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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 11/04/15

Guests: Jay Newton-Small, Carol Lee, Rebecca Berg, Betty Boyd Caroli

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Trump lets it rip. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews on a day that it appears Donald Trump is now convinced he`s got a real chance to be president. After months of gobbling up free media attention, he`s going to start peeling off the dollars to get his brand across the American way. He`s about to spend a chunk of his billions in paid on-air advertising. Well, the big question is how he will use his personal financial heft to bury the few rivals still in the field against him, painting Ben Carson as a loser, Marco Rubio for living off the Republican Party`s Florida credit card, anyway. Having already survived a pair of governors, Rick Perry of Texas, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, he has far outlasted and outperformed pretty much all expectations, except for his own. And I`ll stand with my own modest assessment. If Donald Trump is still high up here in November, which is now, why do we not expect him to be high up there come February, when the actual voting begins in Iowa? David Plouffe, a former adviser to President Obama, had a warning for Washington pundits -- Don`t underestimate Donald Trump or Ben Carson. Let`s watch him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)    DAVID PLOUFFE, FMR. OBAMA ADVISER: I find it interesting. Carson`s getting dismissed, but here`s someone who`s leading in all the polls, is building a huge following, has a lot of social media skill, apparently a lot of grass roots support (INAUDIBLE) materialize. So I think sort of in the Acela corridor, there`s a dismissive approach to Carson and Trump. But they`re both sitting there, if you combine them, over 50 in most national polls. See, my assumption has always been, maybe thinking too conventionally is, whether it`s a Bush or a Kasich or a Cruz, this period will end and they`ll emerge. But I don`t know. We`re getting pretty deep into this. It`s still very early, but you know, we`re almost at Thanksgiving, and you`ve got two people with significant leads. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Agreed. I`m joined right now by NBC`s Katy Tur, "Washington Post" columnist Eugene Robinson and Washington correspondent for "Time" magazine, Jay Newton-Small. Katy, it seems like he`s going to start spending money. What do you got for us on that front? KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: He may be starting to spend money. "The New York Times" is reporting that those ads that he`s going to be releasing this week starting tomorrow, which will be unveiled, if you will, on "MORNING JOE" tomorrow morning, are actually radio ads. And radio ads, as you know, cost significantly less than the TV ads, just a few thousand dollars compared to tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, for TV buys. So Donald Trump is not really spending a lot of money, if these are radio ads in just Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. The money really would be spent if he was buying long-term TV ads. So it`s more like Donald Trump is dipping his toe into the water here, seeing how these ads affect his poll numbers in these states. But again, he is still not spending that much money out of his own pocket. He hasn`t really needed to. He`s been atop the polls. But so far, only about $2 million. He`s spent more of his donors` money than he has spent on his own, of his own money so far this campaign. And that is really telling for people who say that he`s really not taking this campaign very seriously. But again, he hasn`t really needed to because he`s still getting a lot of air time, Chris.    MATTHEWS: Yes, I`m wondering when the right time is for him to unload. If he`s got $11 billion, he does have the freedom to spend it. Anyway, Donald Trump has said he`s holding off running ads so far, has done so because of all the free media attention he`s received. And that`s changing. Trump said he will begin now airing his first radio ads, as Katy said, in several early voting states in the next few days. Let`s listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m going to be spending a lot. And I`m going to be very positive with my ads. I`m not going to be hitting anybody. I will say this, however. If they hit me, they will get smacked like they never got smacked before. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, isn`t that interesting. