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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 10/13/15

Guests: Tad Devine, Lis Smith, Jennifer Palmieri, Ann Compton, JohnHarwood, Ann Compton, Anne Gearan, Heidi Przybyla, Francesca Chambers

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, big casino. It`s no honeymoon in Vegas. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington -- actually, I`m in the spin room -- yes, that`s what they call it out here -- at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas, site of the first Democratic debate -- believe it or not, the first one. And this is the hot ticket on the Vegas Strip tonight. The big marquees out there are all hyping it on the Strip and millions will be watching tonight. Well, the Democratic nomination for 2016 looked to be a cinch early on, but we got ourselves a real fight on the left right now, and tonight, it comes to a genuine face-off, primarily between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. A socialist -- you heard it right, a socialist -- is leading Clinton in New Hampshire right now, and he`s within the margin of error in Iowa. He`s run an insurgent candidacy and captured the energy of the Democratic base. He`s for real, and he is on the attack. And he doesn`t just want to win, he`s bringing his socialist brand to the Democratic Party, for real. It`s Hillary Clinton`s first debate, of course, since her failed 2008 bid for the nomination. She enters this contest as a self-described moderate. She called herself that just a month ago. But paradoxically, she faces a flood of criticism from her rivals after tacking hard to the left on issues like trade and the environment and the Cadillac tax and other things. What is her identity on the stage tonight? Is she a Clinton Democrat, a moderate? Is she clearly to the right of socialist Bernie Sanders? Well, tonight, we`re going to find out. Also tonight, three candidates desperately trying to inject themselves into the conversation, former Maryland governor Martin O`Malley, former Virginia senator and war hero Jim Webb, and former Rhode Island governor and U.S. senator Lincoln Chafee. To this point, they`ve been largely invisible. Well, then there`s Joe Biden. He`s in the veep`s residence tonight in Washington, waiting and certainly watching tonight. A rough night for Hillary could very well draw him into the race. That`s what I think, anyway. Anyway, it`s showtime on the Strip tonight. Advertise Let`s get right to it. Here in Las Vegas, I`m joined by some pros, NBC`s Andrea Mitchell, my friend, "Ralston Live" host Jon Ralston, and "The Nation" -- what a great assignment -- Joan Walsh writing for a real print newspaper now. And former DNC chair and Pennsylvania governor Eddie Rendell -- he joins us from Philly. Governor Rendell, I am so glad to have you on on a debate night because you are a debater. Hillary Clinton has three challenges tonight -- this endless push for her to humanize herself, whatever that means, from her corner people. Number two, take down Bernie a little bit, at least stop his growth. And three, keep Biden out of the race. Can she do a triple tonight, a hat trick? ED RENDELL (D), FMR. PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure, I think she can. It`s not saying she will, but she certainly can. She has a good sense of humor, which she showed on all of these TV shows the last few weeks. She should employ that a little bit. That helps humanize her. Secondly, she comes across in these debates -- and you remember in 2008, Chris, against probably the greatest debater in public speaking, in politics in our lifetime, she held her own in 2008, for sure. She comes across as very competent, very knowledgeable, and she can create some distance between herself and Bernie Sanders by being the pragmatic progressive, the progressive that has solutions that can work, that aren`t pie in the sky, that aren`t too expensive to pay for, that have a chance to be adopted by the Congress. So she can do those two things. And if she does those things well, I think it will have an effect on the Biden team and their decision-making process. MATTHEWS: So that`ll have a tertiary (ph) effect. Andrea, you pressed DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz today on Bernie Sanders` vulnerability, perhaps, as a socialist, self-described socialist. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Can someone who says he`s not a capitalist be a successful Democratic general election candidate against any of the Republican-- REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIR: Bernie Sanders has been talking about issues that are important to Americans so that they can reach the middle class. Advertise MITCHELL: You don`t think that`s a sound bite, "I am not a capitalist," that`s going to play out across-- SCHULTZ: I think Americans-- MITCHELL: -- the television screens of America? SCHULTZ: Andrea, Americans are longing to continue the 67 straight months of job growth that we`ve had in the private sector under Barack Obama. Any one of our candidates is talking about moving our country forward, and the Republicans are obviously all trying to take our country backward. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: You know, Obama got in trouble for saying, You didn`t buy that. How about, Nobody builds nothing? It`s socialism! I mean, how`s that going to sound? MITCHELL: Well, I think -- I think everyone -- assuming (ph) everyone surrounding Hillary Clinton, presumably the party leaders, have been very surprised by how much traction Bernie Sanders has gotten. I`ve watched him out on the campaign. I`ve interviewed him innumerable times. And his issues really are resonating. And that`s why you see-- MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. MITCHELL: -- that she has veered to the left. I mean, she`s risking her authenticity to be accused of a flip-flopper by going to the left on all of these issues, but she clearly believes that that is where the American people and certainly the Democratic base is. MATTHEWS: How do you -- how do you knock a person -- if you`re a liberal - - we used to call peoples liberal (sic) both -- a progressive -- and you believe in giving kids a break to go to college, and somebody comes along and says free public education -- you want to go to Ann Arbor, you want to go to Madison, Berkeley, freebie! Freebie! How do you knock somebody who says health care`s a right, because that sounds right to people, which means it should be free, basically. Advertise How do you -- how do you (INAUDIBLE) How do you knock the guy down without sounding like Richard Nixon? JON RALSTON, HOST, "RALSTON LIVE": Well, guess -- Anderson Cooper is not Jimmy Fallon, Chris, right? So he has to ask or somebody has to ask the question, How are you going to pay for this? Because I think the American