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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 10/23/15

Guests: Jonathan Allen, Heidi Przybyla, Matt Schlapp, Erin McPike

STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Hillary Clinton takes a victory lap. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews. Hillary Clinton is capping off what has been a very good week for her campaign with an exclusive interview right here on MSNBC. My colleague, Rachel Maddow, talked to the Democratic front-runner this afternoon. We`re going to have part of that interview in just a moment. But first, let`s look at what Clinton has accomplished in the past 10 days -- this since many observers said she emerged as the clear winner in that first Democratic debate. For starters, she has rebounded in the polls. The latest Quinnipiac poll from Iowa puts Clinton 11 points ahead of Bernie Sanders. That`s a double-digit jump from just a month ago. She`s now the clear leader in the lead-off caucus state. And meanwhile also, two competitors have dropped out of the race, and another potential rival, Vice President Joe Biden, decided not to get in the race. And yesterday, through eight-and-a-half hours of grueling, often hostile questioning from Republicans on the Benghazi committee, a near universal consensus has now emerged Clinton triumphed in those hearings. The hearing was also a financial boon to the Clinton campaign. NBC News reports that the 9:00 o`clock hour last night was their best fund- raising hour of the campaign to date. Today, speaking to a group of Democrats, Hillary couldn`t help but celebrate a little. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)    HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s been quite a week, hasn`t it! (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: And as I mentioned, Rachel Maddow sat down with Secretary Clinton for an exclusive interview. She asked about Vice President Joe Biden. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": Now that he said that he is not running, are you jealous? (LAUGHTER) CLINTON: That`s a really good question! MADDOW: I mean, he doesn`t have to go through all this! CLINTON: He doesn`t have to go through it. Well, bless his heart. Look, I am a huge Joe Biden admirer, a friend, a former colleague. And I know this was an excruciating decision in a time of just such pain and grief for him and his family.    He is liberated. And I don`t think history is done with him. There is a lot for him and the president to keep doing in the next year-and-a- half, and I want to build on the progress that they are leaving behind. I feel very strongly about that. I want to go further, but I think the real point of this election is whether or not the Republicans are going to be able to turn the clock back and rip away the progress that has been made. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: And Rachel Maddow joins me now. Rachel, we`re going to interview you about your interview with Hillary Clinton. But actually, I was watching it as you taped it, and one thing struck me, at the very end, you said it was the first time you`d ever actually met her. MADDOW: Yes. KORNACKI: It was the first time you`d ever actually gotten a chance to sit down and talk with her. So I`m curious -- we`ll get into the substance of the interview in a minute here, but I`m curious what your impressions were, somebody you`ve seen in the news like the rest of us through the years, and actually getting here face to face -- what were your impressions personally? MADDOW: The thing I think that surprised me, and it`s pretty -- I guess it`s a local surprise, not a universal surprise about Hillary Clinton. But I thought after 11 hours in that hearing room last night, when I heard that that was going to be followed up with this big speech at this big DNC even today in Washington and then a big rally -- and she`s not doing a ton of big rallies, but she had a big rally today in Virginia -- I thought by the time she got to talking to me in the afternoon, after doing all that, she`d be sort of slithering in, you know? But I mean, you can see just in that short clip the amount of energy she has. I mean, she`s just radiating energy. I think she likes winning, and I think she feels like politically right now, on a lot of different fronts, she`s winning. She has incredible confidence. I did -- I mean, we definitely had some friendly questioning, but there was definitely some more uncomfortable questioning. And she didn`t flinch, and she had as much control, sort of emotional control, but also just, like, political control, and a control of the sense of how her words would land in a way that just sort of makes you feel like you`re in the presence of a real political pro. KORNACKI: Yes, or someone who`s just sat through 11 hours of hearing the day before and... MADDOW: Have you done an interview with her? Have you ever met her?    KORNACKI: I did an ambush interview with her in my days of reporting! MADDOW: Really? KORNACKI: And I asked her about the Iraq war about a month after it started. I snuck into a fund-raiser, got into the receiving line and asked her a question, and then was immediately was escorted out. MADDOW: How did she react to you (INAUDIBLE) KORNACKI: She said it was nice to meet me. MADDOW: Oh! (LAUGHTER) KORNACKI: And I met her again tonight for the first time. I think -- I don`t know if she remembers that 22-year-old obnoxious reporter who tried to get the quote. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: (INAUDIBLE) hair cut now (INAUDIBLE) (LAUGHTER)    KORNACKI: Right! MADDOW: I mean, it is interesting, though, that, like, you know, I am -- you know, we`re -- here on MSNBC, we`re, you know, for better or worse, the more liberal of all of the different cable news networks. And you know, I`ve never had an interview with Barack Obama as a sitting president. I had one interview with him as a candidate before he first got elected. I have never spoken to Hillary Clinton. I have never spoken to Bill Clinton. I`ve never spoken to Chelsea Clinton. At one point, she worked in this building. I mean, it is unusual to me that I`ve gone this long without ever being able to pin her down for an interview before. I think that sort of in itself almost feels like a story about Democratic politics and how Democrats deal with the media. But I was happy to have her for a nice, long period of time today, and we got into a lot of (INAUDIBLE) KORNACKI: Yes, and one of the things -- we have another clip here we can play. So this was -- you asked her about Congressman Mo Brooks from Alabama. Actually, I had him on "MEET THE PRESS DAILY." I was hosting the other day. And he talked about... MADDOW: Oh, it was great! KORNACKI: He said the grounds already exist to impeach Hillary Clinton if she becomes President Hillary Clinton. MADDOW: On day one! On day one. KORNACKI: On day one. So you asked her about that, and let`s play that clip. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You don`t have the nomination, and there`s already a sitting Republican member of Congress from Alabama, Mo Brooks, who says that he is ready to impeach you...    (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: ... on the first day of your presidency. CLINTON: Isn`t that pathetic? It`s just laughable! MADDOW: It`s amazing. CLINTON: It`s so totally ridiculous. MADDOW: But that is where the Republican Party... CLINTON: That is where they are. MADDOW: And it`s probably good politics in Republican politics for him to say that. CLINTON: Well, it`s -- it perhaps is good politics with the -- you know, the most intense, extreme part of their base. I guess that is, or otherwise, why would they be doing it? And I think we have to, you know, really try to build a larger base of our own that cuts across all kinds of geographic and political gradations. You know, let`s try to have, you know, from a center-right to a center-left understanding about certain things. And then let`s have a good, old- fashioned argument and fight about progressive values versus the alternatives. (END VIDEO CLIP)    KORNACKI: So this is an interesting thing to me, actually. I mean, you talk about impeachment. Her husband actually was impeached. She`s watched for the last seven years as absolute gridlock, absolute opposition from the Republicans has been the rule in terms of dealing with President Obama. She already has a Republican congressman talking about impeaching her if she gets elected. A certain part of me does wonder, why does she want back in? Why does she want to be president with that reality? MADDOW: Right. Because she thinks she can beat those people. I honestly think that`s part of it. The reason I asked that question in that way was because, in part, Joe Biden, when he got out, took a shot at her... KORNACKI: Yes. MADDOW: ... about her having said at the last debate, when she was asked, like, Who are you proud to be your enemy, and she said one of the people -- or one of the groups she was proud to have as an enemy -- she said it in a joking way, but she said it was the Republicans. And that has led to a little frisson of concern not only from the vice president but also from a lot of Beltway press and from, I think, from some other Democrats and people wondering if maybe that`s an unseemly thing to say. And I don`t think she means it in an existential way. I don`t think she wants to go kill Republicans, but I do think that she has a very different attitude towards Republicans than President Obama does, and it`s earned over 25 years as their public enemy number one. And it makes her have a kind of realpolitik attitude towards them, which she when she went into in some detail, actually, in this interview. I think what`ll end up being the most controversial part of this interview when we air the whole thing at 9:00 tonight is what she says about the contrast between how she approaches Republicans versus how President Obama approaches Republicans. KORNACKI: Yes, well, I`m curious about that. I mean, I don`t want to give away too much of the interview, at the same time, I mean, if Republicans do control the House, if she gets elected president, chances are, she`ll have to deal with a Republican House, maybe a Republican Senate. MADDOW: Yes. KORNACKI: but if they control just one of those chambers, what does she do? What would -- how would her approach be different in a way she would actually get something through?    MADDOW: Well, she -- well, what she would say, I think -- and she doesn`t -- she says this a little bit in the interview, but I`ve heard her elaborate on it more in other contexts. She would say, Listen, when I`m not in office, when I`m running for something, I`m their biggest target, and they`ll throw anything at me and it`s a complete circus. When I`m in office, when I was senator, when I was secretary of state, I not only had good support from Republican voters and good approval ratings among Republican Americans, but I get support and I get things done with Republican elected officials, and I think that will happen again when I`m president. yes, I know they like to play politics like this with me when I`m running. I can handle that. Watch when I get elected. It won`t be that way. And I have no illusion about these guys. I know how to get stuff done because we all know how this game is played. She`s sort of taking, I think, a sort of wise man -- forgive the phrase, but sort of a wise man, long-horizon view about the relationship between Democrats and Republicans and what`s a game and what`s not. And it`s a very serious difference between her and President Obama. KORNACKI: That would be a big difference. Hillary Clinton`s testimony before the Benghazi committee yesterday, as we say, lasted 8 hours and 17 minutes, a total of 11 hours if you count all those breaks. After the hearing, the committee`s chair, Trey Gowdy from South Carolina, was asked what he learned from all of it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) the most important new things you learned today? REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Oh. I -- I think some of Jimmy Jordan`s questioning -- well, when you say "new today," I mean, we knew some of that already. We knew about the e-mails. In terms of her testimony, I don`t know that she testified that much differently today than she has the previous times she`s testified, so -- I`d have to go back and look at the transcript.    (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: You know, I`d like to know where I got this from, but I read it somewhere today -- somebody said for a prosecutor -- Trey Gowdy`s a former prosecutor -- for a prosecutor to say that about a witness, that, you know, Through eight hours of testimony, we got nothing new, that`s the ultimate compliment a prosecutor can pay to a witness. MADDOW: Well, and, I mean, it gives the game away in terms of why they had her there. I mean, the thing about being a good prosecutor is that you never ask a question you don`t know the answer to. They knew what she could answer to and what she couldn`t answer to. They didn`t ask her questions that were designed to elicit information that she hadn`t otherwise provided. They asked questions that were designed to elicit an emotional outburst that would look bad in a TV commercial. They were trying to wear her down and make her say something impolitic. And they conceded that, essentially, that`s what they were doing, or at least that they weren`t trying to get the facts. And in fact, they didn`t. I quoted that to Secretary Clinton tonight in my interview, including the "um" and the several-second pause before he conceded they got nothing. She had a very interesting response to that, as well. KORNACKI: Do you think we`ve heard the last of -- I mean, the e-mail thing is still out there. I imagine we`re going to keep hearing about that, but... MADDOW: Yes. The FBI is still looking at the e-mail, right. KORNACKI: ... the Benghazi part of it -- do you think we`ve heard the last of it after yesterday? MADDOW: I -- it will be interesting to see specifically what the Trey Gowdy committee does. I mean, they do have to produce a report at some point. I imagine it`s scheduled to drop some time in, oh, late October 2016. We`ll see what they do. It is hard for me to imagine that they`ve got something else great planned after this, as that committee. There is a whole part of the Republican Party, though, in the conservative movement that is literally a fund-raising operation around that tragedy and that is designed to gin up conservative base support and money on the -- on the backs of those Americans who died and on the political furor that`s been created around it. I don`t think you can turn that off like a switch.    But I think Trey Gowdy came pretty close to getting shut off like a switch last night. KORNACKI: Here may be a test of this conversation we`re having right now. On Fox News today, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee essentially blamed the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the other three Americans in Benghazi on Hillary. Listen closely to his logic. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AR), FMR. GOV., PRES. CANDIDATE: It was just fascinating that Sidney Blumenthal had a lot more communication with Hillary Clinton as secretary of state than her ambassador to Libya. And you have to wonder, if she had been as willing to cooperate and communicate with Chris Stevens as she was Sidney Blumenthal and had she been as honest with the American people as she was with her own daughter and the Egyptian government, would four Americans be alive today? (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Now, I don`t know if people catch that there, but what he`s saying -- had she been as honest with the American people as with her husband and daughter -- she`s talking about e-mails that were sent after the attacks, after these four people were tragically killed. So no matter what kind of communication she had after the fact, it will not bring them back to life. MADDOW: Right. KORNACKI: And I thought that was an illustration, to me -- and I think we saw this with the committee yesterday -- there was a point there where Trey Gowdy said, There is no theory of the case. There is no theory because there`s no case. At another moment, Jim Jordan said, Actually, I do have a theory of the case... MADDOW: Yes. KORNACKI: ... and he laid one out. And then here`s another -- they really -- the lack of coordination on the Republican side is I think what surprised me most from that hearing yesterday. They really were all over the place.    MADDOW: In the morning, it felt like they sort of were coordinated. In the morning, it felt like, Oh, everybody`s got a little remit. You know, there`s one member of Congress who`s talking about the absolute value of the number of here e-mails. Here was larger number of e-mails. Here was a smaller number of e-mails. They make a larger stack or a smaller stack. So that was one argument. And then Pompeo seemed to be sort of in charge of the -- Mike Pompeo from Kansas seemed to be sort of be in charge of the conspiracy theories. At one point, he was suggesting that the State Department was wittingly or unwittingly essentially in cahoots with Al Qaeda. That was interesting! There were some -- you know, there were some other later references to gun-running, like that there was some sort of secret State Department gun- running operation. It felt like there was a division of labor, and it did dissolve over time. And I think that Chairman Gowdy, by being personally, I guess, in charge of or obsessed with the Sidney Blumenthal factor itself, led in a way that I think let people sort of go off on tangents because if you, as the chairman, are signaling that Sidney Blumenthal e-mailing Hillary Clinton is central to understanding what happened at Benghazi, you`re not leading in a narrowly fact-driven way. It really is all about political supposition. So I don`t -- I don`t know what`s going to happen. I will say, in terms of the -- the -- I don`t know, what is it? It`s the way it looks -- I think it is telling that Fox News Channel stopped showing the Benghazi hearing hours before it was over last night. And maybe they were always going to. You know, maybe they only had planned to cover eight hours, and after that, full stop. They were -- but when everybody else was still watching it and Fox was, like, I think it`s time to turn this off... KORNACKI: Yes. MADDOW: ... I think it tells you that the right stopped seeing any political utility in that hearing. KORNACKI: I do think one thing we can guarantee is that Sidney Blumenthal`s name ID in a poll probably jumped from zero percent to, I don`t know, 5 percent after yesterday! MADDOW: If he wanted to run for something right now -- now`s the chance! KORNACKI: He will have a little name recognition now. I don`t think he had that going into the hearing.    