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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 10/26/15

Guests: Anne Gearan, Jamal Simmons, Sabrina Siddiqui, John Feehery

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Has Hillary got them scared yet? Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews out in Los Angeles. I`ve got a question for you tonight. Has Hillary Clinton`s strong performance and luck last week sobered up Republicans to the facts of life? Are they now ready to put their best candidate on the field against her, or are they still happy with screwing around and having fun? Are they now ready to think about next November and the horror to them of waking up to four or eight more years of President Hillary Clinton, or are they still out there to enjoy another round or two of bashing their party`s establishment? And now the tough question for Republicans themselves, do their voters, big shots, elected officials, whatever. Who would you bet would be a stronger challenger to Secretary Clinton, a wild, radical shake-up candidate, Donald Trump, or a safer, more predictable figure like Jeb Bush or his fellow Floridian Marco Rubio? Who would you put there when you know you`re facing a formidable candidate now like Hillary Clinton of her recent performances? Anne Gearan is a political reporter for "The Washington Post," Jamal Simmons is a Democratic strategist and co-founder of Create-com, and Joan Walsh is a national affairs correspondent for "The Nation" newspaper and an MSNBC political analyst. Anyway, in Iowa this weekend, Democrats seemed to rally around Clinton. She spoke at the J.J. dinner there Saturday night, and according to David Yepsen, the long-time political columnist in Iowa, the event felt like Democrats have concluded the race is over. And "The Washington Post" reported today that Clinton has a strong machine backing her now. Quote, "Clinton is building a campaign juggernaut on a scale beyond that of any Democratic or Republican candidate, harnessing the data analytics reshaping modern politics and appropriating the personalized organizing techniques Barack Obama used to defeat her in the 2008 Iowa caucus." In other words, Anne, they`re using state-of-the-art stuff now like Obama did to win, that seven contacts thing that Plouffe put together, you know, seven contacts right before an election and the right people show up.    Anne, let me ask you about this, the key question (INAUDIBLE) tonight. Have the Republicans sobered up? Do they know who they`re facing and it`s not going to be easy? ANNE GEARAN, "WASHINGTON POST": Yes, I think Republicans had a few months where they thought, Gee, Hillary really does have one Achilles heel, or perhaps more than one, that they could exploit. She did look hobbled. She didn`t have a good summer at all. A number of things didn`t break her way coming up right up until October. October she owned. Basically, every single thing that could have gone her way in October did. And certainly, that leaves the Republicans here at the end of the month, and with Iowa 100 days away, definitely sobered up. It`s like somebody kind of, you know, slapped the -- slapped them after a night at the bar. MATTHEWS: You know, Jamal, like, Hillary Clinton has kind of a strategic defense initiative -- you attack her, and you pay. She`s really good on big D, really good. JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: She is. And you know, Joe Biden didn`t run, but there really was a Biden primary, and she won it. And the thing about the Biden primary is she pushed -- he pushed her to actually become a better candidate, which I always thought was one of the best reasons for him to run because either he`d beat her or he`s make her better. And what she did was, she called donors and checked in. She called staffers and checked in. She did "Saturday Night Live." She got more personable. And I think it made -- it, like, really amped up her game. And what it showed is that Hillary Clinton on the big days, she shows up and she does well. MATTHEWS: I think what happened, Joan, is she was really well prepared for that debate with the other Democrats, and I think that`s what gave her confidence and happiness. I think feeling good, being charming and all that comes from confidence that you`ve got your game ready. JOAN WALSH, "THE NATION," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well... MATTHEWS: That`s what I think. WALSH: I think that`s... MATTHEWS: I think it`s intellectual.    WALSH: ... so true. I think that`s particularly true for her, Chris. She`s really somebody who prepares. She takes all of that stuff seriously. She`s best when she`s really in the weeds on policy, to be honest, and when she knows she`s pretty much prepared for everything. Some people are charming and they can wing it. I`m not one of those people, either. She really is known... MATTHEWS: Oh, please! WALSH: No, no, no. I mean, she`s really known for overpreparing, and I think it showed. And then you`re right, then she could be charming. Then her inner charm can come out because she knows she`s ready for anything. MATTHEWS: Joan, we all know when we`re playing our game. When we know what we`re talking about, we`re a lot better than when we`re BS-ing it. Anyway, as to which Republican has the best shot at taking on Hillary Clinton next November, there seems to be a disconnect -- this is fascinating -- between the party`s establishment and the actually Republican voters. Now, this is key. Do the big shots really know their own party? According to the Associated Press on-line poll, 7 of 10 Republicans say Trump could win in November -- could win. That`s not a big deal, but could win. That`s higher than any other candidate. Six in ten say the same for Dr. Carson and Jeb Bush. A little more than half, 54, say Rubio could win. But when it comes to Trump, Senator Lindsey Graham had this warning for his fellow establishmentarians. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For all of us, if we don`t step up our game on the establishment side, whatever you want to call it, and start challenging these guys more effectively, I think we`re letting the cause down because Donald Trump will get killed in a general election. He will absolutely get... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lindsey...    GRAHAM: Hillary Clinton will mop up the floor with this guy. Donald Trump`s position on immigration is hateful and illogical. There`s a reason 75 percent of Hispanics disapprove of this guy. We will get slaughtered if he`s the nominee. So if you give a damn about winning, pick somebody who doesn`t dig the hole deeper with Hispanics. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Anne Gearan -- I mean, I like Lindsey Graham. I can`t explain it, but I do like the guy. And I have to tell you because I think he`s very good at immigration, for example -- but there he is wearing the perfect gray suit, the perfect maroon tie or burgundy tie and the perfect blue shirt talking for the establishment. And yet is there an establishment, or is that just something that happened years ago and is gone? And the people out there in the Republican Party are tough, working-class white people who are angry at the system. They`re not the people at the club. GEARAN: Well, clearly, there is an establishment because they`ve -- they`ve, you know, set up a super-PAC that`s given Jeb Bush what was supposed to be pretty much an unbeatable head start. That hasn`t worked to Jeb`s advantage, but certainly, those people exist. Their values and their goals for the Republican Party exist. But I`ve really been waiting for a while to hear somebody say what Lindsey Graham said there, which is, basically, the "you are about to shoot yourself in the foot" argument, which is a very interesting thing to hear one presidential candidate say about another. And I think it`s in many ways the establishment`s best argument against Trump, but it`s taken a while for them to get there, and I really don`t know whether anybody is listening. MATTHEWS: Well, Anne, you stay with this. Look, you`re covering this thing every day, and I just want to ask you about women, especially women my age, older women who vote, who show up, who`ve been through all this crap with male politicians. And they see a B-minus or B male -- male -- you know, male running against Hillary Clinton, why in the world would they vote for the guy? They`d have to vote for somebody who was rock `em, sock `em change agent, somebody who made Hillary look like the way things are, Anne. GEARAN: Right, but...    MATTHEWS: I don`t know why it`s the safer -- why is it the assumption of Lindsey Graham that the safe bet is the more tame bet, the person who`s been around a while, like Jeb or somebody? Why would that be a safer bet when -- at times when people are so unhappy? Isn`t a better bet to bet on a little revolution rather than go with the same old guy who to most women would be the same old guy, and they`ll say, Hey, I`m going to take a chance on a woman or a revolutionary, but I`m not going to go with some boring old guy that`s been around here for 20, 30 years. Your thoughts. GEARAN: Well, right. I mean, so you`re absolutely right in that if that`s the choice, you know, some guy in a suit who looks like the many guys in the suit who`ve run for president for -- for -- for many elections before, and Hillary Clinton, I think that`s a huge advantage for her as long as she runs a smart campaign from here to the election. One person who could be a potential game changer on that front for the Republicans would be Marco Rubio. He`s -- he`s not -- he`s -- he`s -- he`s sort of the establishment but not. He`s -- he`s sort of run an anti- establishment campaign. He`s young, he`s Hispanic, he`s good looking, he`s smooth, he`s smart. He`s got a lot of political gifts that make him a different and more appealing kind of candidate who could potentially touch a lot of those different levers that you mentioned. SIMMONS: Chris... MATTHEWS: He just looks like -- let me go, Jamal -- I want to skip over to the other lady here, Joan. I`m sorry, Marco Rubio looks like somebody`s son-in-law. I mean... (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: ... some -- you know, some... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK, Jamal, you`re hot. You`re... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... come up with the perfect suit, the perfect khaki pants, the perfect penny loafers. And he looks like he`s cool and he`s harmless. But does he look like president of the United States, head of the armed forces of this country?    WALSH: No! No, he doesn`t. And he doesn`t like his current job! I mean, he`s acting incredibly entitled the way he is dishing and dissing the Senate. People live their whole lives wanting to be senators. And he just doesn`t like it so he doesn`t show up? Who thinks that is commander-in-chief behavior? I mean, who is advising this man? He`s imploding as fast as Jeb is now. I mean, I really -- I agree with Anne in the sense that I really do think he could cut into Hillary Clinton`s -- if it is Hillary Clinton -- into her edge with Latino voters. He certainly could, but not if he starts to hemorrhage other voters. I mean, if he starts to become a laughingstock, which he`s on the verge of being, then I don`t think he`s any better off than Jeb Bush. He`s younger, but he`s really kind of blowing politics at this moment. MATTHEWS: Jamal, you wanted to get in here, but I want to ask you about the basic question of a Hearts game. You`re playing Hearts. Do you shoot the moon with Trump? I mean, there`s no doubt -- there`s no doubt he comes with all kinds of risks, but he does guarantee you rock `em, sock `em. He guarantees you a debate with 100 million people watching. He guarantees Hillary`s going to do her homework, and then some. Where as a guy like Marco Rubio -- you know, what is this, Boys` Nation? Or what is this? I mean, I`m serious! He`s a good guy and he can give a damn good speech, thanks to Todd Harris`s coaching. But my God, didn`t we go through this? If you`re a right-winger, we`ve been through Obama, first-termer out of nowhere who gives a good speech, so we`re going to match that? Anyway, back to the big one. Is it smarter to shoot the moon or go safe? SIMMONS: Well, I think it`s probably smarter for them to go pick somebody completely different because, frankly, I can`t see anybody out of this list who really is going to be very welcome in the general campaign. Donald Trump is just too loose of a cannon. And Marco