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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 10/14/15

Guests: Carol Lee, Steve McMahon, Reid Ribble, J.C. Watts, April Ryan,Jonathan Allen, Ari Rabin-Havt

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hillary and Bernie -- did both win? Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York. And could it be that Hillary Clinton did what she had to do last night, grabbed the Democratic mother lode? Could it also be true that Bernie Sanders roused his troops and also used his first great national audience to enlist many new recruits? You`ve heard the conventional wisdom and its take on last night. The major headlines are strong today in declaring Hillary Clinton the victor. "The Wall Street Journal" -- "Hillary Clinton dominates first Democratic debate." "Time" magazine -- "Hillary Clinton takes control in first Democratic debate." "The Washington Post" reported "a self-assured performance by Clinton in Democratic presidential debate." "The New York Times" -- "Democratic debate turns Hillary Clinton`s way after months of difficulties." And Politico, "Clinton crushes it." Well, after criticizing her all night in Twitter, Donald Trump also ruled that Clinton came out on top. Here he was with NBC`s Katy Tur today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think she did her job. I think she got through the debate. I personally thought she won the debate. (END VIDEO CLIP)    MATTHEWS: But the data from social media tells an altogether different story. It shows that Bernie Sanders attracted far more interest during the debate. According to Google, Sanders was the most searched candidate of the debate overall, followed by Clinton, then Webb, O`Malley and Chafee. Interest in Sanders`s appeared to spike every time he spoke, like when he called for the big banks to be broken up. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, it is my view that when you have (ph) three largest banks in America are much bigger than they were when we bailed them out for being too big to fail, we have got to break them up! (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, Facebook data also revealed that Sanders was the most discussed candidate last night, and on Twitter, Bernie Sanders attracted more new followers than any other candidate, gaining more than three times as many as Hillary Clinton, according to "Time." Joining me right now is NBC News senior political reporter Perry Bacon, "Wall Street Journal" White House correspondent Carol Lee and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon. I want to start -- let`s start with Perry, my friend. I have a slightly different view of what happened last night. What I heard last night was Bernie Sanders blowing the trumpet loud on the rich, the billionaires. Over and over again, he said this country is totally unequal in the way it distributes wealth, that the wealthy at the top are screwing the rest of us, and something has to be done about it -- very clear unitary message. Hillary was very smart, very prepared, extremely well. But the message you heard last night over and over again was from Bernie, and I thought he had a trumpet to play there last night. I think he`ll have a lot more numbers in the next polling. We get national polling out there. I don`t care who gets declared the winner. I think he won because he`s built up his troops and he`s going to have a lot more numbers coming up in the next week or two in the polling. Your thinking. PERRY BACON, NBC SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I think both of them did well, and one reason is, for Hillary, you had two hours where you did not talk about -- we talked about gun control more than e-mails. So I think it`s a great night for her, and lots of people heard her talk about her policy as opposed to the controversy around her. In fact, Bernie saved her from the e-mails in a lot of ways.    But I agree with you, Chris. Big night for him because we all followed him a long time, but he had 12 million people last night hear his message for the first time. He`s a new person. He did well last night. He had no big gaffes. I do think he reinforced the fact that he is a big - - big -- big challenge for Clinton. I think it`s a bad night for Joe Biden in that you saw Sanders and Clinton are very strong candidates. It`s going to be tough for Biden to make up for that and to jump in this race at this point. MATTHEWS: Carol, on message, I thought Bernie won because Bernie is - - he`s blowing the trumpet. Hillary`s responding to it, to some extent. She`s keeping her distance. She`s not running hard left. But he`s clearly the clarion call. I think -- just as Perry said so well, he never had a national audience before last night. I`ve watched this before. We in the business think we know it all. We think everybody else knows it all. Most people weren`t paying attention until last night, and that`s why social media went wild. Your thoughts. Because everybody (INAUDIBLE) everybody`s out there saying Hillary won, Hillary won, he lost. I don`t buy that. Your thoughts. CAROL LEE, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, I think, one, if Hillary Clinton didn`t come out -- if the headlines didn`t say that she won after this debate, she would have completely failed. She had to win this debate. She`s debated more times than anybody on that stage... MATTHEWS: Yes. LEE: ... so she had -- that was her challenge, and she clearly met that. Two, when you look at who`s searching on line and who`s paying more attention, Bernie Sanders is not the known quantity in this race the way that Hillary Clinton is, so he`s going to pique people`s curiosity in a way that she hasn`t. He was very forceful. He was, you know, flame-throwing. He was giving progressives... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... made billionaires like (INAUDIBLE), like some rat, a billion -- ratty billionaire, you know? Like most people -- I mean, he really made it -- that`s well said. Let me go to Steve on that, the same question, because I remember -- everybody else likes to forget this. I was the odd man out back in 2000. Everybody said Al Gore gave the Goldilocks debate against George -- oh, it was perfect debate. He didn`t him (ph). He didn`t sigh, do anything wrong. It was perfect. And everybody said he won. And guess who won? George W. won because all the polls after the debate showed George W. in the lead.    