Anyway, thank you, Rachel Maddow. MADDOW: Thank you. KORNACKI: And her complete interview with Hillary Clinton -- that is coming up tonight at 9:00 Eastern on "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW." You`re not going to want to miss that. Make sure you tune in. And coming up on our show -- October was supposed to be a make or break month for Hillary Clinton. And after her good performance in the first debate, Joe Biden`s decision not to challenge her and yesterday`s triumph over the Benghazi committee, she is looking stronger than ever. That`s ahead. Plus, say hello to the new front-runner in the first-in-the-nation state of Iowa. His name, Dr. Ben Carson. Carson has now surged past Donald Trump in two new polls, thanks to the support of evangelicals. And he is not stopping there. And Paul Ryan agrees to run for House speaker, but with that unruly crowd on his right flank, is he doomed from the get-go? And finally, everyone loves a scoop, so stick around as our HARDBALL roundtable tells me something I don`t know. That shouldn`t be too hard. Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: And then were three. Former Rhode Island governor and senator Lincoln Chafee has now dropped his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Chafee never really gained any traction in this race, often struggling to reach 1 percent in national polling, and he was widely panned for his debate performance last week. With Chafee and former senator Jim Webb both dropping out this week, that leaves just Hillary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland governor Martin O`Malley in the Democratic race.    We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As some of you may know, I had a pretty long day yesterday. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) CLINTON: I am just grateful I recovered my voice, which I lost a little bit. But as I said at the start, I wanted to rise above partisanship and reach for statesmanship, and that is what I tried to do. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Hillary Clinton today taking a victory lap after her 11-hour marathon hearing on Benghazi yesterday. It wasn`t too long ago that October loomed as a make or break month for Hillary. Now through a mix of her discipline, political savvy and some lucky breaks, she has managed to run the table. The month kicked off after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy described the Benghazi Committee as being politically motivated, dealing a major blow to Clinton antagonists in the House. Clinton then made a cameo on "Saturday Night Live" where she effectively poked fun at her public image, alongside cast member Kate McKinnon. She went on to have a strong debate performance and even scored an unexpected armistice with her chief opponent, Bernie Sanders, on the issue of her e-mails. And on Wednesday, after months of speculation, of course, Joe Biden announced that he had decided not to enter the Democratic race. That`s a move that cleared yet another major hurdle from Clinton`s path to the nomination.    And now, after emerging from yesterday`s hearing unscathed, it looks like the worst is behind her. As Todd Purdum writes in "Politico" magazine today: "If in January 2017, Hillary Clinton is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, historians may well point to this month as the moment her campaign turned around." I`m joined now by MSNBC national correspondent Joy Reid, chief political correspondent for Vox Jonathan Allen, and senior political reporter Heidi Przybyla of "USA Today." Well, Jonathan, let me start with you. That idea that, in January 2017, we may be looking back at October 2015 and saying, that`s when she turned it around, that`s when she sealed the deal, what`s the likelihood of that vs. the likelihood of a month from now saying, oh, my God, it`s another Clinton crisis, can she survive it? JONATHAN ALLEN, VOX: Well, I think both are possible. But I would say that this month is the best month that any presidential candidate has had since the fall of 2008, when Barack Obama seized on the financial crisis and the stumbling of John McCain around that to win the presidency. You know, you know of Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, in the baseball playoffs. I think we can call Hillary Clinton Mrs. October now. KORNACKI: Well, Joy, it is interesting. We see it in the polls. We have that poll from Iowa today. She was losing in that same poll to Bernie Sanders in Iowa a month ago. Now she has got a double-digit lead. There clearly has been traction for her just from that debate. We haven`t even factored in this hearing yet. There is this sort of amazing confluence of events here, where we started out by saying, how much damage could Sanders do in the primary? And now we`re looking at it and I`m not hearing that talk suddenly. JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think one of the things you have to say about Hillary Clinton`s October is that she`s finally gotten on for what the campaign would be the right side of the media narrative, because the actual sort of overarching narrative of the campaign is that she was up by a lot nationally, and then she was up by a little nationally, but she was always ahead in the overall scheme of things of Bernie Sanders. It`s not as if he was overtaking her in national polls. Now, in those first two primaries, I think you had, particularly in more liberal states, whiter states, quite frankly, there was a lot of shopping for the Bernie Sanders sort of idea of a movement. And that definitely did put her down in the polls.    But you have to realize the other big thing that`s happened for Hillary Clinton is that it took three years for Republicans to get the mainstream media to focus on Benghazi. And they fished around several different narratives. The e-mail one is the narrative that finally caught on. And so the relentless coverage of the e-mails started to drag her down. It became sort of a vicious cycle for her campaign. Now that the media has had that balloon basically burst by the actions of the Republican committee, which sort of gave itself away and then held this 11-hour, extraordinarily bad political theater yesterday, I think now the media narrative has been punctured and it`s been punctured in her favor. KORNACKI: Yes. Heidi, I`m curious, too. We had polling here from NBC News and "The Wall Street Journal" the other day, and it showed, look, people said they were tired of hearing about the e-mails. They said they thought she used the e-mails for personal convenience, not nefarious purpose. They said they thought the Benghazi Committee was convened for political purposes. But then they also said, when they were asked, is Hillary Clinton being honest about her e-mails, they still said no. That stubborn question there of honesty and trustworthiness, do you think she was able to