Rubio -- I was going to say, you know, Marco Rubio -- he -- he is sort of the face of the future -- if you just look the two of them side by side, you have the future versus the past, right? But as a woman friend of mine said -- you asked about women. A woman friend mind said he just looks immature, and immature is a really devastating critique of Marco Rubio and I think it`ll be very hard for him to get past. And this flap about him not showing up for work in the Senate is another example of him maybe not having the maturity to lead the nation. MATTHEWS: And also being broke all the time. Anyway, the Jefferson Jackson dinner featured a more aggressive Bernie Sanders going after Hillary Clinton. As "The Des Moines Register" put it, it was the moment Sanders sharpened the knives. Let`s watch him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And let me be clear about the current trade deal that we are debating in Congress, the Trans Pacific Partnership! That agreement is not now nor has it ever been the gold standard of trade agreements! Today, some are trying to rewrite history by saying they voted for one anti-gay law to stop something worse! That`s not the case! I have opposed the Keystone pipeline from day one! (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) SANDERS: I listened carefully to what Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld had to say, and I said, No! They`re not telling the truth! (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) SANDERS: But that was a tough vote. I came to that fork in the road, and I took the right road, even though it was not popular at that time! (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, good for him. I must say I like a politician who rings all the bells at the same time, Joan. I mean, it was TPP, it was pipeline... WALSH: Right. MATTHEWS: ... Keystone and it was, of course, the Iraq war. And he`s ringing all those bells against Hillary. The new spelling of Hillary`s name is S-O-M-E (ph). That`s who he`s talking about. And it`s pretty -- and it`s totally legitimate to go after people on their votes and their positions.    WALSH: I agree... MATTHEWS: It`s a real good debate. WALSH: I agree. It`s totally legitimate. I know some people in the Clinton camp were pushing back over the weekend and today, but I think there was nothing wrong with what he did. She certainly hit him on, and she hit him correctly on guns. He`s pushing back. He didn`t do anything personal, below the belt. She hasn`t, either. I think Democrats are happy to see this. And if people want somebody who`s always been in the same place, they may go with Senator Sanders. There`s nothing below the belt about this. I don`t know why people are squawking. MATTHEWS: Well, because they squawk. Anyway, thank you very much, Anne Gearan. By the way, you can`t always play -- I think it`s -- Hillary plays defense against this guy, it`s going to be a lot harder to play defense against a guy who`s a man who`s completely ideologically clear-headed and knows what he is. This could be a great debate. You think "The nation" will endorse Bernie Sanders? WALSH: I don`t know. I have no idea. MATTHEWS: Will you tell me when you find out? (LAUGHTER) WALSH: You`ll be the first one I tell. Definitely. (CROSSTALK)    MATTHEWS: You`re all great tonight... (CROSSTALK) SIMMONS: ... Larry David. I think Larry David is the reason why he gave that speech because he can`t be looked at as being -- wanting to be her vice president. WALSH: Oh, that`s a good point. MATTHEWS: OK. WALSH: That`s a good point. MATTHEWS: Thank you. But I never thought so. I think the guy`s his own man. Anyway, thank you, Anne Gearan. According to Howard Dean, who`s known him forever, he`s been that guy for 50 years. There has -- you say, Joan, he hasn`t changed. That`s for sure! WALSH: Right. MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. And Anne Gearan, the pro here, covers this woman very day, Hillary Clinton. What a great reporter to have on the show. Thank you so much, Jamal Simmons, who is having fun as a Democrat, and Joan Walsh, who is always a delight. Coming up -- Jeb Bush says he`s got cooler things to do -- do you like this? He doesn`t need us. He`s got cooler things to do than run for president. In fact, he`s frustrated with his campaign. But what did Jeb think he was getting into? This is a grown-up job. And what kind of message is he sending to voters, "I`ve got better things to do"? Plus, Dr. Ben Carson is now the front-runner in Iowa, at least. And that means Donald Trump finds himself in an unusual spot, second place. But that`s in Iowa. So that`s, you know, home schooling country. So what`s Trump doing about it? He`s hitting Carson on his religion, getting personal here.    And two days to go (INAUDIBLE) the presidential debate, until it, in Boulder, Colorado, this week. Which candidate is under the most pressure for Wednesday, and who could be the next dropout? It might be Bush. Finally, let me finish with an October surprise for all of us. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Vice President Joe Biden says he didn`t run for the top office because he felt he couldn`t win. He talked about his decision in an interview last night with "60 Minutes." Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it that you think you couldn`t win or that you didn`t want to run? JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Couldn`t win. I`ll be very blunt. If I thought we could have put together the campaign that our supporters deserved and our contributors deserved, I would have gone out and done it. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But why did it take you to Tuesday to figure that out? BIDEN: It took that long for us to decide as a family. Look, dealing with the loss of Beau -- any parent listening who`s lost a child knows that you can`t -- it doesn`t follow schedules of primaries and caucuses and contributors, and the like. It just -- and everybody grieves at a different pace. (END VIDEO CLIP)    MATTHEWS: Biden also said there was no doubt there was no Hollywood moment, so-called, before Beau`s death when in Beau`s final hours, he asked his father to -- not (sic) to run. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. I love that song. From front-runner to freefall, Jeb Bush this weekend faced questions that his presidential campaign is falling apart. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) campaign`s already started and Bush is falling apart and may not even (INAUDIBLE) JEB BUSH (R-FL), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Blah, blah, blah, blah. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s your -- you know what they`re saying... (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, blah candidates shouldn`t say "Blah, blah, blah."    Bush huddled with his family this weekend and his richest donors down in Houston in an attempt to resuscitate the campaign. But catch this. One supporter at the meeting, an insider, told Politico, quote, "The patient is either in intensive care or being put into hospice, and we`re going to see a slow death." What a terrible thing to say if you`re an insider in the Bush operation. Well, this weekend, during a town hall with South Carolina senator Tim Scott, as you just saw, Bush publicly fumed about the state of the race and Trump`s rise in it. At one point, Bush spoke about getting out of the race entirely. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you bring our country together and lead us into the promised land? BUSH: Well, I`m no Moses. (LAUGHTER) BUSH: Somehow, we`ve changed the whole dynamic about leadership, where if you actually -- like I just did -- so that I think we need people with a servant`s heart and servant leadership matters -- that`s a sign of weakness. That`s just ridiculous. If you assume that people aren`t bad people, you actually can re-weave kind of the web of civility. That`s not a sign of weakness. That`s strength. If this election is about how we are going to fight to get nothing done, then I don`t want anything -- I don`t want any part of it. I don`t want to be elected president to sit around and see gridlock just become so dominant that people literally are in decline in their lives. That is not my motivation. I got lot of really cool things that I could do other than sit around being miserable listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Boy, that`s a strange way to sit with your legs part apart. I have never seen a guy sit like that. It`s like he`s riding a horse. Anyway, today, Donald Trump retorted.    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And he was very angry over the week. He said, you know, if this is going to be this nasty, let them have Trump as their president. If he doesn`t like my tone, how is he going to do with Putin? How is he going to do with these killers in the Middle East? (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Gene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for "The Washington Post." And Howard Fineman is the global editorial director at The Huffington Post. I want to start with Gene. I have never heard a candidate say I have got better things to do than talk to you people out there. I could be having fun playing with my toys since I`m rich and well-born. What a statement. EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I have certainly never heard a successful say anything like that. I thought one rule of running for president that I really don`t think has been broken this year or has dissolved this year, I think it still applies, is that you have to ask people for their votes. And you have to be sincere in that. And you have to act as if you want the office. And if you act, if you say, not just act as if, but if you say, look, I have got better things to do than be here humoring all you people who seem to be enamored with this guy that I can`t stand, that -- what`s going to happen to his poll numbers? I think they go -- probably tick down from the current 7 percent or 8 percent down to 5 or 6, because... (CROSSTALK)    MATTHEWS: How low can he go? ROBINSON: It`s just a slap in the face. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: This is limbo. Howard, the one reason I like this job is I like this job. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I don`t think you begin to like a job if you decide you don`t like the job. He is running for president of the United States, because -- did he decide or did somebody else decide it? He decided to run. I mean, Trump has a point. HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. MATTHEWS: If you don`t like the heat, stay out of the kitchen, Harry Truman said. FINEMAN: No, of course. Of course.    MATTHEWS: The heat is heat, but it`s no surprise. He`s running against Donald Trump. FINEMAN: No, Chris, I have covered the Bushes as a whole. And I have covered Jeb Bush for many years. I covered him when he was running for governor of Texas -- I mean, excuse me -- governor of Florida. I got to know him pretty well. Unlike the guy who ran for governor for Texas, George Bush, who exuded a kind of energy and enjoyment about running, Jeb, in this case, betrayed a sense I have always had of him going way back, which is, he is doing a duty dance for the family. MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: You ask why he`s running. I sometimes feel it`s more because he`s supposed to run, because he was the one that Barbara thought should be president. He was the one who had the Phi Beta Kappa. He was the guy who was tall. And the Bushes worship people who are tall and seemingly elegant. He was central casting, but I don`t know that he ever really wanted to be cast in it. I say that with all seriousness. MATTHEWS: Is he doing it, like some people thought Ted Kennedy did it, just to get it over with? FINEMAN: Yes. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I got to do it. It`s my turn. Let`s go. FINEMAN: Yes.    And you put on top of that the fact the whole Bush thing, which is this -- their attitude toward politics -- I`m here in Pittsburgh, where moderate Republicans used to thrive, people like Elsie Hillman and John Heinz. That`s who the Bushes were. He`s trying to fashion himself into something else. The world has completely changed. What you have now is a Republican Party that is run by the harshest part of the right, the evangelicals and libertarians. The tone has changed and the means of transmission has changed, Chris. Politics now is conducted very personally, with anger and with personal insults, because it`s based on social media. Donald Trump understands this. He knows that it has to be Donald Trump saying something tough and nasty, because that is what goes viral. Jeb doesn`t want to go viral. He has no interest in being viral. That`s the way the world works now. And, frankly, he strikes me as a guy who doesn`t want any part of it. MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, Bush`s struggles -- and they are struggles -- have invigorated Donald Trump on the stump. He has hit Bush three times now in just three days. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Here`s a guy wants to run our country, and he can`t even run his own campaign. Bush has no money. He`s cutting. He`s meeting today with mommy and daddy and they`re working on their campaign. He`s languishing way, way back in the PAC. But his campaign is a total disaster. He`s paid people far too much. His campaign is in disarray. His whole thing is a mess. He`s out there. His campaign is a disaster. That`s because I came along. I`m proud of it.    (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: You know, I want to go back to you, Gene, on this thing about a guy who says, I have got better things to do. What would they be? What would -- what -- who -- what relevance would the life of Jeb Bush be if he weren`t running for president? Would we even be thinking about the guy? (LAUGHTER) ROBINSON: That is a very good question. Maybe he would be in the private sector. I don`t know. If you don`t think being president is pretty cool, you really shouldn`t run for it, because it`s a whole lot of stuff to go through to run for being president. But I think Trump, of course, is clever and he sees that by attacking Jeb Bush, even if he doesn`t think Bush is the major threat any more, by attacking Bush, he attacks the Republican establishment. And that has been sort of a winning stratagem for him, to attack the establishment, to be the outsider. And so what`s the downside for Trump? This is no downside. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Last thought here. Howard, it seems to me that what`s going on here is that Bush in his desperation is doing what Hillary Clinton`s people did in their desperation back in `08. They are saying it`s a fairy tale, that somehow this whole thing with Trump isn`t real. The polls aren`t real, even though, as somebody said recently, if they were Bush`s numbers, we would all be assuming, well, who is the next Cabinet pick? It`s already done. (CROSSTALK)    FINEMAN: Yes. That`s not going to help Jeb Bush. The fact that he said that business about I can take my ball and go home, I got better things to do, unfortunately for him, plays into the whole image of him. It`s a little bit like Chris Christie shouting in the quiet car, which played into Chris Christie`s problem. MATTHEWS: OK. FINEMAN: This is the same thing. MATTHEWS: OK. Well, we don`t know exactly what happened in the quiet car. FINEMAN: OK. MATTHEWS: There`s two different versions of that, OK? One version was the conductor came by. In checking the ticket, checking it electronically, he pointed out that this is the quiet car. The other claim is that somebody went to the guy. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. I have had problems with the quiet car myself. So, I`m a little sensitive.    (CROSSTALK) FINEMAN: Me, too. Me, too. I admit it. I admit it. I admit it. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Anyway, I do love the quiet car when I`m trying to get some work done. No, I really like it then, anyway, because I can hear everything else. FINEMAN: I`m guilty. I`m guilty. I agree. MATTHEWS: Everything else. Anyway, well, you and I have the most obvious supply of free-flowing guilt that has ever existed. Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman, and thank you, Gene Robinson, who is guilt-free. (CROSSTALK) (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Up next, Ben Carson is absolutely surging ahead of Donald Trump right now in Iowa -- in Iowa -- and Donald Trump is making it clear that he does not like losing. The HARDBALL roundtable will be here next. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.    (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: We have a breaking story. Donald Trump has fallen to second place behind Ben Carson. (BOOING) TRUMP: We informed Ben, but he was sleeping. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Donald Trump mocking the recent coverage of Ben Carson`s ascent in Iowa, where he has surged past Trump into first place there. Three polls have now shown Carson with a significant lead over Trump in Iowa. The most recent one by Monmouth University has Carson ahead of Trump by 14 percentage points. Trump in turn has been slamming Carson on the campaign trail. And at a rally on Saturday, he raised questions about Ben Carson`s religion, suggesting that the Seventh Day Adventist Church, of which Carson belongs, is out of the mainstream. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)    TRUMP: Look, I don`t have to say it. I`m Presbyterian. Can you believe it? Nobody believes I`m Presbyterian. I`m Presbyterian. I`m Presbyterian. I`m Presbyterian. Boy, that`s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh Day Adventist, I don`t know about. I just don`t know about. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, a candidate`s religion is a big factor in Iowa, where roughly six in 10 Republican voters identify themselves as evangelical Christians. In the past, we have seen how the evangelical vote helped propel candidates like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum to victory in that state in 2008 and 2012, the two most recently presidential caucuses. But history shows that Iowa has not been the best indicator of who will eventually win the Republican nomination. Of the past six competitive primary races since 1980, the winner of the Iowa caucuses has gone on to win the nomination just twice. In contrast, the winner of the New Hampshire primary has won the Republican nomination in four of the last six cycles. And the winner of South Carolina has become the nominee in five of the last six cycles. I`m joined right now by the HARDBALL roundtable. Perry Bacon is NBC News political reporter with NBC News. Sabrina Siddiqui is a political reporter with "The Guardian." And John Feehery is a Republican strategist. Let`s start with John Feehery, my co-religionist. I don`t know much about the Seventh Day Adventist, but it must be -- I knew they weren`t exactly thrilled with John Kennedy`s nomination back in 1960, because a couple of people stopped at my mom`s door and raised alarms about it from that religion. I hope they weren`t representative. But that`s all I know. Is that a bad religion to be in if you`re an evangelical, or what? Why did he raise that issue politically?    JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, maybe a couple reasons. A, he`s down in the polls in Iowa. And he knows that it`s an overwhelmingly evangelical audience in Iowa. The second -- remember when Ted Kennedy raised the question of Mitt Romney`s Mormonism in the Senate race. This is not really a fair play, but it`s a device used to try to get an advantage when you`re down. Ted Kennedy was down. And I think that Donald Trump is panicking in Iowa. And maybe he should be panicking. MATTHEWS: Well, actually, it was Joe Kennedy, his nephew, who raised the issue for his uncle Ted. But you have got the facts straight there. I remember everything. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Anyway, Donald -- let me go to Perry Bacon on this thing. Religion out or in, you can argue all you want, but it certainly helps to be an evangelical or a very conservative Catholic in Iowa. We know that. Look at the guys. Pat Robinson almost won out there. Huckabee won there, Santorum. People that can`t win anywhere else win in Iowa, Perry. PERRY BACON, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think Trump is talking about -- making the wrong case here. I don`t think people are for Carson because of the sort of tenets of Seventh Day Adventism. You know, Santorum won the evangelical vote, even though he`s Catholic. What Iowa, the homeschool crowd, the Tea Party crowd, the evangelicals want is someone who is very devout in their faith. And that`s one thing you can tell about Carson is, he talks about his faith all the time. He is very devout. So, in that way, he is in the same kind of Huckabee and Santorum bucket. And Trump, you can tell, is not someone who spends a lot of time thinking about religion until this campaign. So, I think it is a mistake for Trump to go after Carson`s religion because Trump is not going to win a debate about who is the most devout with Ben Carson. MATTHEWS: Yes, I think that`s smart. In other words, it`s not the affiliation. It`s the devoutness. It`s the fidelity, the man -- whether you are a man of faith.    Siddiqui, do you buy that? Is that -- Sabrina, is that your thinking, that it helps to be something in Iowa? SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Absolutely. What it helps to be is socially conservative. And Ben Carson has proven on every issue, whether it`s abortion, whether it`s same-sex marriage, that he is a devout social conservative. I also think when it comes to Donald Trump, he likes to put on this show that he is not actually worried about any of his opponents. And he was reluctant in the beginning to go after Ben Carson. But if you look how he attacks anyone who starts to rise in the polls, it`s to try and find any possible weakness and exploit that weakness. He`s done it with Marco Rubio on immigration as Marco Rubio has risen in the polls. He obviously did it with Jeb early on with his dynasty with him being an establishment candidate. And there is not much where he can go after Ben Carson, because a lot of what they say is the same. A lot of their positioning as an outsider is similar. So, he is looking for anything he can grasp. And in Iowa, I think he believes that that`s Ben Carson`s faith. But it`s unlikely it`s going to be effective. Otherwise, Ben Carson wouldn`t be even where he is if his faith were the problem. MATTHEWS: Well, it`s so fascinating to me, the whole Ben Carson thing. Anyway, Trump defended his remark about Ben Carson`s religion on ABC just yesterday. Let`s watch him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Some conservatives claim that Seventh Day Adventists are not Christian. Were you trying to send a dog whistle to them because Ben Carson is beating you among evangelicals in Iowa? TRUMP: No, not at all. In fact, I think, nationwide, I`m beating Ben with the evangelicals. But, no, not all. I just don`t know about that particular religion. STEPHANOPOULOS: Ben Carson has asked for an apology. Will you give it to him?    TRUMP: Well, I didn`t say anything bad about it. I just don`t know about it. I would certainly give an apology if I said something bad about it, but I didn`t. All I said was, I don`t know about it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, a "Des Moines Register" poll last week found that only 32 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers say they think Donald Trump is a committed Christian. So, here we go again, John Feehery, back to the whole idea that we all say there is no religious test for public office, but there certainly seem to be a lot of unofficial tests out there. FEEHERY: Well, listen, evangelicals take their religion very seriously. And they do actually focus on doctrine. They don`t just focus on issues. And so I do think that Trump doing this by saying, hey, I`m a mainstream Christian, I`m not someone off on the side, I`m not like a Mormon or Seventh Day Adventist or whatever -- whatever these people are doing, is kind of a clever tactic. I think It`s a bad tactic. I think It`s a wrong tactic, but I think it`s a tactic that has been used in the past. And Trump`s desperate. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Perry, I have studied a little of this. And the interesting thing about America is, we call the religions of, say, Episcopalianism and Presbyterianism as the mainstream. They are very small in their number. The large number of American Christians are Baptist. They`re evangelical. They have the United Church of Christ, the groups like that, affiliations like that. They are the vast majority of the Christian community in this country. And yet somebody like Trump would get it wrong and say, I`m from a broadly popular religion like Presbyterianism. It`s just -- my grandmother is Presbyterian. I mean, it`s just -- it`s just he got his numbers wrong. There`s a lot more Baptists. And your thoughts? (CROSSTALK)    BACON: Particularly for the people he is trying to appeal to, like the Iowa conservatives I think he is trying to take from Ben Carson, there is not a lot of Presbyterians. It`s not the denomination they`re coming from. A lot of them go to these sort of nondenominational evangelical churches, which Carson goes to. MATTHEWS: Yes. BACON: Carson -- the homeschool kids in Iowa actually read Carson`s book. Carson is really in touch with the homeschool evangelical community in a way that Huckabee was. He has a real appeal to them. MATTHEWS: Yes. BACON: This is why I think that maybe Carson is not going to win this vote, but Cruz, Huckabee, Santorum is a much better fit than Trump for those voters. MATTHEWS: I know. Thank you. Yes, look, Ben Carson strikes me as someone who doesn`t like the hustle and bustle of public education. Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. Up next, 48 hours to go to the third Republican presidential debate, which is coming up Wednesday. Could this be Bush`s last?    You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NEWSBREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You take low-key people, low key people -- Bush said I don`t like Mr. Trump`s tone. We have people whose heads are being chopped off in the Middle East. And he`s worried about tone. His campaign is a disaster. It`s because I came along. I`m proud of it. So, he`s meeting now with mom and dad. No, it`s true. He needs counsel. (END VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: You know, it`s amazing Trump and Bernie Sanders, very different characters, wave their arms whenever they want to make a point. It`s a funny and totally different meaning. Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Donald Trump, of course, today bashing a politically wounded Jeb Bush, politically wounded. Trump`s popularity may be falling in Iowa, of course, but the national polls, he is up there in top.    And going into Wednesday`s GOP debate in Colorado, there is now serious pressure. Jeb, the one-time front-runner, believe it or not, it`s hard for me to believe it, who continues to languish in single digits, way down there at 8 percent or 7 percent nowadays. Donors and long-time supporters of the Bush family are expressing doubts now about Jeb. One of Jeb`s -- George W. Bush`s big time ranger donor, that`s a billionaire type said, quote, of Jeb, "When he see him on television, he seems like he`s stumbling." But the Bush family has gathered in Houston to support old Jeb and they`re showing solidarity as the third Bush to run for the White House struggles weakly in a Trump- induced storm of 2016. We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable tonight, Perry, Sabrina, and John. Perry, Sabrina, you may be too young. John Feehery, you remember it well. Remember in that debate in 1992 when George Bush Sr., George Herbert Walker Bush, was debating that young lad Bill Clinton and Ross Perot, that pain in the butt. And he was so fatigued, so bored, so tedious by the whole appearance, he was caught looking at his wrist watch. Perry, that was a sign to all it was time to go. Now we have young Bush. We thought fresh-faced, wet behind the ears, already bored, already finds this tedious to run against somebody as low brow as this bully Donald Trump. He sounds like he wants to get out of this thing. It really sounds like he wants out. PERRY BACON, NBC NEWS: He just sounded very -- we don`t want a president who is whiny. That`s what he sounded like in that comment, like he didn`t really wanted. He wasn`t very committed to it. John literally just brought up the watch looking from George H.W. Bush making the same point. I do think one thing that Bush can think about is, I don`t think Wednesday is make or break for him. And here`s why: he is not very good in debates. He is not a good public speaker. He is not going to win the nomination on debate. I think he has to hope that Trump - - MATTHEWS: What is he good at? BACON: He`s good at policy. I think he has to hope that Trump, Carson, Rubio and several other people kind of collapsed at the same time and the party comes to him. He`s got to stay in this race a long time and hope the other candidates fall apart. He`s not going to win on debate. He`s not going to win in the debate. He is not good at debates. MATTHEWS: John Feehery, he ought to look how to sit in a chair. I mean, that picture of him with his legs three feet apart is a weird picture. He looks like Captain Cornpone. I don`t know who he`s supposed to be. Not important you could argue. But he looks like a hick. What is that posture about?    Senator Scott looks great. He looks like, I don`t know who, Huckleberry Finn. Anyway, here is a Ben Carson supporter outside a Donald Trump town hall this morning in New Hampshire explaining the Carson appeal, which I find interesting. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Ben Carson is a good, decent man. He is saying the same thing Donald Trump says only he`s, you know, a little more finesse with it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make of that? Let me go to Sabrina on this. I never understood the Carson appeal. He`s slow talking. He`s a gentleman, obviously, of deep belief, but I don`t get the spark of excitement for the next presidency from this guy. What is it? What`s the appeal? SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE GUARDIAN: Well, I think that, you know, his appeal is really tapping into one specific faction of Republican primary- goers. And he`s sort of made, built his candidacy on saying very outlandish statements that he knows plays well with the certain faction of the base. He certainly has actually gained a lot, for example, off his comments saying that a Muslim shouldn`t be president. He fundraised -- he was able to raise money off those comments. That`s what saw him rise even further in the polls in Iowa. And he kind of recognizes what his brand is. But I think he has a ceiling and I think he has a very limited space. You know, Ben Carson could carry Iowa. That hasn`t predicted though who the eventual nominee will be. So, an outsider like Ben Carson might very well win Iowa. It`s going to have little bearing -- MATTHEWS: Yes. SIDDIQUI: -- on who the eventual Republican nominee will be. MATTHEWS: Well said, well said. I don`t think it counts anymore.    