So the idea that this -- I don`t buy the cognoscentis` (sic) expressions of who won or who lost. Your thinking. I thought Bernie did great last night. Your thinking, Steve. STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: OK, so I think you got to kind of break this a number of different ways. The winner of the debate, in my view, is anybody who goes in and comes out having significantly improved their position. MATTHEWS: Well said. MCMAHON: I think by that standard, Hillary Clinton obviously was a huge winner last night because she wasn`t talking about e-mails all the time. She was talking about issues that she wanted to talk about. She opened up Bernie Sanders like a pinata on gun control. So that was a bad moment for Bernie. On the other hand, I think Bernie certainly went in and reinforced his base. A lot of people donated. $1.3 million was raised last night. But if you go in and you make your 25 percent base harder, that`s not necessarily a win. I don`t think he had a bad night... MATTHEWS: OK, I disagree with you! (CROSSTALK) MCMAHON: ... but I don`t think he improved his position. MATTHEWS: He had 11 million people watching him for the first time who were not in his base. A lot of them were not in his base. And I can - - my bet is that a lot of people are going to join and recruit with this guy the next couple of weeks. You disagree. MCMAHON: That`s my point. The polls will tell us, Chris, who improved their position. Hillary Clinton had a good night. She reassured a lot of people. People are no longer saying, Can she win a general election? I think today, the calculus for Joe Biden is a lot different than it was yesterday. I still think he`s got a reasonable opportunity here, but the door is closing and he`s going to have to put his hand or his foot in it pretty soon or it`s going to close on him all the way.    MATTHEWS: So what do you say if you`re Joe Biden and you decide after this debate you want to get in? What would you say is your first answer to the press when they say, Why are you jumping in when Hillary`s already in? What does she not have that you have? MCMAHON: Well, I mean, I think the argument for Joe Biden is the same today as it was last week, which is if you`re concerned about whether or not Hillary Clinton can win a general election, if you`re concerned about whether or not Bernie Sanders can win a general election and you want to make sure we protect the gains of the Obama administration, including Affordable Care and the Supreme Court and all the things that a conservative president, conservative Congress might threaten or take away, then maybe Joe Biden is somebody you ought to look at. That`s the rationale, I think. It`s not -- it`s not, you know -- with all due respect, it`s not, you know, anything personal about votes. It`s something about the country and the Democratic Party and winning next November. And there are still people who are worried about whether or not Hillary Clinton can win, and the drip, drip, drip, the faucet, has maybe turned down a little bit, or turned off, but you know, she`s out in Colorado right now and she was just answering questions with an NBC reporter about the e-mails. MATTHEWS: Yes. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: The beauty of Bernie is he looked like -- he went over there and jumped over the net last night and shook her hands -- they both shook hands and said, We`re not going to talk about it. Well, they`re not the ones who are talking about it. MCMAHON: That`s exactly right. MATTHEWS: Anyway, a focus group of Florida Democrats conducted by FOX News last night showed Sanders was the big winner last night, but participants did have reservations clearly about his ability next November. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FRANK LUNTZ, GOP POLLSTER: How many of you walked in here supporting Hillary Clinton? Raise your hands. Half of you. How many of you are still supporting Hillary Clinton? Only a small percentage. So who won the debate? FOCUS GROUP: Bernie Sanders!    LUNTZ: Give me a word or a phrase to describe Bernie Sanders tonight. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE For the people. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE Strong. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Straightforward. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE Confident. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Insider and outsider. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE Direct. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sincere. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE Powerful. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Educator. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE Smart.    LUNTZ: But he`s a socialist. He actually answered the question about being a socialist. I know you`re nodding your head, No. He`s proud of being a socialist. Do you really think this guy can win? Do you? In the back? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE I don`t think he can. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Bernie -- let`s talk about the disequilibrium in these judgments. The Sardi`s (ph) review last night where I was, was Hillary won big. I was the only one saying I thought (INAUDIBLE) initially I was outvoted by our producers and everyone else. I thought Bernie roused that crowd up like nobody. He -- every single applause line made sense. It was how the rich have all the money, they`re dominating and corrupting American politics because of Citizens United. They ought to pay the price of college tuition. They ought to help us with Social Security benefit increases. (INAUDIBLE) do it all. It was basically a class argument against people of absolutely supreme wealth. And got -- crew guys were agreeing to that last night, who were working with me. I heard resonance there with real people. Now, Hillary`s maybe the smarter person, certainly the better politician, but -- let me go back to this. Why do you think social media roused up last night for Bernie, not for Hillary? BACON: Social media`s -- Bernie`s been better on social media throughout the year, so I`m not surprised that -- he`s got a younger, more enthusiastic, more -- people are very passionate about Bernie. People are for Hillary. I think that`s broadly true. But I think, Chris, two things can be true at the same time. I think it is the case that Bernie was strong last night, but I do think the people in the focus group are right. There`s a big doubt in the country about, Can a socialist be elected? I think you can -- right now, if you say you like Sanders, you`re -- it`s a little bit of a protest vote at this point. I don`t know if people have really -- if you`re for Sanders, you`ve thought about, Can a person win a general election who is a socialist? Because I think most Democrats, even those who like Sanders, assume Clinton... MATTHEWS: OK...    