Jeb Bush. One of my sources said that Trump was particularly solicitous of Bush in private tonight when they interacted personally and then Trump came out after the debate and praised Bush for being cordial to him on the debate. MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: Yes, that -- (CROSSTALK) FINEMAN: When Reince Priebus said he`s going to be OK, meaning that Trump is going to be OK. There are the mistaken impression that they can domesticate this guy because when Trump was out on the stage, you`re right, Kasie, he was very nice behind the stage and after. MATTHEWS: Yes. OK. FINEMAN: But during the debate, he basically blamed the entire Bush family for the modern failures of America. MATTHEWS: I think FOX made news tonight. They may made some enemies inside the fight but boy, they got their headline in the first minute. Anyway, Fineman, let`s take a look at some of Trump`s most interesting moments from tonight`s debate. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I cannot say I have to respect the person that if it`s not me the person that wins. If I do win and I`m leading by quite a bit, that`s what I want to do. I can totally make that pledge. MEGYN KELLY, DEBATE MODERATOR: You call women you don`t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals. Your Twitter account -- TRUMP: Only Rosie O`Donnell. RAND: News flash, the Republican Party has been fighting against the single-payer system for a decade. So I think you`re on the wrong side of this if you`re still arguing for a single-payer. TRUMP: I`m not -- I don`t think you heard me. You`re having a hard time tonight. (LAUGHTER) TRUMP: Well, I`ll tell you what, with Hillary Clinton I said be at my wedding and she came to my wedding. You know why? She had no choice because I gave. We have a president who doesn`t have a clue. I would say he`s incompetent but I don`t want to do that because that`s not nice. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, the courses of tonight`s debate was pretty much surrounding us tonight because I think when somebody says you`re just hot air and you know, you hug the guy, you know, and I go back to Fiorina`s comment about Hillary Clinton who is probably the Democratic nominee, I don`t know how you continue with the debate once you called a person a liar. I`m sorry, it is a conversation stopper. You go into a debate and all the moderator says, you`ve called this person you`re debating right now a liar. What do you do after that? Stop listening or you stop talking? KORNACKI: Here`s the thing I`ve said. Picking up on what you`re saying and what Howard is saying. There`s two tracks here, right? You talk about the Fiorina approach, you talk about the Trump approach. That`s one track. You talk about the more conventional approach to politics and debating, that`s the second track. And what interests me on that track, the non- Trump track tonight, I think there`s two big stories. One is this was not a good night for Jeb Bush and two, this was a very good night for Marco Rubio, a very quiet and good night, because I think he`s the most viable candidate outside Trump, the most viable candidate who had a really -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK, I think Kasich did well, too, but I think you`re right about him being the best tonight was Rubio. Our coverage of the first Republican debate continues from Cleveland right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Thank you, Howard Fineman, my friend. Thank you, Kasie. And thank you, Steve Kornacki, my great surrogate. Anyway, thank you so much. This is HARDBALL for tonight. Good night. 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. 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