The Democratic caucuses out there seem to matter more than the Republicans in terms of picking winners. Jimmy Carter came from out there, Obama came from out there. Let`s take a look, by the way, a little look back in time to 1992, at the -- what`s called the Oprah Winfrey town meeting. And there he is. John Feehery, your memory was well, was done well there. Look at it. That was an adroit move. (LAUGHTER) JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, I think you think about Ben Carson, he makes conservatives feel good about what they believe, much like Barack Obama made liberals feel good about what they believe. You talk about Jeb Bush. If anyone needs an image consultant, it`s Jeb Bush because he looks terrible on TV. He doesn`t look presidential. He looks skinny and needs to put some pounds on. And he gets better- fitting clothes. And he needs to get sharper sound bytes, especially in these debates. You really can`t -- I mean, these debates are important because they are the only time people get a chance to show how the candidates can do in competition. You know, that`s the problem with Jeb, is he`s looking weak in these debates. And that`s why Donald Trump is all over him. SIDDIQUI: And I just want to add on that point actually. I think this debate is particularly important for him, because he can`t come away, Jeb, with a lot of headlines focused on how Marco Rubio had the best night, how Marco Rubio is the most formidable challenger to Hillary Clinton, because that`s going to start to telegraph to anxious donors that maybe they should start looking elsewhere. MATTHEWS: I think he`s got to show something this Wednesday. Anyway, as a reminder, I`ll be out in Boulder for the Republican debate Wednesday night. And the roundtable is staying with us. And up next, tell me something I don`t know. This is my favorite part of the show now. Tell me something I don`t know. Now they have to act. They got to come out with something brand-new for you tonight -- a scoop.    This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, fewer Republicans support the Tea Party now more than ever. According to a new Gallup poll, 17 percent say they support the Tea Party movement, 17 percent only, 24 percent consider themselves Tea Party opponents. And 54 percent say they`re neither Tea Party friends nor enemies. And that 17 percent support is the lowest recorded since the Tea Party gained traction back in 2010. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back. Tell me something I don`t know -- Perry. BACON: Hillary Clinton the other day actually said that someone had accused her of shouting, and she said, "Men often say women are shouting when in fact we`re just speaking." It goes to the point that more than `08 and more than any presidential candidate we`ve ever seen before, Hillary is like running on women`s issues very explicitly and running as if women are the base of who she`s going to win by and kind of men are almost the side. It`s interesting for her. MATTHEWS: People always saying women are shouting. Hmm, we`ll see. I`m not sure that`s true. Sabrina, tell me something I don`t know.    SIDDIQUI: So, Donald Trump in Iowa -- MATTHEWS: And don`t shout. SIDDIQUI: And I will not shout. (LAUGHTER) SIDDIQUI: Donald Trump in Iowa actually has more paid staffers on the ground than any other Republican candidates. And I think that`s fascinating because there`s often a lot of talk about whether or not Donald Trump actually really has a real campaign apparatus, a real infrastructure on the ground, or is he all talk. But this shows you that he is actually taking the ground game seriously, especially for Iowa so he could come out with an early win. MATTHEWS: John? FEEHERY: Despite barely getting into the runoff in Louisiana, David Vitter will be the next governor of Louisiana and look for Charles Boustany to get the Senate nod for the election or appointed. MATTHEWS: It shows you the value of clean living. Anyway, thank you for the roundtable. Perry Bacon, Sabrina Siddiqui and John Feehery. When we return, let me finish with an October surprise for everyone. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.    (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the October surprise. Now, some will argue with this -- I don`t mind arguments -- that the race for president has narrowed to so few candidates this October. On the Democratic side, it`s down to two clear front-runners, Hillary and Bernie, with Hillary seriously out there as the favorite. But Martin O`Malley will have to fight his way into the list, fight like hell. So, that`s two on the Democratic side. On the Republican side, the list that seemed ridiculously long this summer has shrunk considerably. It appears to be limited to the following -- Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz simply because he, Cruz, hates as well as any Republican in Republican history. I just don`t believe Ben Carson strikes me right now - - well, he strikes me mainly as an Iowa candidate like Huckabee and Santorum before him. So, if you`re Republican what does this tell you? It could tell you you`ve either got to shoot the moon with Trump and, boy, would that be an exciting proposition, or think you`re playing it safe by going with Rubio, the little Mr. Firecracker of the bombs away set. Cruz, I have to believe, would be an inaugural kiss to Hillary. America isn`t mad enough in either sense of the word "mad" to go that far. How in the world did we get from Walker and Rand Paul and Chris Christie and Joe Biden and all the rest to this? The answer is that Donald Trump showed himself the best television candidate since Ronald Reagan and Jack Kennedy before him. Attack Trump and it looks like sour grapes. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has proven herself all are pro on defense. Attack her and you`re a dead man. It could be quite a general, by the way, if this thing keeps up -- Hillary versus Donald Trump. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END    Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>