BACON: ... or Biden will win the primary. MATTHEWS: Let me get a reality check in the real world, Carol Lee, "The Wall Street Journal." It seems to me that if Bernie Sanders had appeared on the horizon eight years ago, even four years ago, people would have said, We in this country don`t like class politics. We don`t run against rich people. We`re not the British Labour Party. No one`s saying that right now. That silence, that quiet out there, the dog that`s not barking right now, I believe is the realization of the American people there is incredible inequality in wealth in this country and it`s going to get worse. And that`s why when he talks in what we used to call "labor hall yelling," pounding the drum, if you will, it seems to work with people (INAUDIBLE) extent they go, yes, he`s right even, if they`re not going to vote for him. Your thoughts, Carol. LEE: Well, I mean, that`s true because we`ve been through -- the country has been through a massive recession. The economy is, you know, doing better in some ways, but not in others, including wages. And you know, people are not fully employed in the way that they should be or want to be, and people are still struggling out there. And so Bernie Sanders is clearly tapping into that sentiment. And to go to your earlier question on Vice President Biden, you know, I think one of the rationales for his candidacy, were he to get into this race, is that authentic character about him, that he would -- you know, he understands these types of problems in a way that`s less socialist, you know, than Bernie Sanders, but -- and more mainstream, but that he could make that argument to the country. And I think if he were to run, that he would make that argument, and also contrast himself with Hillary Clinton and how -- and her background compared with his background. MATTHEWS: Yes, I think that (INAUDIBLE) He`s more of a kitchen table guy. Anyway, I want to go with Steve`s thoughts. Steve McMahon, I think you`re right because this is what I believe, obviously. The next couple weeks, we`re going to look at the polls. And don`t listen to anybody who says who won the debate. The person who wins the debate is the one who goes up the most in the polling. MCMAHON: That`s right. MATTHEWS: And who do you want to be the next president? That`s how you score these things. And just remember, Al Gore was hands down declared by the establishment, all the establishment types up here in New York and everywhere else said he won that big third debate. Funny thing. People liked George Bush a lot more than they liked Al Gore. Gore came off as geeky and weird. Anyway, thank you -- to real people, anyway. Perry Bacon, Carol Lee and Steve McMahon. Coming up -- Donald Trump`s on the attack -- no surprise there -- but this time, he`s just sort of grazing (ph) Hillary Clinton and hitting hard at Bernie Sanders because maybe he saw what I saw last night. What did Trump see from Bernie last night that put the Vermont senator in Donald Trump`s sights?    Plus, with Trump and Ben Carson riding high in the Republican polls, Republican voters are rejecting the old guard. That`s for sure. And that`s true on the campaign trail, but also up on Capitol Hill, where the party can`t seem to get together and find itself a leader. And back to the big debate last night, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, each had a strong night last night? Will the race tighten? I think so. And will Biden think twice about getting in -- maybe three times? Finally, some of other candidates didn`t expect (ph) help -- help them themselves in the national spotlight last night. We`re going to look at those who did not do well in the debate last night, and know who they are. We know who you are. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Tonight, stay up late and catch me on "Late Night." I`ll be a guest for the great Seth Myers. That`s coming up on NBC tonight at 12:35 Eastern time. HARDBALL back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails! (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)    HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Me, too! Me, too! SANDERS: Enough of the e-mails! Let`s talk about the real issues facing America. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) CLINTON: Thank you, Bernie. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It`s, like, enough already. Anyway, Bernie Sanders is riding high with the Democratic base after last night`s debate. But according to Donald Trump, Bernie blew it last night big time. In an interview today with NBC`s Katy Tur, Trump praised Hillary Clinton`s performance. He says Bernie gave it away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bernie made a mistake. He got a great couple of seconds, but he took the situation that`s a very serious situation, where Hillary is being investigated by the FBI, and he gave it away. He just gave it away. He can never bring it up again. And it`s not like he`s winning. He`s losing. He`s losing, actually, big, if you look countrywide. So I think he made a mistake. I think she did her job. I think she got through the debate. I personally thought she won the debate. I thought Bernie was off. He was not doing so well. I thought that the other people shouldn`t even be up there, to be honest with you. I thought a couple of them were ridiculous. They left her alone. They didn`t hit her. It was an amazing things. I mean, even taking away the e-mails -- I mean, that`s a big thing to take away. All of a sudden, he just gave that up, which for him I think is a very big mistake. (END VIDEO CLIP)    MATTHEWS: Well, from a Trump point of view, clearly, it is. And he characterized Sanders as clueless on the issue of trade. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: The one thing I noticed he was saying is that he thinks a lot of these trade deals are bad. The difference is I`ll make them great deals, whereas he doesn`t know where to begin. He wouldn`t know where to begin because I watched him talking about trade, and he would have no idea. He`s not a negotiator. That`s not what he does. And he can complain, but he won`t be able to change it, whereas I`ll change it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, that sounds smart. Anyway, today Trump campaign ripped into Bernie on social media, describing Sanders as unfit to be commander-in-chief. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The world is a dangerous place. We need a tough, strong leader. And it`s not this guy! (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Bernie can`t defend his own microphone. I thought they`d say something sophisticated, like he was a conscientious objector. No, they just go with he can`t stand (ph) up. Well, you would -- let me ask you about having become an expert on Mr. Trump. KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Trumpologist.    