address that at all with her testimony yesterday, move that needle a bit? HEIDI PRZYBYLA, "USA TODAY": Yes, I think that she had two clouds hanging over her. She had the e-mail cloud and she had the Benghazi cloud. So, we`re clearly moved out from beneath the Benghazi cloud, but the e-mail cloud, you know, I don`t think that Republicans are going to drop that. Will it be effective? We don`t know. We still have an open FBI investigation. And while I don`t think that`s going to lead to anything substantive, politically, I don`t think that Republicans will necessarily drop that. What I do think is going to happen is that they are going to have to go somewhere else other than the Benghazi Committee. That`s pretty clear. I think -- I would not be -- expect -- surprised if in the next week or so, next couple of weeks, you see Republicans strongly pivoting to focusing on, for example, the Clinton Foundation more, to focusing on other aspects of her record as secretary of state, because I think it`s those things that are going to be more fertile ground for them. I think that Benghazi is effectively dead as an issue. KORNACKI: Well, as we say, it was a day of political theater yesterday, as Republicans repeatedly tried to badger Clinton into making some kind of an unforced error. Here were some of their attempts to get her off her game.    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why didn`t you fire someone? In Kansas, Madam Secretary, I get asked constantly, why has no one been held accountable? How come not a single person lost a single paycheck connected to the fact that we had the first ambassador killed since 1979? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So far, I have heard -- since we have been together today, I have heard one dismissive thing after another. It was this group. It was that group. I wasn`t served by this. I wasn`t served by that. (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But real quick, calling it an attack is like saying the sky is blue. Of course it was an attack. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it shortly... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to know the truth. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ever personally speak to him after you swore him in, in May? CLINTON: I believe... UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes or no, please. CLINTON: Yes, I believe I did. We have ambassadors that we send to places that have been bombed and attacked all the time.    UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you`re their boss; is that right? (CROSSTALK) CLINTON: You`re right I am. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had two ambassadors that made several, several requests. And here`s basically what happened to their requests. They were torn up. CLINTON: No one ever came to me and said, we should shut down our compound in Benghazi. REP. LYNN WESTMORELAND (R), GEORGIA: I`m not saying I`m not saying shut it down. I`m just saying protect it. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Right. (CROSSTALK) WESTMORELAND: I`m not saying shut it down. I`m saying protect it. CLINTON: Well, it was... WESTMORELAND: I`m not saying I`m not saying shut it down. I`m just saying protect it.    CLINTON: Right. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: You know, Jonathan, I think what we learned, at least me, when I was looking at the last week, is, I was reminded of how good Hillary Clinton is in adversarial settings. I thought back to the debates against Barack Obama in 2007-2008. We remember that he won the nomination, but I think we forget, she probably got the better of him in almost all of those debates. We watched that debate against Bernie Sanders, and very well-received performance there. And then yesterday, to go through that for eight-and-a-half-hours, she was unflappable yesterday. I think the bigger significance in this, as you think ahead to the fall of 2016, what Republican is out there who can stand up on the stage with her in those prime-time nationally televised debates and actually get her off her game? ALLEN: I think you`re absolutely right about that, Steve. I was trying to think yesterday, which other presidential candidate do I think could sit there for 11 hours, nine hours of testimony with some breaks, and actually answer questions over such a broad array of issues and in such deep detail and keep their can composure like that? I don`t think anyone else on the Democratic or Republican side could do that. I think Republicans succeeded in making her look more presidential yesterday, not less presidential. And she also was able to answer some questions that Republicans have been hanging out there for a while. I think inadvertently, they let her ask the question of whether she`s got energy to be president of the United States, is she too old, does she have the mental acuity to be president? Remember, there was that whole issue of whether her conclusion had really hurt her significantly. Karl Rove had raised that at one point. So, I think she was able to not just answer the Benghazi questions, not just some of the e-mail questions, but some of the larger questions Republicans have been throwing out there against her, and, again, looked much more presidential after yesterday`s hearing and during yesterday`s hearing than she did before. KORNACKI: Yes. And, Joy, you were talking about this a minute ago, but, quickly, how clear do you think the path is for her right now to the Democratic nomination? A few weeks ago, the potential was, you will lose a few of those early states. It`s embarrassing, if nothing else, even if she has a firewall later on. Is it much clearer now?    REID: I think it, in the sense, first of all, that it`s now clearly it`s a two-way race. With all due respect to Martin O`Malley, I think it`s a two-way race with Bernie Sanders. And then in that case, the demographics are overwhelmingly on Hillary Clinton`s side. Now, whether she can excite those non-white demographics in the general election is a whole other question. But if you just look at the primary itself, because Hillary Clinton has such an advantage with African-Americans, with Latinos over Bernie Sanders, unless he can close that ethnic gap and change the composition of his base, I think that she gets to Nevada and South Carolina and then to those big Super Tuesday states, where she has also got lots and lots of money, and she gets to places like Ohio, and then her advantage is just so overwhelming, it would be extraordinary for Bernie Sanders to overcome it, I think. KORNACKI: I think it was the stat of the week in South Carolina. There was a poll. Her lead over Bernie Sanders among black voters was 77 points. When I saw that, wow, that tells you the story. REID: Yes. KORNACKI: Anyway, thank you, Joy Reid, Jonathan Allen, Heidi Przybyla. REID: Thank you. KORNACKI: And coming up, the doctor is in. Watch out, Donald Trump, because Ben Carson has come from behind to take the first-place position in two Iowa polls now. What that means for Trump and the rest of the GOP field, that is next. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BILL KARINS, NBC METEOROLOGIST: I`m meteorologist Bill Karins.    And breaking news. National Hurricane Center confirms that we now have Hurricane Patricia made landfall as a Category 5 storm. One little piece of good news is the winds at landfall dropped to 165 miles per hour. It was at its peak earlier today at 200-mile-per-hour winds. And for the record books, this doesn`t -- this means it is not the strongest storm ever to make landfall on our planet. That honor still goes to Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013. That made landfall with 190-mile-per-hour winds. So, thankfully for the coastal areas -- obviously, they`re still dealing with a Category 5. Still going to be devastating whoever goes through the narrow little, small eye of this storm, but we`re not going to be looking at the catastrophic, you know, 200-mile-per-hour winds in a wide area. It`s a really narrow -- and it did drop about 35-to-40-mile-per-hour winds. So, where did it make landfall? Where is the worst devastation taking place right now? Well, it`s this little small town. This is near where the center of the eye is, over the top of currently Perula. It`s about 661 people. It`s a small town here right along the coast. All of these people hopefully are gone. And a lot of this will not look the same when it`s done. That`s who went through the eye. Further down the coast, things have actually improved. It`s a little better forecast for areas from La Manzanilla, also towards Manzanillo. Those areas are on the western -- excuse me -- the eastern side of the storm, a little bit further away from the eyewall. So, they got damage and they still have some really bad winds in these areas, definitely power outages, but they`re not seeing the extreme damage. So, for everyone with interest there, I was very concerned. Look at this -- how the shape of this cove is here, with San Patricio and further south down the coast. Those areas look to have been spared the worst. The worst of it is definitely further north. Now the big question is, what`s going to happen in Puerto Vallarta as we go throughout this evening? So, here`s storm at landfall, here, 165-mile-per-hour winds, and still one of the strongest storms we have ever seen in North American history. So, we don`t want to take away from it, but it`s not going to be classified as the strongest ever to make landfall in our recorded history. So, now the question is, with this path, how close is it going to get to Puerto Vallarta? If it takes a path more towards the mountains and hooks a little bit to the right, that will mean less of an impact in Puerto Vallarta. So, so far, where the landfall actually took place is one of the least populated locations on the entire coast is between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo. So, that`s one little good piece of good news. It has avoided the city centers. It has made landfall. It will weaken quickly from here. We will find out in the next couple hours, six to 12 hours, just how bad of an impact it`s going to be in Puerto Vallarta -- now back to HARDBALL. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)    BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I feel the same as I felt yesterday. I`m gratified by the fact that so many people are really paying attention to what I`m saying, because none of the things that I`m saying are wild, crazy things. They are very logical things. And if people really sat down and thought about them, rather than allowing themselves to be whipped into a frenzy, I think most people would say, hey, that makes sense. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson in Kansas today reacting to his new front-runner status in Iowa. Carson has ridden a surge in support from evangelicals to break Donald Trump`s three-month streak atop the polls in that state. Yesterday, the Quinnipiac poll had Carson opening up an eight-point lead over Trump in Iowa, Carson 28, Trump 20, Rubio back at 13, Cruz at 10, everyone else in single digits. Then today, another poll, this one from "The Des Moines Register." That`s the gold standard of Iowa polling, and it puts Carson nine points ahead of Trump. In that poll, it`s Carson 28, Trump 19, Cruz 10 and everyone else in single digits. Carson`s surge comes as part of Trump`s campaign is apologizing -- yes, you heard me right on that one -- apologizing for insulting Iowa voters. Yesterday, Trump retweeted -- quote -- "Ben Carson is now leading the polls in Iowa. Too much #Monsanto in the #corn creates issues in the brain?" Trump then disavowed that retweet, saying, "The young intern who accidentally did a retweet apologizes." The HARDBALL roundtable tonight. Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist with "The Washington Post." Erin McPike is a political reporter with Reuters. And Matt Schlapp is the chairman of the American Conservative Union. I will ask them all if their interns tweets for them right now. Maybe we can clear the air and you go on the record and tell us that. Otherwise, we will assume all tweets you put out there on your own. And, Matt Schlapp, let me start with you, though, on this question of Ben Carson and the evangelical vote in Iowa. So, in these caucuses, the evangelical vote I think is 60 percent of all votes cast in the Iowa caucuses. Looking at this wave of support that Carson`s developed now, we have been asking, how do we understand Ben Carson`s support? Is this how we understand is it? Is he the logical successor to Pat Robertson, to Mike Huckabee, to Rick Santorum? Is that who he is?    