people -- they love the candy, but they also know its not going to be free. And so they`re going to-- MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) know the answer`s on the strip today. I`m interviewing -- talking to people today. Here`s the answers. There are good answers. OK, here`s one. How are we going to pay for that? Funny thing, we don`t ask how much we`re going to pay for -- how we`re going to pay for a war when we start one, do we, Secretary Clinton? I mean, you can strike back on that one pretty tough, even though it doesn`t answer the numerical answer, it gets the rhetoric right. Joan? JOAN WALSH, "THE NATION," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, no, I think he can do this. I think he can say, We`re going to raise taxes. I think we can have a real debate about tax rates in this country. She`s for raising some taxes. They can get into a back and forth. I think she`s got to tell a story about her candidacy, explain why it`s not flip-flopping. I saw Richard Trumka on your show today-- MATTHEWS: I saw your notes on that. How do you explain you were for TPP in 35 public appearances and now you`ve switched? On trade. WALSH: Right. I think you-- MATTHEWS: On trade. WALSH: I think you say that the game has changed entirely. I think you say you didn`t know how it was going to wind up. I think you say your top priority-- MATTHEWS: Is it true? WALSH: I think it`s credible. I-- Advertise MATTHEWS: Or is it Richard Trumka is a powerful, influential guy who doesn`t want anybody ever to vote for TPP? WALSH: Right-- MATTHEWS: Isn`t that the honest answer? WALSH: I think he -- of course he opposes TPP, but-- RALSTON: I doubt he`ll say that, though. WALSH: But no, I don`t think he`s going to say that, but I think she -- she`s making income inequality her top issue. This is not going to limit - - look, people have-- MATTHEWS: How about the Cadillac tax? WALSH: People-- MATTHEWS: How can you explain the Cadillac tax-- WALSH: That`s a tough one. MATTHEWS: -- reversal? Advertise WALSH: I worry that that`s going to make -- you know, make costs go up. But let her defend that. But let me get back to TPP. Here`s what`s so crucial. The thing that has emerged as the biggest sticking point, drug prices and also this investor-state (ph) dispute resolution. I know I`m being really wonky, but bear with me for a second. What that is about is that we have changed the rules of capitalism and we have tilted the playing field toward corporations, against regulations. She is seeing-- MATTHEWS: I agree. WALSH: -- what`s happened-- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: -- kill him in the primaries. Anyway, Bernie Sanders is no stranger to the debate tonight or to the stage, but not one as big as this one. Back in his 2006 Senate debate, it didn`t take much prodding by his opponent to draw out Bernie`s temper. I love these scenes. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Sanders throws around that "liar" word awfully loosely. You have got to level with people on that one, Mr. Sanders. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) REP. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), SENATE CANDIDATE: It`s people like you-- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will -- there will be an opportunity-- Advertise UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) on that because it`s people like you and-- (BOOS) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will be an -- hang on, folks! (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, that got personal. (LAUGHTER) MITCHELL: That`s what we want to see tonight-- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Is that what Hillary`s going to gin up tonight, Andrea? MITCHELL: Well, you know, the truth is that I think that both of these candidates -- Sanders certainly has telegraphed this, and Clinton -- they are trying to avoid personal attacks against each other. MATTHEWS: Explain why. There is a reason. Why doesn`t Hillary want to attack Bernie? Advertise MITCHELL: Because he`s popular. MATTHEWS: And because his people will resent it. MITCHELL: Exactly. And the same thing goes for Bernie. He knows that she is popular. She`s got high favorabilities among Democrats. MATTHEWS: How come -- (INAUDIBLE) ask you a question. This is argumentative. I hear around -- and Joan, you`ll jump on this, I`m sure. I heard it said that if Biden jumps in, it`s anti-woman because he`s basically helping to kill the only woman has a real shot to be president in our lifetime. Nobody says that against Bernie. WALSH: Because I don`t think people took Bernie seriously as a candidate. And I think people -- people are taking him very seriously now. But when he jumped in -- I think -- I think the pro-Clinton forces had a real issue- - (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: -- going to jump him? Or are they going to jump Bernie? WALSH: They`re not going to -- they`re not going to jump Bernie. Bernie is in on the issues. Bernie is not in on -- as a referendum on Clinton`s trustworthiness or likability, which, let`s face it, if the vice president jumps in, he will be seen as tarnishing her. He`s coming in not because of issues, but because people don`t -- are said to not trust her. And that is going to be taken-- MATTHEWS: Well, he doesn`t trust her. WALSH: -- very personal-- MATTHEWS: Yes. I think you`re so smart. Advertise WALSH: It`s very personal and will be taken very personally. MITCHELL: In fact, I`ve been told that one of their concerns-- RENDELL: Hey, Chris-- MITCHELL: -- one of the Biden people`s concerns-- MATTHEWS: I`m sorry-- MITCHELL: -- is that he would be perceived as hurting the first woman`s chances. MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) Governor, your -- you get in here. What is the ground rules, that it`s OK for Bernie to take Hillary on and potentially, at least plausibly, defeat her for the nomination, though that`s a stretch, but if Biden gets in, he`s blamed as the spoiler. What`s the difference? RENDELL: Well, because Bernie got out there early. Bernie got out there early because Bernie has real passion on the issues and because there is a difference in the issues between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Except for TPP, it`s hard to think of any issue that Vice President Biden and Secretary Clinton disagree on. But to go back to your earlier question, in polls, it shows the Sanders voters, 94 percent of them, have no problem voting for Hillary Clinton for president. Hillary Clinton doesn`t want to upset that applecart. MATTHEWS: Well said. RENDELL: And remember, also, if you look at the polls, although Bernie`s doing very well in New Hampshire and well in Iowa, when you get to states that are urban, that have African-Americans and Hispanics, Bernie`s doing very poorly. Hillary has a big lead-- Advertise MATTHEWS: I know. RENDELL: -- in all those states-- MATTHEWS: Four percent among black voters. RENDELL: -- over both Bernie and Biden. MATTHEWS: Four percent. RENDELL: So I don`t think Hillary should in any way, shape or form panic over the Sanders surge in Iowa or New Hampshire. RALSTON: You`re forgetting-- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: -- some numbers-- RALSTON: Nevada! Nevada! MATTHEWS: Joan, why don`t you-- Advertise RALSTON: You`re forgetting Nevada! That`s why she set up the firewall here. There`s-- MATTHEWS: It`s Nevada, not Nevahdah, right? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Look, is Biden more electable than Hillary Clinton? That`s the big question raised in a new Fox News poll out today. Clinton leads the field nationally by a 20-point margin. It`s Clinton 45, Sanders 25, Biden down at 19. But Hillary Clinton trails when placed in head-to-head matchups with the Republican front-runners. Look at this. She trails Fiorina by 3. Trails Fiorina! It`s unimaginable. Give me a break. Bush by 4. That`s (INAUDIBLE) I didn`t know he was still in the race. Trump by 5, Carson by -- Dr. Carson beats Hillary? Give me a break! I`m using a Clinton line, by the way, "Give me a break." But Biden soars against them all. He beats Fiorina by 4, Bush by 5, Trump by 13, Dr. Carson by 4. Joe (ph) -- these numbers, I mean I like the -- I recognize polls normally. I can`t believe that`s true. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Do think Fox is playing a game? WALSH: No, I mean, I think their numbers are weighted somewhat toward Republicans. But I think -- look, we saw Barack Obama losing to various Republicans in 2011. The race has not shaped up yet. And look, let me say, as I always say, I love Vice President Biden. The country loves him. Right now, he`s not a politician. He is the mourner- in-chief. He is a man-- MATTHEWS: OK-- Advertise (CROSSTALK) RALSTON: He`s at his most popular. He`s at his most popular right now. That`s why he`s doing so well. WALSH: -- to the experience of grief, which we all go through in life. He is beloved. When he steps out on that stage, if he does-- MATTHEWS: OK, the best advice-- WALSH: -- and he is a candidate, you`re going to be hearing-- MATTHEWS: My advice is do what you want to do. WALSH: Well, yes. MATTHEWS: There`s nobody`s going to praise you for not running. Nobody`s going to say, Thank God he didn`t run. We love that guy. I`ll make him secretary of state. That`s not going to happen! I`m sorry. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Anyway, do what he wants to do. That`s what we all do, don`t we? MITCHELL: And remember, he said, Don`t demote me to secretary of state, jokingly, the other day. Advertise MATTHEWS: I know. He`s been running for president since he was 29. I don`t think he`s going to stop. Anyway, thank you, Andrea Mitchell. MITCHELL: Thank you. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Joan Walsh of "The Nation," a print organization. And Joe (sic) Ralston, always (INAUDIBLE) as well. You`ll be back. You`ll all be back later tonight. RALSTON: Thank you. MATTHEWS: Coming up next -- and thank you to Governor Ed Rendell, who knows how to debate. Coming up next, I`ll speak to top advisers to Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O`Malley as the candidates prepare to take the stage a little over an hour from now. Stay with us tonight. I`ll be back after the debate for a live HARDBALL at 11:00 PM Eastern, and for two hours with post-debate news analysis with wild people coming on at midnight tonight, wild things. We`re going to have Wayne Newton on tonight, do you believe it, Mr. Las Vegas. We`re going to have -- everybody this side of Don Rickles is coming here tonight. We`re going to hear from the top oddsmaker in town, by the way, who`s going to tell us where the money is for 2016. I love that stuff because the money tends to tell which way it`s going to go. Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics, live from Vegas for the first Democratic debate. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Las Vegas. There it is, the Strip. How heated will it get tonight in the Democratic debate? Will any of Hillary Clinton`s four challengers aggressively go after her on the usual stuff of today, e-mails, policy flips? What about the front-runner herself? Will Hillary Clinton try to halt Bernie Sanders`s momentum by challenging him as a self-described socialist? We`ve got some spokespeople here, in fact, handlers, if you will, of the three candidates. They know everything. They know everything. They can write it for us right now. Advertise Jennifer Palmieri is a real pro, communications director for Hillary Clinton`s campaign. Tad Devine, another real pro, senior adviser for the Sanders campaign. He`s so lucky to have you, Tad. And Lis Smith -- not the one who writes the column in "The "New York Post," is deputy campaign manager for Martin O`Malley -- who doesn`t like, I`ve learned, being called Marty. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: He hates it! He hates it! LIS SMITH, O`MALLEY DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: That`s an urban myth. MATTHEWS: He did it -- he got mad at me for it! SMITH: Oh, he was having fun with you. MATTHEWS: He`s so lace-curtain Irish! (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Anyway, let`s talk about the debate tonight. Is this going to have -- let me try to get this right. I think that Zucker and everybody at CNN will try to do -- because I`ve watched the marquee out here on the Strip. It`s got two faces on it. You won`t like this. The two faces are your guy and your guy, Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, former U.S. senator, former first lady, and your guy, longtime senator from Vermont. It`s like -- it`s like a boxing match tonight. JENNIFER PALMIERI, CLINTON CAMPAIGN COMM. DIRECTOR: Face-off. MATTHEWS: It`s a face-off. Is there going to be that tonight? Advertise PALMIERI: I don`t-- MATTHEWS: You got three or four other candidates -- three other candidates. PALMIERI: Yes, there`s five candidates on stage. I don`t imagine it will be -- I mean, we`ll -- you know, we`ll see-- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: What if Anderson Cooper says, All right, you guys (INAUDIBLE) the Don King, and tries to get you into a fight? What happens? (LAUGHTER) PALMIERI: I -- I don`t -- I mean, you know, I -- you know, Hillary Clinton is prepared for anything. So if it gets -- if it -- if people are coming after her, she`s prepared to deal with that, but I don`t-- MATTHEWS: Does she have any gimmicks up her sleeve-- PALMIERI: -- expect that that-- MATTHEWS: -- one-liners that she`s worked on? PALMIERI: No. We don`t-- Advertise MATTHEWS: No one liners? Are you better off than you were four years ago, none of those lines? (CROSSTALK) PALMIERI: All of them will come-- MATTHEWS: Setpieces? PALMIERI: All of them will come organically from-- MATTHEWS: OK. Do you have setpieces for Bernie? TAD DEVINE, SANDERS CAMPAIGN CONSULTANT: No. (CROSSTALK) (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Have you even had a rehearsal? DEVINE: Absolutely not! Advertise (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Have you even had a rehearsal? (LAUGHTER) DEVINE: No, we did -- well, I wouldn`t call it a rehearsal. The last couple of days-- MATTHEWS: Because he doesn`t like the word "rehearsal"! DEVINE: He doesn`t like to-- MATTHEWS: OK, who played Hillary Clinton in your rehearsal? DEVINE: His chief of staff. MATTHEWS: A woman? DEVINE: Yes. MATTHEWS: So you thought it was important-- Advertise (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Why do you think it was important to have a woman play a woman? DEVINE: I don`t think it was important. She was just a great person to play Hillary. MATTHEWS: You guys, you`re so PC! (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Lis, thank you. How do you get into this fight? How do you break into this anti-love nest (ph) between these two? SMITH: Well, I mean, I think the -- there`s both a challenge and there`s an opportunity. Most people tuning in don`t even know who Martin O`Malley is. So he gets to tell his story, and it`s a compelling story of actually getting things done on the things progressives car about. MATTHEWS: How does he turn a question into the answer like that? Thank you for asking me that question, Anderson. Now let me tell you the story of my life. (CROSSTALK) SMITH: Well, you know what? You just gave us great debate advice, and that`s exactly what he`s going to do. But you know, raising the minimum wage, passing the Dream Act, passing the most comprehensive gun safety laws in the nation. So I think he`s got a good story to tell. MATTHEWS: Tell me about this -- we`re all in the business of wanting to be advisers. So (INAUDIBLE) know who it is, I`m always advising them in my head, what I would do if I were one of you guys. Advertise Bernie Sanders -- I would define because somebody (INAUDIBLE) you got to define yourself before somebody else does. Why doesn`t he get out aggressively and define what he means in the 21st century, what a socialist means to him and why he uses that tag? Why doesn`t he define it? DEVINE: Well, because Bernie Sanders wants to talk about the problems that America faces today. MATTHEWS: OK. OK. DEVINE: OK? Which is a rigged economy propped up by a crooked political system. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: But he`s running as a self-described socialist. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: In pure political terms, just explain what a socialist is. DEVINE: Well, let me explain why he`s not going to do that, because this isn`t some seminar about political philosophy, OK? Bernie Sanders is honest when people ask him questions. And he described his political philosophy. MATTHEWS: So somebody has to ask him, define a socialist in 2015 terms? Advertise DEVINE: Yes. And if they do, I`m sure he would be happy to talk about it. But what he really wants to talk about are the problems America confronts today. MATTHEWS: No, he didn`t the other night. Chuck tried to do it the other night and then he blew up at him and said, you don`t ask other guys why they`re capitalists. DEVINE: I wouldn`t call it a blow-up. OK? I think it was -- he said, level the playing field, OK? MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s take a look at the problem. I`m going after him too much. Hillary Clinton has a lot of-- (CROSSTALK) PALMIERI: I feel like I -- I feel like, on my side of the ledger, I`m still-- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton has a tremendous amount of support because of her and her husband and their long support for affirmative action and black causes, great support among African-Americans, right? PALMIERI: Right. MATTHEWS: Can the Democrats -- I`m going to try to get into a fight. Advertise Can the Democrats run somebody that has 4 percent support among African- Americans, 4 percent, Bernie Sanders among African-Americans? PALMIERI: I don`t imagine that the Democratic nominee is going to have 4 percent. (CROSSTALK) SMITH: Yes. And I`m going to jump in and defend him. Whoever the Democratic nominee is will have a lot more support than that. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: When will it occur? DEVINE: She was pointing at me, by the way. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: When will it occur? SMITH: When will it-- (CROSSTALK) Advertise MATTHEWS: Because they`re Democrats. How about if they`re not Democrats? How about if the Democratic nominee is not a Democrat? SMITH: I think we`re all running under the Democratic label. MATTHEWS: Is your guy going to become a Democrat? When would he do that? (CROSSTALK) DEVINE: Well, you know what? (CROSSTALK) DEVINE: I don`t want to break the suspense of the debate, OK? I`m sure he will be asked that question. I`m going to let him answer it. MATTHEWS: If he wins the Democratic nomination for president, would he then become a Democrat? DEVINE: Listen, when he signed his declaration of candidacy with The Federal Election Committee, under the pain and penalty of perjury, and it said, party affiliation, it said Democratic Party, OK? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: So he is a Democrat? Advertise DEVINE: Yes. He`s running as a Democrat, absolutely. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: So he is a Democrat. I`m just asking a question. Is your candidate a Democrat? Why are you getting weird on me now? (CROSSTALK) DEVINE: I`m not getting weird on you. But I know he`s going to be asked that question tonight. I`m going to let him answer it himself. MATTHEWS: He`s running as a Democrat. DEVINE: He certainly is. MATTHEWS: That sounds like Clinton talk. He`s running as a Democrat. It depends what your definition of a Democrat is. Is he running -- I`m just kidding. But you guys get so angry. I think it`s a great question. DEVINE: No, I hope he answers it. He`s running as a Democrat. (CROSSTALK) Advertise MATTHEWS: And, by the way, there are a lot of features of European politics that we could benefit from, like not having to fight every goddamn war in the world. We don`t have to be doing that. DEVINE: We will be happy to talk about that later tonight, Chris. MATTHEWS: I think he`s right about that stuff. And this reason we have a big military is because we came out of the Cold War and we never -- we had to come for other uses of our military establishment. DEVINE: OK. MATTHEWS: That`s what I think. DEVINE: Listen, you`re on message. I`ll tell you that, OK? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Anyway, I think there`s good elements to your guy. Anyway, thank you, Jennifer. Good luck tonight. Get in this race. (CROSSTALK) PALMIERI: Thank you. Advertise MATTHEWS: And a real pro here, Jennifer Palmieri, who`s great, and Lis Smith and Tad Devine. Coming up, as the Democrats prepare to battle here in Vegas, Donald Trump is getting ready to live-tweet the debate. He`s the new Howard Cosell of this debate. Look at who the Democrats are going to be doing tonight. He`s going to be telling us all about it honestly and without partisanship. That`s up next. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics, live from Vegas. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE") UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Here`s the bottom line. I`m just like you, a regular joe, but better, a man of the people. (LAUGHTER) UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Yes, like everyone else, he puts his hair on one strand at a time. (LAUGHTER) UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That`s right. (LAUGHTER) Advertise (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Can`t beat that stuff. Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Vegas tonight. That was "Saturday Night Live"`s take on Donald Trump, of course. But on November 7, the real Donald Trump will be live hosting from New York hosting "SNL" itself, almost exactly one year before the November 8, 2016, presidential election itself. And, today, Trump announced that he will be live-tweeting tonight and doing running commentary on tonight`s Democratic debate here in Las Vegas. Well, the GOP has strong ties to Vegas, and one of the GOP sugar daddies, if you will, he`s in town right now, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. He runs The Venetian and all the other places out here. He`s reportedly getting closer to endorsing Senator Marco Rubio for president. That`s no surprise. According to Politico, the nod in cash from Adelson -- quote -- "could come as soon as the end of the month and with it the potential for a multimillion-dollar contribution from him, with a net worth of $25.7 billion." That`s what the guy`s got, according to "Forbes." Adelson can afford to spend freely. Anyway, Rubio also has some big money backers in the East Coast. Politico also noted -- quote -- "Last week, Rubio also held a lengthy private meeting in New York City with Paul Singer, a hedge fund manager who is among the most prolific Republican donors in the country, but who has yet to pick a candidate." Trump, by the way, noticed Adelson`s support for Rubio, and he tweeted -- and here`s where I agree with him, actually, Trump -- "Sheldon Adelson is looking to give big dollars to Rubio because he feels he can mold him into his perfect little puppet." I agree. And so do I agree with Trump on this. Joining me right now are two MSNBC political analyst, Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist, and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post" Eugene Robinson. Advertise Steve and Gene, I agree with Trump here. Adelson wants somebody to do his bidding in foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. He wants somebody to be his hand -- his sock puppet. And he`s got him in this guy, this perfect little high school debater, Rubio, who will recite and symphonize anything this guy with the big bucks from the casino running is willing to listen to. Let me go to Gene on this. Gene, isn`t this pathetic -- I`m sorry -- that Rubio has this open relationship with a sugar daddy who basically loves the love songs that he sings to him? EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there are a lot of candidates in this race. Rubio is going for the money where he sees it. He has been much more hawkish on foreign policy and particularly on the Middle East than some of his competitors, so he`s going for it. Now, we should keep in mind that Sheldon Adelson`s backing and money do not guarantee the nomination. Just ask Newt Gingrich. So this is not dispositive, to say the least, but it could be a big boost for Rubio and give him some staying power. MATTHEWS: Steve Schmidt, when are we going to find some embarrassment on the part of the candidates who do this, who sing for some wealthy guy and sing his song? STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, Chris -- look, I think that -- look, I think there`s a lot of issues with the campaign finance system as it exists today, the lack of transparency, too much money awash in the system. It applies to both parties. But specifically with Senator Rubio, with Sheldon Adelson, they`re very transparent about what their views are with regard to the state of Israel, with regard to the Iran nuclear deal, with regard to the administration`s policies in the broader East. I don`t think that Sheldon Adelson is manipulating Marco Rubio`s positions. I think that Sheldon Adelson is endorsing Marco Rubio as a messenger of positions that they both agree on. And that debate will take place over the balance of the Republican primary. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: How do you explain your candidate, Mitt Romney, coming out and genuflecting at Donald Trump out here in Vegas? Do you think they just happened to have common interests, or they were bowing and scraping before money people? This isn`t just Sheldon. It`s Trump himself that`s played this game. Advertise (CROSSTALK) SCHMIDT: Chris, as I said -- as I said last cycle on the show talking about it, I thought that Mitt Romney`s using Donald Trump in the way that he used him, going to meet him, kowtowing to him, was an enormous mistake for Mitt Romney. I never got why he did that. But if you want to look at a pandering candidate, we are going to get to see one on the stage tonight. And that`s Senator Clinton, whether it`s the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, which she was involved in negotiating and you know in her heart she supports, whether it`s the Keystone pipeline. We have seen someone systemically rejecting the centrism of the Clinton administration, trying to move towards the Sanders line in an increasingly ideological Democratic contest as the Democratic Party has moved left. And there`s no candidate in this race who has -- who is anywhere close to competing with Hillary Clinton on the pandering and the switching of positions. And the Republican who is up for the task, Scott Walker, is out of the race. MATTHEWS: Gene? ROBINSON: Well, there is a distinction there, though, because Hillary Clinton is, in fact, aligning herself more with her party. Her new positions -- and they are new positions on the TPP and on the Keystone pipeline, which she didn`t take a position on earlier -- are in line with what the party believes. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: And the Cadillac tax. (CROSSTALK) Advertise MATTHEWS: Yes. ROBINSON: Yes. So, you know, you can call that pandering. You can also -- you could call it politics. But, you know, it would not be a great idea from her point of view to try to run against some pretty firmly held views, I think, in the Democratic Party. MATTHEWS: Who`s going to be the establishment candidate who`s the last person to beat Donald Trump? You first, Steve. Who can beat Trump? SCHMIDT: Look, I think things are looking very good for Marco Rubio in the campaign right now. I think he`s run a very effective campaign. I think his moment is coming. He`s had two good debate performances. And one of the things that`s true about American politics, Chris, is that although Obama is technically a baby boomer, the president was born in 1964. He represented generational change from Presidents Clinton and Bush. And once the country`s made that generational change, not once in its history has it ever gone back to the previous generation for leadership. I think that bodes well for Marco Rubio. MATTHEWS: I agree. SCHMIDT: And in the Republican side, there seems to be this enormous prejudice against anybody who`s not new. I think Marco Rubio is new, he`s fresh, and I think that he will become the alternative. And we will also see how Ted Cruz factors in to this. And he straddles the two sides here, to some degree, but I think is more aligned with the outsider candidates, as the elected anti-establishmentarian in the race. Advertise MATTHEWS: OK. I agree with you about the generational challenge. Your thoughts, Gene? Last, quickly, your thoughts on generation here? (CROSSTALK) ROBINSON: I`m keeping my eye on Cruz. I agree with Steve. Rubio, my question about him is staying power. Once -- if he does become the establishment candidate, does he have the staying power to get through to the end? I`m not convinced. We will see. MATTHEWS: I wonder if any country`s ever been as angry as Ted Cruz is all the time. I don`t know. It just seems to me a very unpleasant presidency. Anyway, just a thought. Steve Schmidt, thank you for that. I know you always give me the honest truth, and you`re right about this being a problem with both parties being pander bears, to use a phrase from Paul Tsongas` dictionary. Anyway, Eugene Robinson, as always, sir. Coming up, getting the candidates to engage with one another, in other words, you know how the referees try to get the boxers to put their dukes up and keep engaging with one another? That is going to be the challenge for moderators tonight. We are going to talk to two reporters who have moderated debates to find out about how they stir up excitement and create newsworthy moments for the audience. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics, live from Vegas, for the first Democratic debate, and it is tonight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) Advertise PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. Here`s what`s happening. A report on the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 details the final moments of the aircraft that was shot down over Ukraine last year. Investigators say a Russian missile blew the cockpit off the plane and the rest of the aircraft flew more than five miles before breaking apart. All 298 passengers and crew on board were killed. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vowing an aggressive response after another day of violence that left three Israeli dead. The U.S. has condemned the attacks on Israeli civilians -- and now we`re going to take you back to HARDBALL. MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Las Vegas. In contrast with the combative Republican field, the 2016 Democratic candidates have largely refrained from attacking each other directly. And now that they will be face to face tonight, the biggest challenge for the moderators will be to prompt the candidates to actually engage with each other. And that`s no small task if the candidates hope to play it safe tonight. I`m joined now by two past debate moderators, John Harwood of CNBC, and Ann Compton, former White House correspondent for ABC News. I will get to Ann, because I want to get to something you did at a debate in a moment, Ann. But, John, here`s the question. How do you get the candidates to actually debate each other? JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it`s not easy, especially if you`re somebody like Hillary Clinton who doesn`t have incentive to go after Bernie Sanders. And Bernie Sanders has said he`s not going to do it. But I think your last segment, Chris, underscored the way that Anderson Cooper can go about that. There are a lot of consistency issues you can raise against Hillary Clinton over some of the positions that she`s changed that you and Gene and Steve were just talking about. And consistency is something that a rival can go after with another candidate, without appearing personal, without appearing small-minded. It`s a substantive attack, and that`s one they can pursue. MATTHEWS: OK. Advertise Ann, in the 1988 presidential debate, you asked Vice President Bush, who was vice president at the time, a pretty tough question about government corruption in the wake of the Iran-Contra scandal. Let`s watch you in action. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1988) ANN COMPTON, ABC NEWS: Mr. Vice President, as many as 100 officials in this administration have left the government under an ethical cloud. Some have been indicted, some convicted. Many of the cases have involved undue influence once they`re outside of government. If you become president, will you lock that revolving door that has allowed some men and women in the government to come back and lobby the very departments they once managed? GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Yes, and I`ll apply it to Congress, too. I`ll do both. I`ll do both. (END VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, is that about phrasing the question, "will you, "do you," those techniques, how you phrase it? ANN COMPTON, FORMER ABC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And throw in a few adjectives and make it clear when you throw in "scandal" and "ethical crowd," it`s OK for a moderator to be antagonistic to the degree that the candidate has something to push off against. In the case of that question, there was only one right answer, Chris. It was yes, I`ll lock the door. MATTHEWS: Suppose he had said, "I`m not changing nothing." What would you have done? Just let it go? (LAUGHTER) Advertise COMPTON: No, then, of course, the follow-up question is, for goodness sake, why? MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, anyway, John Harwood in 2011, you asked Mitt Romney if his governor of Massachusetts might alienate conservative primary voters. Let`s watch that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Governor Romney, you`ve shown that you can work with Democrats. When you were governor, of course, you collaborated with Ted Kennedy on the healthcare plan that you enacted. You raised fees to balance the budget and you used that as an argument to get the credit rating of your state upgraded. Independent voters might like that. Should Republican primary voters be nervous about it? MITT ROMNEY (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks for reminding everybody. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Let me go to John. Can you ask a question of Hillary Clinton tonight, this former secretary of state, about whether she`s had some sort of an experience on the road to Damascus, a St. Paul experience, because she shifted on every single issue, four or five issues in a few months. Actually in a month since she said she was a moderate. Can you ask her to tag herself? Will that work? Are you a moderate? And if so, how can you distinguish your moderation from that of your opponent, Senator Sanders? Advertise HARWOOD: Well, I think that`s a completely legitimate question, and the prime examples are the Trans Pacific Partnership, which she described as the gold standard, when she was a central figure in getting that off the ground as secretary of state, and of course, the Cadillac tax, which is something that Hillary Clinton knows, as a health care expert, was put in the Obamacare legislation in order to keep cost down and also raise money. And she`s now said, well, I`ll repeal that. That`s something that is going to cause a lot of questions among Democrats who saw that as an integral part of the Obamacare legislation. MATTHEWS: And it looks like a giveback to UAW, and other labor leaders. Anyway, during the 2008 cycle, I asked the Republican contenders how they differed from the Republican who was then in the White House. George W. Bush. Of all the candidates, Senator John McCain gave the most direct answer. Let`s watch McCain. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Every president, if you look back to Ike, was elected to fill the problem of the previous president. We are course correcting all the time in this country. It`s how democracy works. How will you be different in any way from President George W. Bush? SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Would not have mismanaged the war. It was badly mismanaged for four years. Now we have a new strategy that I hope and pray every night will succeed. And I would have vetoed spending bill after spending bill after pork barrel project after pork barrel project in the tradition of President Reagan. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Ann, I think that`s going to be part of the thematic tonight, who`s willing to distance themselves, if they are, from the president the most, and who`s willing to say, I`m an Obamaite. Does anybody want to say they`re an Obamaite? That seems to be rich territory. Your thoughts? COMPTON: That`s right, and they could also say, they`re not Joe Biden and part of that administration. I really do think that they -- MATTHEWS: Ahh. Advertise COMPTON: -- that the chance to show leadership and independence is especially important for Hillary Clinton and especially important for the three candidates who don`t have that high standing in the polls. This is their night that they get their second chance to make a good first impression. If they don`t look presidential, if they don`t look strong and if they don`t look appealing, then they will have lost tonight. MATTHEWS: Well said. It`s great to have you on the show, Ann Compton. John Harwood, as always, sir. Up next, the roundtable previews tonight`s main event and the role the man who`s not here is playing, Vice President Joe Biden. And I will bet you a few bucks everybody watching that he is watching tonight. This is HARDBALL live from Vegas with the first Democratic presidential debate. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Las Vegas. Hillary Clinton is a seasoned debater, of course. In fact, she`s been debating ever since she was a Goldwater girl Republican on her high school debate team. In 1990, for example, when she was first lady down in Arkansas, she crashed the press conference of her husband`s opponent and started debating him on the spot. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has consistently avoided a debate. HILLARY CLINTON, THEN-ARKANSAS FIRST LADY: Who was the one person who didn`t show up in Springdale? Give me a break. I mean, I think we ought to get the record straight. It`s ironic to me that before you were a candidate, many of the reports you issued, not only praised the governor on his environmental record, but his education record, and his economic record. You now turn around and as a candidate, have a very short memory. Advertise (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, during Hillary Clinton`s -- Secretary Clinton`s first run for the White House in 2008, she participated in over 20 detectives with her big then rival Barack Obama. At times, she was charming, at other times she was playing defense or actually on the attack. Let`s watch it all. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: Well, that hurts my feelings. MODERATOR: I`m sorry, Senator. I`m sorry. CLINTON: But I`ll try to go on. He`s very likable. I agree with that. I don`t think I`m that bad. BARACK OBAMA (D), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You`re likable enough, Hillary. CLINTON: Thank you very much. Advertise (LAUGHTER) CLINTON: We have failed -- CHRIS DODD (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, no, you said yes. You thought it made sense to do it. CLINTON: No, no, I didn`t Chris. But the point is, what are we going to do with all these illegal immigrants? DODD: That`s a legitimate -- MODERATOR: Is it healthy for a democracy to have a two-family political dynasty. CLINTON: I thought Bill was a pretty good president. Well, I think that if your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your own words. That`s I think a very simple proposition. (APPLAUSE) And you know, lifting whole passing ands from someone else`s speeches is not change you can believe in. It`s change you can Xerox. I was fighting guess those ideas when you were practicing law and representing your contributor Rezko in his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago. Advertise OBAMA: No, no, no. MODERATOR: The guest who laid out this scenario for me with that proposed solution was William Jefferson Clinton last year. So, he disagrees with you. CLINTON: Well, he`s not standing here right now. (APPLAUSE) MODERATOR: So there is a disagreement? CLINTON: Well, I`ll talk to him later. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MATTHEWS: Well, Anne Gearan is political correspondent with "The Washington Post", Heidi Przybyla is political reporter for "USA Today", and Francesca Chambers is White House correspondent for "The Daily Mail". Three smart people. Let`s go through this thing. Hillary, this challenge of being charming, everybody says she`s got to be human in all this. She certainly was there. ANNE GEARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: She was. And she absolutely can do that and she can be that person. She can also look defensive and be defensive. So, it`s entirely depending on what the kind of exchange is. She tends to get a little bit rattled when questions get personal. She does much better when talking about policy. But she, like you said, is going to have to get personal and look personal and relatable. Advertise MATTHEWS: Heidi, I think she`s at her best like most people are when they`re attacked because they know everybody`s rooting for them at that split second. I`m not sure Bernie is going to do her the favor of attacking her tonight. HEIDI PRZYBYLA, USA TODAY: And you saw that in one of the clips you played where she pushed back on Barack Obama. MATTHEWS: She pushed back against Tim Russert, too. She was good. PRZYBYLA: She`s much better when she`s being attacked than going on the offense, which was the first clip that you played. She came off as being a little bit aggressive. MATTHEWS: I think that`s a general rule. Francesca, that`s a general rule. You want to be attacked. You want to defend yourself against the attack, because everybody`s rooting you. FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, THE DAILY MAIL: But I don`t think she`ll find herself being attacked very often tonight, as we just said. You know, Sanders is probably not going to attack her. Martin O`Malley might attack her. He might, but he`s not going to hit her very hard. MATTHEWS: He might her for not being a consistent progressive, which is the new word you have to honor now. You can`t be moderate on anything. You know, you can`t reasonable. You`ve got to be really progressive. CHAMBERS: Bernie Sanders, by the way, would go after, as well. I don`t think that either of them will hit her very hard. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I think Martin O`Malley has to hit somebody hard tonight or we won`t notice him. Advertise PRZYBYLA: He`s got to land some punches. And he`s got to land some punches on both her and Bernie. We already have the preview of that. He`s going to go after her on trade, Bernie on guns. MATTHEWS: I think there`s a hole in the Democratic Party for a moderate center left. If Hillary moves over to the left on everything, there maybe -- although the party`s moving left like the Republicans are moving right. Is there a hole for Biden and is there a hole that will be apparent after tonight`s debate she better fill by 11:00 tonight, moderate to left? GEARAN: A big part of her challenge tonight is leaving him no room whatsoever. You`re right that is a potential opening. But she`s trying to close all openings. She`s trying to move left -- MATTHEWS: She chases Bernie around the corner, all the way to the left on every single issue, me too (ph) on the debt. Does she get hurt by leaving open the right center in the Democratic Party? PRZYBYLA: She`s not going to chase him all the way to the left. She`s not calling for like a nationalized health care system where everybody gets Medicare. She`s not calling for a free college for everybody and she`s not going to. But she`s moving close enough to him to say, hey, progressives, you don`t know this but I have a lot of progressive policies too because everybody`s been focused on e-mails, everybody`s been focused on Trump. But here`s what I`m about. Here are my policies. She`s waiting -- MATTHEWS: The hardest thing in politics is to draw the line between liberal and left, between progressive and left. To say we have to have a role for private enterprise in this country. We are a capitalist country, a free enterprise country. But there is a role for a safety net. There`s a role for giving people a chance who don`t normally get one. But you have to draw that line. It`s harder for a liberal. Lefties say, we`ll do everything. You want free school, free medicine, that`s easy. But how does Hillary draw that, the thing you`re talking? That`s a hard line to draw? CHAMBERS: Well, that`s -- you know, another example is that while Bernie Sanders has said he wants to get rid of the cap on Social Security, she wants to expand benefits but it would be to be costly to get rid of it. That`s an area war she will push back on Sanders pretty hard tonight, is that everything that he wants to do will cost money. It`s a huge tax -- it`s a huge tax increase. MATTHEWS: We understood. But anybody steps back, they get it. When you say Medicare for all, it sounds easy. Advertise But what we have now is a system from the time you were a paper boy, which I was at 14, or 15, you are paying, you are paying in until you`re 65 or older, 70 in some cases, so that you get Medicare from the time you`re 70 until you die. That`s the system. If you got socialized medicine or you have Medicare from everybody, that means from the time you`re 15, you get health care. Who`s paying for that? Where does that come from? GEARAN: And I think that`s exactly the point that Clinton is likely to make vis-a-vis Sanders. We spent a lot of time, all of us, talking about what the other candidates have to do to distinguish themselves against her. But I expect her to take time and care to distinguish herself against Sanders, saying you can`t pay for these things. MATTHEWS: What happens if he says to Hillary, don`t you agree that health care should be a right? A right? What does she say? If it`s a right, then it is free for life. PRZYBYLA: I think she says that is our goal is to have health care for everyone. This is the best way we can get it done. MATTHEWS: Thank you. Anne Gearan, well said. You`re good at this. Anyway, Heidi, thank you, Anne Gearan, as always, Heidi Przybyla and Francesca Chambers from great print organizations. By the way, HARDBALL live from Vegas is back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Anyway, that`s HARDBALL for now. What I do love is this kind of -- almost as good as election night tonight. Thanks for being with us. Be sure to tune in tonight for the late night edition of HARDBALL, the full post debate analysis live at 11:00 p.m. tonight Eastern. For two hours, we`re going to be on tonight, live with a lot of people here in the spin room with the candidates, their advisors. We know who lost, they come to the spin room. Advertise Plus, in our midnight hour, the top Vegas oddsmaker and his picks for 2016, entertainer Wayne Newton is coming on tonight. Rich Little is coming here. It`s going to be a lot of fun. It`s like an entertainment show after midnight tonight. But also the oddsmakers. It`s a wild night in Vegas. We`ll see you back here at 11:00 p.m. Eastern. Up next, "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. END 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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