MATTHEWS: Does he go after the skinny kid on the beach or does he take on the challenge? It seems like he goes after the losers, rather than the challengers. TUR: I think he does both. I think he does both because he -- you know, we saw him hit Jeb really hard, and Jeb was not the skinny kid on the beach by any -- by any stretch. He was -- he has been the presumptive nominee in a lot of ways. We`re seeing him hit Marco Rubio, as well, who could come up in the polls. I so think the Sanders stuff is interesting. I think maybe there`s some psychological stuff going on with the fact that Sanders gets really big crowds (INAUDIBLE) MATTHEWS: Yes... (CROSSTALK) TUR: Maybe that`s why he`s hitting him. MATTHEWS: He appeals by -- with the anti-establishment message. TUR: They also sound similar on some things, trade for one, also Citizens United, campaign finance. So I don`t think... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Maybe he didn`t like the billionaire thing. I mean, Bernie`s biggest lines last night, when you go to these groups that were all rooting for out there, it`s all billionaires, billionaires, billionaires, billionaires (INAUDIBLE) and there`s Trump, a billionaire. TUR: But Trump says the same thing on the trails, that he wants to make it harder for -- or wants hedge funders to pay more taxes. So in some ways...    MATTHEWS: But he doesn`t hate them. TUR: No -- well, in some ways... MATTHEWS: Bernie makes them the villain. TUR: Yes, he does, definitely. I think that Sanders is an interesting new enemy for Donald Trump. But I think -- I don`t think anybody is off-limits from him. Ben Carson so far has been off-limits in some ways. Ted Cruz, he hasn`t hit, which I find surprising. MATTHEWS: Because Cruz is drafting him. Cruz is riding right behind him. TUR: Yes, but he has no instance where he has just backed off. MATTHEWS: Does Trump behave differently? There`s a great interview you did with him where he said something the other day, that he is going to change his tone, be a little less obnoxious about ethnicity and things like that that drive me crazy, about people, about Mexicans, about Obama being from Africa and all this nonsense. He is going to play down what he calls political incorrectness. TUR: He said that today -- earlier today, he said to me that -- I said would you change anything about the way you have campaigned this past 119 days? And he said that he would change some of the wording. MATTHEWS: Here he is. I have it on tape. Here, Trump, he said he is going to watch his words ahead. Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)    TUR: What have you learned for the next 118 days? DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I could be perhaps a little bit -- I can watch my words a little bit and maybe be a little bit more politically correct. But, to be honest with you, I think one of the reasons I am doing well is because I don`t want to -- being politically correct takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of effort. I can be more politically correct than anybody that you have ever interviewed. But it takes a lot of time to do it. And you are going around in different circles and you are never getting there. We don`t have time for it anymore, Katy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: It takes a lot of time not to make fun of your opponent -- your female opponent`s face. It takes time not to do that. Are you kidding me? It is easy not to be a cad. It takes a lot of time not to say the president is an illegal immigrant. It takes a lot of time to say that Mexicans are rapists. It is a lot easier not to do that. It is a lot easier to be reasonable. TUR: This is Donald Trump. And when Donald Trump says that maybe he would change some things, that is surprising, but it is still Donald Trump. And he is still not talking about policy specific. He may sound nicer in that interview, but he is not getting into the issues. MATTHEWS: Does he know he`s crested? TUR: I think that maybe the campaign thinks they have to change tactics a little bit. MATTHEWS: He is always under 25. He is just around there. That`s his ceiling. TUR: Well, in order to get anybody -- to get the nomination once this field starts to narrow, he is going to have to widen his base of support. To do that, a lot of people you speak with say...    MATTHEWS: You knock out Carson. Just knock out Carson. TUR: Well, a lot of people you speak with say they don`t like him attacking other people. And if he can get the Carson votes, he is going to have to stop attacking people. MATTHEWS: I think he`s got to use Carson for a while and then dump him. Anyway, Trump seems eager for a brawl with Dr. Carson, who is running closer to him than any other candidate. Here is more from Katy`s interview. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I will negotiate deals that nobody can negotiate like I do. Nobody. I know everybody that I`m running against. Nobody is going to be able to do the kind of things I can do. Ben is -- that`s not his thing, but he certainly seems to be resonating. And the two of us together, I guess we`re at 50 percent or something like that, and everyone is sort of amazed, because we haven`t been politicians. I have been doing this now for three months and he has been doing it for about the same time, which is not saying much for the politicians, frankly. He has been very nice to me. I have very been nice to him. I don`t know that that is going to continue. In a certain way, I hope not, because everybody that has attacked me is down. They have gone down. (END VIDEO CLIP) (LAUGHTER) TUR: He can`t attack Carson because if...    MATTHEWS: Do you ever laugh at his insufferability? Do you ever laugh at that ego when it just starts going like that? Like, anybody who has ever attacked me, I have killed. He is like a vampire movie. In 1,000 years, and everyone who has challenged me has been destroyed. He talks like he`s a character in a novel. TUR: I can`t answer that. MATTHEWS: You can`t answer that. TUR: I can`t answer that. You know I can`t answer that. MATTHEWS: No, I just think you have to wonder about what he`s doing. TUR: I think that Donald Trump is an entertaining person. I think that he is interesting. I think he`s tapped into something, an anger out there. And I think that it does actually extend past the Republican base that he`s speaking to. I think there are a lot of Democrats out there and independents who are just as sick of politicians as the people that he is rallying. MATTHEWS: Are we dying? Are we all dying? Excuse me, Katy. Are we all dying for a Hillary vs. Donald night? How about three of them, three big national debates between the two of them? (CROSSTALK) TUR: It would be interesting. At the very least, it would be entertaining. MATTHEWS: It would be bigger than anything.    