MATT SCHLAPP, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Yes. I mean, if you look at this poll, what`s very clear is that the second highest character trait that registers for Ben Carson is he`s a man of faith. The other one is that he seems to have commonsense solutions. And the third dynamic that`s in this poll, Steve, is Republicans really want to try a different type of person. Sixty percent of these Republicans are saying they want to throw out the old model. They want a new model for a new candidate. KORNACKI: Well, Gene, how -- if that is the mold that Carson is kind of fitting in here, the one thing that Huckabee and Robertson and Santorum all have in common, they all did well in Iowa. Two of them won it and one of them came in a surprising second, Robertson in `88. They all couldn`t build on that and win the nomination. Is there still -- is there a ceiling here with Ben Carson? Or are we in such a different universe now that this guy could go a lot farther than Iowa? EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, given the way the polls are this year, I`m reluctant to declare a ceiling for anybody, so we don`t know. But my guess is that Iowa is different. It`s certainly different from New Hampshire. It`s different from my home state of South Carolina, where there`s -- there are a lot of evangelicals. Evangelicals are a big part of the Republican coalition, yet those kinds of candidates tend not to win in South Carolina. However, this is not a year in which past is necessarily prologue. So who knows whether this could be a launching pad for something greater for Ben Carson or not. My guess is that it won`t be, but he might win Iowa. ERIN MCPIKE, REUTERS: Well, Steve, if I can add to that, too, Iowa is still 100 days away. So, his support may very well be soft. He`s only been to Iowa once since the first debate. He`s now on his book tour. We`re seeing Ted Cruz build a lot more slowly and a lot more steadily, and it could very well be that somebody like Ted Cruz can overtake Ben Carson at the end of the day in Iowa. KORNACKI: Yes. No, I think a great point there. I think the two to keep an eye on that we`re not talking about in Iowa right now are Cruz and Rubio, each one positioned potentially, if Cruz -- if Carson stumbles here, to move ahead and have a surge of their own.    As I mentioned, in Iowa, roughly six in 10 caucus attendees identify as evangelical Christians. With that in mind, let`s take a look at some of Trump`s rhetoric when it comes to God and marriage. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: Have you ever asked God for forgiveness? (LAUGHTER) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m not sure I have. I just go and try and do a better job from there. I don`t think so. When I drink my little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and have my little cracker, I guess that`s a form of asking for forgiveness. I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. I`m for traditional marriage. JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump, what`s traditional about being married three times? TRUMP: Well, they have a very good time. Jake, I`m for traditional marriage. Hold that book up, please. OK. One of the great ones. That`s my second favorite book of all times. Do you know what my first is? The bible! REPORTER: I`m wondering what one or two of your most favorite bible verses are and why.    TRUMP: I wouldn`t want to get into it because it`s very personal to me. When I talk to the bible, it`s very personal. You know, when I talk about the bible, it`s very personal. The bible means a lot to me, but I don`t to want get into specifics. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: The same "Des Moines Register" poll we`ve been referencing found that only 32 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa say that they think Donald Trump is a committed Christian. So, Matt, I`m curious, you know, Donald Trump is right now second place in Iowa when it comes to evangelical Christians. Carson has surged into the lead with evangelical Christians but Trump is still getting about 20 percent from them. Is it only a matter of time when we start looking at comments like that litany we just played right there, is it only a matter of time before that number fades out for him? MATT SCHLAPP, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, what it really means in the poll, that 32 percent is a real key thing you just brought up, is he has room to grow with evangelical Christians if they believe his faith really helps him make these decisions. The other issue that he`s bringing up, which is just ingenious, is this idea that, hey, I`m going to bring "Merry Christmas" back again. When we go to Macy`s these days, it`s all "happy holidays". He`s saying, we get rid of "happy holidays" bring back "merry Christmas." So, I`m wondering if he`s going to wear Santa hat that says, "Making Christmas great again". KORNACKI: It`s amazing, you know, talking about the little cracker and all this stuff, if hard-core religious voters won`t see right through that. But, you know, he`s got 20 percent with them right now. Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with me. Still ahead, is Paul Ryan`s speakership doomed before it even begins? Our panelist Gene Robinson thinks so and he`ll explain why coming up next. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)    KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It`s been one month of chaos and confusion for Republicans in Congress since House Speaker John Boehner announced his intent to resign. The party then rejected the speaker in waiting, Kevin McCarthy, leaving just Congressman Paul Ryan as the only Republican in Congress with enough clout to take the job. But he didn`t want the job. Some outside observers believed it would be a suicide mission. Ryan laid out his demands for the job. Last night he made it official by telling his colleagues, yes, after all that, he will go ahead and run for the job. Quote, "I`m actually excited for this moment," he said. "After talking with so many of you and hearing your words of encouragement, I believe we are ready to move forward as a one, united team." Ryan is walking into a divided party driven by election year forces. Back with the HARDBALL roundtable, Eugene Robinson, who declared in "The Washington Post" that Ryan is doomed, and Erin McPike and Matt Schlapp. So, Gene, let me start with you. Let me play devil`s advocate here. I understand, you know, any Republican speaker of the House is eventually going to have to keep the government open and eventually going to have to keep the country from defaulting on its debt. So that