Anyway, you asked Trump if he is readying any impressions ahead of his gig on "Saturday Night Live" next month. Let`s see his reaction. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TUR: Got any impressions under your belt? TRUMP: No, I don`t know. They are going to give me something. (CROSSTALK) TUR: Hillary did you. Will you do her? TRUMP: That`s right. Well, I would her. I would certainly do her, if they want me to do her. TUR: Can I see it? TRUMP: No, you are not going to see it now. We will have to save it for Lorne. TUR: What about Jeb? TRUMP: Well, I`m amazed at how he has not resonated.    TUR: Do you have an impression of him? TRUMP: No, I don`t. Well, I don`t want to be wise. I was going to fall asleep on the chair, but I didn`t want to do that. He hasn`t resonated. He just hasn`t resonated. And, in a way, it`s too bad. And, in a way, it`s a little bit sad. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: It`s weird. When you first asked him about impressions, his face crumpled into a Robert De Niro. It was weird. He really crunched his face in. I don`t know what he was doing there. TUR: I think in another life he wanted to be a stand-up comedian. And I think he would have been a pretty good stand-up comedian. You see him at the rallies, and he does -- he gets the crowd going. He makes them laugh. Whether or not that is enough to be president of the United States, I`m not sure. MATTHEWS: It`s enough to get him to show up, though. Will they -- here`s the big question. They will show up for the rally. They will show up and they love watching him on the interviews and the crazy stuff he says. Will they show up in Iowa? TUR: I`m not sure. And I think that what they`re doing in Iowa is they do actually -- are at least starting to have a ground game out there. They are trying to rally people to go to those caucuses, and they`re telling them how to do it. Tana Goertz out there, who is his Iowa co-chair, from "The Apprentice," is holding these "Apprentice"-style competitions to find caucus leaders. They are trying to inject some excitement into this otherwise very complicated process. Will they be able to get over the hump? I`m not sure. I think that is the big question out there. Are these people who are just entertained that are showing up for him? The ones in the polls, are they just people who know his name?    You`re making faces. You`re making faces. MATTHEWS: No, I`m just thinking. I`m thinking. I was thinking that you will never have a better assignment than Donald Trump. This is one for the record books. TUR: I`m going to retire after this. MATTHEWS: I think he`s got a better chance to win the nomination than anybody else, any other single individual. I`m not sure he beats the field yet. TUR: I got to tell you, I talk to Democrats out there. And a lot of Democrats say of all the Republicans that are running right now, they like him the best because they do think, at his core, he is the most reasonable and they don`t believe that for the others. And so Donald Trump may be trying to win primary voters right now, but who is the Donald Trump that we`re going to see if he does get the nomination? Are we going to see a more moderate version of him, the one that we have seen in the past, somebody that doesn`t necessarily care about gay marriage? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I think we`re going to meet the same guy we have met already, somebody very smart and very cagey. He knows exactly what he`s doing. Thank you, Katy Tur. It`s a great -- it must be something to cover this guy regularly and try to figure him out. It`s like anthropology. Up next, the success of Donald Trump on the campaign trail could also be fueling the Republican crisis on Capitol Hill. And they`re not getting anywhere picking a leader up there. Nobody wants to be the leader. That is a problem. Can a team run without a captain or a quarterback or a pitcher?    This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Donald Trump continues to dominate a crowded field of Republicans in two early primary contests. According to new numbers from CNN/ORC, Trump leads in Nevada at 38 percent. Dr. Carson is 22 percent. In South Carolina, it`s roughly the same, Trump at 36 percent and Dr. Carson down at 18 percent. Those are the front-runners. But the same anti-establishment fervor is fueling the rise of outsiders like those two in the 2016 presidential contest is stirring up chaos in the Congress, where the Republican Caucus is coming apart right now. Like GOP primary voters, Republicans on Capitol Hill appear in no mood to crown another insider as their leader. Joining me right now is U.S. Congressman Reid Ribble, a Republican from Wisconsin who up until last week was a member of the House Freedom Caucus, the group credited with driving out John Boehner as speaker and keeping Kevin McCarthy from going for it. Congressman Ribble resigned from the Freedom Caucus just last week. And also with us tonight, former Congressman J.C. Watts from Oklahoma. He was a Republican from Oklahoma. He`s a Rand Paul supporter right now. Gentlemen. Congressman Ribble, let me ask you about the state of play on the Hill. Is it possible to select a speaker in the Republican Caucus? Is it possible? REP. REID RIBBLE (R), WISCONSIN: Well, sure. It`s absolutely possible, Chris. I think the person that emerges, that crafts a big vision to focus the conference on specific policy reforms that we want to bring to the American people and gets us moving in that same direction -- we all have similar political ideologies and beliefs. But this conference will come together.    And we don`t -- we shouldn`t be in a hurry to get this done necessarily. We should be in a hurry to get it right. And so, yes, we are going to find someone that will come forward. And I think we`re all going to be fine. MATTHEWS: But what about the mathematics that more than half your caucus is only there for five years so far. They are only there for five years altogether, each of them, and they want to have a lot of power. They want to be able to offer amendments on the floor, completely open rule. How can you have the leadership ever agree to such a system which would be -- it would just institutionalize chaos? RIBBLE: Well, no, it wouldn`t necessarily institutionalize chaos. I think there`s a way of offering amendments or offering legislation. I think what really members want is they want a clear system of rules that are applied equally to everybody and know what those rules are and then enforce those rules completely, so that if you have a policy solution, if you do the work under those rules you are going to get a shot at having a vote on the floor. And then if it passes, if you convince 218 of your colleagues that it`s a good idea to pass this, you get to move forward with it. If you don`t, you have to go back and figure out a new policy solution. MATTHEWS: Let me go to J.C. Watts. What is this talk about you being a candidate for speaker as former member? Is that credible? J.C. WATTS, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Chris, that has about as much wisdom as going beyond the next two or three weeks to find the speaker. I agree with the congressman that they need to do it right. And I would say do it quickly, because I think the longer that it goes, I think the more it plays into the narrative that we`re dysfunctional. And, of course, I think all majorities have their dysfunctions. It`s just a matter of degree. But, nevertheless, I do think it would be wise and there is a lot of wisdom in getting it right and doing it quite quickly. They need a permanent leader. I don`t care if it is Abraham Lincoln. You don`t need a nonmember of Congress being the speaker of the House.    MATTHEWS: Let me get back to Congressman Ribble, because in the presidential field, when you keep watching it, as I do, and you do probably every day or so, you notice that the people getting votes in the primaries according to the polling are people with no government experience, no congressional experience, no Washington experience. They have never taken the oath to serve their country, their district or their state. And that`s Trump. That`s Dr. Carson. That`s also Fiorina to some extent. And they are killing the people that have any kind of a resume. Isn`t it the same thing that is going on with your party, that if you have got any kind of stature on Capitol Hill, you are considered an insider and by definition a villain? Isn`t that the problem? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: It`s why Boehner went down. They are figures of some stature in Congress. And that`s not a good thing to be these days, apparently. RIBBLE: Well, yes, I think there is some of that -- to that, Chris, but I think don`t it`s the total story. I think, quite frankly, that members have seen a system of order that has come apart in the Congress. And when that order has come apart and it`s not reliable, a new order has emerged. MATTHEWS: Yes. RIBBLE: And you are seeing it, quite frankly, in the Democrat Party in the House as well. And so you have got the Freedom Caucus. You have got the Tuesday group. You have got the Republican Study Committee. You have got defense hawks. You have got deficit hawks. But you have got the same thing going on in the Democrat Party, with the New Democrats, the Progressive Caucus, the Blue Dogs. (CROSSTALK)    MATTHEWS: When Nancy cracks that whip, it`s pretty united, Congressman. It`s very united Democrats. Last call to J.C. I`m sorry. WATTS: Let me add to that. Over the last 10 years, we are over $18 trillion in debt. The deficit has gone down, but we still have deficits as far as the eye can see. We are talking about Planned Parenthood. And, Chris, you are a passionate guy, but you`re a decent guy. We all have to question what is going on there. Well, you consider that Republicans, we have been in charge for most of the last 10 years when a lot of these things have happened. And so we are losing our brand. And I would hope that all Republicans would get back to the basics, the blocking and tackling and making sure that we can tackle these major issues, even illegal immigration. MATTHEWS: I`m with you. WATTS: We can`t say that everything that comes forward, that it is amnesty, or neither can we not be concerned about the border. There is a lot of problems. And that`s why I say the sooner Republicans can get a speaker, the better off the country is going to be. MATTHEWS: And don`t pass an immigration bill unless you believe in it and want it to be enforced. No more B.S. on immigration. Congressman Ribble, it`s great to have you on. Do you have a last word? I want to give you a chance.    RIBBLE: Thank you. MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. I like that. (CROSSTALK) RIBBLE: Well, I was just going to say, I agree with J.C. That`s a big vision. MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, sir. Thank you both, gentlemen, J.C. Watts and Congressman Reid Ribble. Up next, after strong performances last night from Clinton and Sanders, I believe, is there race -- and room in this race, I should say, for Joe Biden to still squeeze into this thing in the next couple weeks? You`re watching -- maybe tomorrow -- you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening. Former NBA champ and reality TV star Lamar Odom remains in a Las Vegas hospital. According to our system network, E!, he suffered brain damage, at least one stroke, and is on a ventilator. Odom was found unconscious yesterday at a Nevada brothel. According to reports, he had multiple drugs in his system, including herbal Viagra.    At a news conference earlier, authorities said that, in a 911 call, they were told he had been using cocaine. We will continue to follow this developing story -- now back to HARDBALL. MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. What happened last night in Vegas was on HARDBALL tonight. It was a wild night. The marquee matchup, Clinton versus Sanders didn`t disappoint. Hillary Clinton highlighted his leadership and experience. But more than that, she had this clear message to cut through all the noise -- a vote for her is a vote for history. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will work together and, yes, finally, fathers will be able to say to daughters you can grow up to be president. (APPLAUSE) ANDERSON COOPER, DEBATE MODERATOR: Secretary Clinton, how would you not be a third term President Obama? CLINTON: Well, I think that is pretty obvious. I think being the first woman president would be quite a change from the presidents we had until this point including President Obama. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Wow.    Bernie`s retort, a vote for me, Bernie, is a vote for revolution. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that the power of corporate America, the power of Wall Street, the power of the drug companies, the power of the corporate media is so great that the only way we really transform America and do the things that the middle class and working class desperately need is through a political revolution when millions of people begin to come together and stand up and say, our government is going to work for all of us, not just a handful of billionaires. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Wow, the corporate media. We have to talk about that, Mr. Sanders. Anyway, the round table tonight: Jonathan Allen is chief political correspondent for "Vox", April Ryan is White House correspondent with American Urban Radio Networks, and Ari Rabin-Havt is the host of "The Agenda" on SiriusXM. Thank you all for joining us. And I guess we have to talk about history and Hillary. I better start with April on this just for political purposes. April, this idea -- I don`t think Barack Obama said African-American first ever. It was always implicit. But this is a real bugle call, I think to women and men who are supportive of women, obviously, that this can break history and break that glass ceiling. Let`s do it for this reason. If there`s a doubt in your mind, at least go with that. APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Well, when it comes to Barack Obama, race and politics will follow this president because he is indeed the first African-American president of the United States of America. If Hillary Clinton were the president of this country, she would be the first female president. I`m going to give you one better than that, Chris. I`m going to go to Nancy Pelosi, something she says. It`s not the glass ceiling but it`s the marble ceiling. You can break glass. It`s hard to chip away at the marble. And in this town, this is a white male dominated town, a white male dominated town. And for her to possibly accomplish that feat, or even Carly Fiorina for that matter, it would be a major first, and you have as woman, you have to be proud about that.    MATTHEWS: Do you think it is good to be so declarative about it? I don`t think Obama was. Your thoughts? RYAN: OK. Obama could not be because he had to strategically navigate the waters to become president of the United States. And they understood if they talked about race his chances of being president of the United States would be nil because the issue of race is very polarizing in this country. Now, being a woman is different. Both groups have had struggles but she has a little bit more playing power, leeway to talk about gender as women has fought for the right to vote, the right to work, equal pay. Women are the next minority in this country. MATTHEWS: Ari, let me ask you about that question because it`s going to be an issue. Hillary wants it to be an issue. Is it smart to put it out front like she did with a smile? She`s very debonair about it. Very breezy. But I don`t think she did that when she was with Mark Penn eight years ago doing the same thing at all. ARI RABIN-HAVT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Right, like eight years ago, she was scared of showing her femininity. That was the opposite of Mark Penn strategy. But why not playing to the obvious? She`s a history-making candidate. She will be the first woman president of the United States if she wins. Why not put out that out there, say to the young women as she did last night, I`m going to break this glass ceiling for you. It makes sense. It`s the obvious. And it`s one of her strengths, frankly. MATTHEWS: You know what`s really interesting last night, Jonathan, and it`s interesting that always like the dog that doesn`t bark. We don`t mind talking about class politics like we used four or eight years ago. Certainly, we had a lot of it last night. The fact of age -- now, if the Republicans pick a young candidate like Marco Rubio I don`t think there is a big age difference between her and him. I think Hillary looked in fabulous shape, last night, wide awake, alert, clear-eyed. I mean, she was totally ready for any kind of appearance test, if you will. I think that thing -- another thing that disappeared last night, this worry about age. JONATHAN ALLEN, VOX CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bernie Sanders is older than Hillary Clinton is. MATTHEWS: Maybe that helps.    ALLEN: Seventy-four. And Joe Biden sitting on the sidelines also in his 70s. MATTHEWS: I`m talking about up against somebody like Marco Rubio, who`s definitely, what, in his 40s, mid-40s. ALLEN: There will also always be a generational divide. But I think presidential campaigns are about the issues. I think they`re about the candidate who`s got the forward looking vision. Marco Rubio talks about that a lot, says that Hillary Clinton is looking backward, and he is looking forward. But I think as long as a candidate looks like they are capable on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton obviously very capable right now on the trail and in the debates. Bernie Sanders, if you go out and see him at events, he`s got a lot of energy. So, I think that`s what matters a lot more. You remember that great Ronald Reagan line, that he wouldn`t hold his opponents youth and inexperience against them, and talking about Walter Mondale with the very wide hair at the time. MATTHEWS: Well, Mondale kept laughing at the Reagan jokes. Anyway, you know what I think last night? I think preparation mattered a lot. I think we talk about people being spontaneous probably too much. Hillary Clinton was the most prepped candidate I have seen long time. I give all the props to Ron Klein and Bob Barnett, they did the job. She was ready to every question. She was ready to jump at it, not to handle it, but to grab it, and that`s prep. Anyway, the other big moment last night, Hillary Clinton calling out Sanders` record on gun control. Boy, did she go at this aggressively. April, you pick up on this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Is Bernie Sanders tough enough on guns? CLINTON: No. Not at all. I think that we have to look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day from gun violence. This has gone on too long and it`s time that the entire country stood up against the NRA.    (APPLAUSE) The majority of our country supports background checks and even the majority of gun owners do. He was going to give immunity to the only industry in America. Everybody else has to be accountable but not the gun manufacturers. And we need to stand up and say enough of that. We are not going to let it continue. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: That was something, April. RYAN: It was. It really was. She sent out this clarion call. I mean, there has been a clarion call already from the president, this president, someone she worked with, you know, after almost every shooting that we have seen, mass shootings and other shootings. For her to call out Bernie Sanders that was strong, but Bernie Sanders also had a moment in that debate last night where he said, you know, the NRA has given him a D-minus. So Bernie Sanders may fight against them, but Hillary Clinton owned that moment to make it seem like Bernie Sanders is not doing enough with gun violence. And that`s one of the big issues in this nation that people are trying to push forward, trying to reform the gun control issue, gun control reform. That`s what they`re trying to do. And the NRA is listening to every word each of those candidates are saying. MATTHEWS: I give Hillary Clinton every bit of credit for her toughness in that, because it`s not like giving hawkish speeches about China or Syria or something like that. When you take on the NRA, that`s for real. She`s going to deal with that in Kentucky, Ohio, all the western states are not going to be easy because of what she just said there. The roundtable is staying with us. And up next, what not to do in a presidential debate? Here they are, coming up now, the low lights, the blooper reel from last night`s debate.    