would mean cutting a deal and risks the wrath of the right. That`s the trap that befell John Boehner and presumably any Republican speaker would walk into. But we`re talking about Paul Ryan, the architect of the pathway to prosperity, the anti-Obama budget, the big Obama era conservative. Doesn`t he have more credibility with the hard core base of the party that he can go to them and say, guys, we`ve got to do this? EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, he certainly has a lot of credibility as a Republican intellectual in Congress, as the architect of a budget that Republicans in Congress generally admire and support. But there is the arithmetic. The arithmetic is pretty basic. He apparently in his conversations with the freedom caucus, he said that he`s going to stick to the Hastert rule. Majority of a majority of the majority has to support any legislation that he brings to the floor. And that puts him essentially in the same basic position that John Boehner was in. He`s got to deal with 40 or so members of the Republican caucus who are, you know, who don`t want to do -- don`t want to cooperate in governing and don`t want to compromise with Democrats. And, so, in the end, he`s going to have to find the votes from somewhere. I don`t see how this works out well for him. ERIN MCPIKE, REUTERS: Well --    KORNACKI: Erin, how long do you think this goes for? I mean, is this an interim deal that takes you through the 2016 election and then he`s out of there? Or is this a long-term thing? What do you think? MCPIKE: Well, we`ll see how he does. But I think people are miscasting this a little bit saying he made all of these demands and then he caved. What he did was really a stroke of genius. He set a high bar and then he negotiated. I think he set a road map for how he`s going to be working with his conference over time, that in every negotiation he goes into, he`s going to set a bar that they won`t meet and he knows that, and so he can come down a little bit. I think he handled the situation just right. KORNACKI: Matt, we`re short on time in this segment, but I want to get to you. Paul Ryan as the speaker beyond 2016, is this an interim speaker or is this a long-term speaker we`re looking at here? SCHLAPP: Look, Republican leadership in the house usually does not end well and doesn`t last long. Gingrich lasted four years. John Boehner lasted about the same time. We don`t keep them around in the Republican House. But if anybody can make it work, it`s Paul Ryan. KORNACKI: All right. The roundtable is staying with us. And up next, scoops and predictions from these three when they tell me something I don`t know. This is HARDBBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: We`ve got to look at two 2016 races with some tough reelection battles for incumbent senators. Let`s go to the HARDBALL scoreboard. In Wisconsin, Republican Ron Johnson is losing to the man he once beat. Former Senator Russ Feingold is back for a rematch of their 2010 race, and Feingold is now ahead 51-40 out in that Wisconsin race.    In New Hampshire, Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan is up over Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, but the two are within the margin of error. It`s Hassan 44, Ayotte 43 in that one. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: We are back. Time now for the HARDBALL round table, to tell me something I don`t know. I love this segment. We are setting the bar low here. But, Matt, go ahead. Tell me something I don`t know. SCHLAPP: OK. In the month of October Dr. Carson will raise over $10 million, which is about half of what Hillary Clinton raised in the previous three months. It`s a big number. KORNACKI: All right. And, Erin, how about you? What do I not know? MCPIKE: Well, as Jeb Bush`s operatives are prospecting for new donors, they are trashing Marco Rubio, saying that he`s inexperienced, that he`s an absentee freshman, even asking, can you imagine him in a one on one with Vladimir Putin? So, the gloves are off there. KORNACKI: Wow. That is really interesting too when you consider the relationship between the two of them going back to Florida and now it`s come to this if Bush is going to survive, he`s going to have to knock out Rubio. It`s very interesting. Eugene, something I don`t know.    ROBINSON: 2015 so far is the hottest year on record since recordkeeping began. I say this as one of the most powerful hurricanes we`ve ever seen strikes the Mexican coast. You might know this, Steve, but I say it just in case some Republican candidates might be listening who don`t know it. Climate change is real. KORNACKI: Well, let me actually, we have him in here. Let me follow up on that. That`s an interesting point. Is that something -- do you expect it will be any different this time around in terms of how that issue`s addressed on the Republican side? It has not really come up in these debates. Is that going to change at all? ROBINSON: I don`t think it will. Whoever -- whichever candidate emerges is going to have to engage in the general election on the issue of climate change. I don`t see it being an issue in the Republican primaries because they all agree, hey, what`s the problem? SCHLAPP: Hey, Steve. Bring it on. KORNACKI: Well, what do you mean? What do you mean? SCHLAPP: I just mean -- look, we have a very weak economy and let`s bring on the fact that all these regulations would make energy prices twice as high and get rid of manufacturing jobs. I think it`s a bad strategy for the Democrats. KORNACKI: Well, I think that answers the question. We`re not going to hear the Republicans address it any differently than we`ve been hearing it. But I love that segment. Chris used to do that in his Sunday show. You guys all told me something I didn`t know. Of course, if you`d said anything about art or math, that would have worked too. But anyway, thank you all. My roundtable for tonight, Eugene Robinson, Erin McPike, Matt Schlapp. And HARDBALL is back after this.    (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: All right. And don`t forget, Rachel Maddow`s interview tonight with Hillary Clinton. This is Secretary Clinton`s first interview since the Benghazi hearings yesterday. And it`s coming up one hour from now, 9:00 Eastern Time, here on MSNBC. Chris Matthews will be back Monday. And right now, it`s time for "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES". THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>