This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Charles Ramsey, Philadelphia`s police commissioner and the former top cop in Washington, D.C., announced his retirement today, drawing praise from Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and President Obama. The 65- year-old Ramsey has spent 47 years in law enforcement. He oversaw crime jobs in both cities and just ran the massive security effort for the pope`s visit to Philadelphia. But could we be seeing him again soon? Ramsey said, quote, "I`m not tired. I`m not burnt out. I`m actually in my prime." We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back with tonight`s roundtable, the HARDBALL roundtable: Jonathan, April and Ari. Well, last night`s Democratic showdown offered a number of lessons on what not to do in a debate. Here are few examples -- starting with the stunning answer from Lincoln Chafee, trying to explain a way a past road he took by essentially saying he was just too green. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Governor Chafee, you have attacked Secretary Clinton for being too close to Wall Street banks. In 1999, you voted for the very bill that made banks bigger. LINCOLN CHAFEE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Glass-Steagall was my very first vote, I`d just arrived, my dad had died in office. I was appointed to the office. It was my very first vote.    COOPER: Are you saying you didn`t know what you were voting for? CHAFEE: I`d just arrived at the Senate. I think we`d get some takeovers, and that was one. It was my very first vote, and it was 92-5. It was the -- COOPER: Well, with all due respect, Governor -- CHAFEE: But let me just say -- COOPER: -- what does that say about you that you`re casting a vote for something you weren`t really sure about? CHAFEE: I think you`re being a little rough. I`d just arrived at the United States Senate. I`d been mayor of my city. My dad had died. I`d been appointed by the governor. It was the first vote. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Jonathan Allen, was Anderson Cooper just a little too rough? (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: That is first time I ever heard somebody plead for mercy from a moderator.    (LAUGHTER) ALLEN: It wasn`t that rough. It was just, why did you vote that way? Look, Lincoln Chafee in another point in the debate said that he was a granite block. I think he`d be better in the polls if he were, in fact, a granite block and not giving such terrible answers. MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s one from Jim Webb. Jim Webb offered a good lesson of what to do in a debate, constantly complained about how little time he`s getting. April, you get in here. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JIM WEBB (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We go back and forth here for ten minutes here. COOPER: Secretary Clinton, you can respond. CLINTON: Well, first of all -- (CROSSTALK) WEBB: Can I get in this discussion at some point?    COOPER: Well, yes, you`ll be coming in next. But she was directly quoted. WEBB: Thank you. I`ve been standing over here for about 10 minutes trying. It`s going back and forth over there. COOPER: Madam Secretary -- You`re over your time. WEBB: I was -- well, you`ve let a lot of people go over their time. With respect to the financial sector, I mean, I know the time has run out, but I mean, in speaking of changing positions and the position in how this debate occurred is kind of frustrating, because unless somebody mentions my name, I can`t get into the discussion. COOPER: You`re wasting time. So, if you would, finish your answer and we`ll move on. WEBB: I`m trying to set a mark here so we can get into more later on. This hasn`t been equal time. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Very edifying. It turns out Jim Webb got six more minutes speaking time than Lincoln Chafee got.    April, does that work to whine? RYAN: No, it doesn`t. You`re presidential material. Want to be. And you can`t go up there saying oh, I lost my turn. You have to find a way to get in here like here on HARDBALL, Chris. MATTHEWS: Yes. RYAN: You`ve got to find a way to get your point in without looking like oh, I`m a loser and I can`t get in and make a big stink. He was having a temper tantrum. This is not a Monopoly game where you lose your turn or pass go and go to jail or whatever. This is real prime time TV. This is real stuff. And people want to hear the issues. I talk to Bishop TD Jakes this weekend. He said we need to hear the issues, not all this crazy stuff around the debate. MATTHEWS: Well, finally, we`re looking at -- we want to talk about running for president of the United States. It`s probably not a great idea to tell Americans that you look to Denmark and countries such as that for how we should behave -- just what Bernie Sanders last night and trying to explain what he means by Democratic socialists. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you look around the world, you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right except the United States. Those are some of the principles that I believe in and I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people. (END VIDEO CLIP)    MATTHEWS: Ari, he put Denmark on -- or Denmark -- Denmark on the map last night. My God, it never got so much attention. Your thoughts? RABIN-HAVT: I mean, Americans, we don`t want to be Scandinavians. And, look, I think Bernie Sanders has had a good explanation in the past of what democratic socialism is. But here I think this was a bit of a flub. We don`t want to be Scandinavians. We barely want to go to IKEA, except for the subsidized Swedish meatballs, right? MATTHEWS: Let`s not talk Nordic ideal anymore. Thank you so much, the roundtable -- April Ryan, Jonathan Allen, Ari Rabin-Havt. HARDBALL is back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: That`s HARDBALL for tonight. Thanks for being with us. Be sure to catch me on "Late Night with Seth Meyers" tonight at 12:35 Eastern. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. 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