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I want to go to Gene Robinson and Jay here. This thought about the ad -- I think he`s doing what he has to do to stay in this game, and I think he`s going to be in this game. EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly. I mean, if he up to this point had been tossing money around left and right, we`d all be saying what a novice he is, how he`s wasting his money... MATTHEWS: Like Jeb is. ROBINSON: ... right -- when he`s getting all this free air time. But now that -- especially now that Ben Carson has clearly -- well, not just crept up on him in the polls, but has surpassed him in some national polls, although Trump is generally ahead, still ahead in New Hampshire...    MATTHEWS: But he did come on tax (ph) beat (ph), didn`t he. ROBINSON: Yes. Right. MATTHEWS: Ben doesn`t make a lost of noise coming in the door, does he. Just all of a sudden, he`s there. ROBINSON: Doesn`t make a lot of noise. But I think you`re right. I think trump is doing what he thinks he needs to do to keep his poll numbers up in the early states. MATTHEWS: Jay? JAY NEWTON-SMALL, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I agree that Ben Carson is sort of walking softly and carrying a big stick here, and he`s certainly a threat to Donald Trump. But you know, Trump -- the idea that he would still be ahead in three months` time and that the field would be absolutely frozen to me seems unrealistic. I mean, it`s a horse race. You`re not going to have any other horses gain or lose, you`re not going to have any other... MATTHEWS: Yes, but there`s only about four candidates in this race right now. Let`s be honest. NEWTON-SMALL: That`s true. There are... (CROSSTALK) NEWTON-SMALL: There`s always the dark horses. MATTHEWS: Yes, which one -- I think the dark horses have been running a long time, running hard and they`re not getting anywhere.    When it comes to Marco Rubio, however, Jeb Bush and even Ben Carson, Trump is letting it rip. Here`s some of his attack on the other candidates. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I think Rubio doesn`t have it. If you look at his stance on immigration, he`s very weak. You look at Rubio, he wants open borders. That`s why I don`t understand why he`s doing as well as he`s doing, which isn`t that well, frankly. We need strength now. We don`t need Ben Carson. He`s a wonderful man. I like him a lot. But we don`t need somebody that doesn`t make a deal. He`s never employed anybody, maybe a nurse. Jeb Bush says he`s not a good -- why would he admit that? I watched him. I`m not an entertainer. He goes, I`m not a good talker. I don`t speak well. I don`t debate well. I don`t do anything well. But you should vote for me. That`s Jeb Bush. Why would you say these things? This is what`s going to negotiate with China? This is what`s going to negotiate with Iran? (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: I just don`t think this country`s in its usual mood, on the right, especially. The whole idea is pick a guy who`s been -- he goes to law school, he gets elected attorney general of the state, Fritz Mondale, Bill Clinton, then he gets to be governor, then we make him president. If you think that`s the route to greatness, check out this guy in Kentucky, who just got his ass handed to him out there. This is not the way the American people are looking for leaders anymore -- law school, make it -- you know, like, law review, make AG, make -- we`re not looking for Walter Mondale anymore or Bill Clinton! ROBINSON: The other thing is that Trump and Carson, the outsiders, each has a core issue, right, because Trump`s core issue is immigration. He keeps coming back to that.    MATTHEWS: It`s not the resume. ROBINSON: He made a -- he made a -- he made big bang with what he said about immigration, and a lot of people in the Republican Party agree with him. Ben Carson`s is gun rights. You know, I mean, he wants everybody to have more guns. And there are a lot of people in the Republican Party who agree with that. So I think it`s unrealistic for the establishment to expect this support... MATTHEWS: What are the other guys... ROBINSON: ... to evaporate... MATTHEWS: But what are the other... ROBINSON: ... when it`s based on something. MATTHEWS: So well said, a chunk of reality behind their appeal. What is the appeal of Marco Rubio? What does he -- what chunk of policy does he bring to the table, some sort of youthful hawkishness so that the neocons will like him, so they`ll wag their tails at him? NEWTON-SMALL: I mean, that is his argument, is that he has the strongest stool of anybody, right, the three-legged stool. So he`s -- of any candidate, he is -- he`s sort of acceptable to the defense hawks. He`s acceptable to the fiscal conservatives. MATTHEWS: Well, that`s not... NEWTON-SMALL: He`s acceptable to the social conservatives. And he`s not exciting on any of the issues, but he has the most stable (INAUDIBLE)    MATTHEWS: I think Trump`s as much in this fight as anybody. Anyway, Trump slammed Marco Rubio over his finances, which are very questionable, you know, living off a check -- I don`t know what he (INAUDIBLE), something to do with credit cards and using the boss`s credit card instead of your own. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Marco Rubio has a disaster on his finances. He has a disaster on his credit cards. When you check his credit cards, take a look at what he`s done with the Republican Party when he had access, what he had to put back in, and whether or not something should have happened, you`ll understand it. Marco Rubio has a basic disaster on finance. So let`s see what you find. Let`s see what kind of a reporter you are, OK? Good luck. (CROSSTALK) TRUMP: It won`t be -- it won`t be hard. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: He`s now the assignment desk, eh? Katy, he tells people what to report and then what to do the digging on. Anyway, "The Tampa Bay Times" reported on the story behind Rubio`s credit card. They wrote, quote, "As speaker of the Florida house, Rubio was one of about a half dozen lawmakers given Republican Party of Florida credit cards. He routinely charged personal expenses, from a $10.50 movie tickets to a four-day $10,000 family reunion." I don`t know what a $10,000 family reunion is. "Over (ph) those two years, he charged about $110,000, and he said he spent (ph) about $16,000 to American Express to cover personal expenses, though the expenses were never detailed. In 2012, the state ethics commission cleared Rubio of an ethics complaint, though an investigator said the level of negligence exhibited by Rubio`s confusion between the GOP American Express and his own Mastercard and failing to recognize the error on monthly statements was, quote, `disturbing.`" Anyway, Rubio defended his financial history early today.    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People need to understand what they`re talking about here. It wasn`t a credit card. It was an American Express charge card secured under my personal credit in conjunction with the party. I would go through -- bills would be mailed to me at home. Every month, I would go through it. If there was a personal expense, I paid it. If it was a party expense, the party paid it. Now, I`ve recognized in hindsight I would do it different to avoid all this confusion. But the Republican Party never paid a single expense of mine, a personal expense. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Why does that sound like e-mails? I would have done it differently. I used mine. I fixed it after the -- I mean, why is he in the weeds there? NEWTON-SMALL: But -- but... MATTHEWS: Why is his life so complicated? NEWTON-SMALL: Well, it`s a total train wreck of personal finances, but there`s a lot of Americans, frankly, that can relate to that. MATTHEWS: But they`re not running for president of the United States, to be chief executive of the United States government. NEWTON-SMALL: That`s true, but Marco Rubio`s personal finance mistakes didn`t, say (ph), cost tens of thousands of jobs, the way that, you know, Donald Trump`s... MATTHEWS: Yes, but it`s an executive...    NEWTON-SMALL: ... mistakes did. MATTHEWS: ... position. It`s not running for the Senate, when you just give speeches. It`s about an executive responsibility running the United States government. NEWTON-SMALL: No, it is. MATTHEWS: It is a job. NEWTON-SMALL: I know. I realize that, but I`m also saying... MATTHEWS: It`s not a speech -- it`s not a speech-giving contest. NEWTON-SMALL: Donald Trump saying this about Marco Rubio is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black here. MATTHEWS: You know why I think Trump`s doing this race? Because -- Katy, and your last word here -- I don`t think the others fit the role of chief executive, commander-in-chief. I don`t really believe Dr. Ben Carson wants to run the American military forces around the world. I don`t think he`s running for that. He`s running for some sort of spiritual chaplain of the country, some -- "Do no harm" seems to be his national battle flag -- I`m not going to hurt anybody for the next four or eight years. I see the same thing with the rest of -- Rubio is way too young and seems to be, in terms of any experience to really be credible as commander- in-chief of the United States forces around the world, head of the executive branch, head of U.S. economic policy. Economic policy? His training (ph) is insanity in the way he`s behaved himself. So I don`t get the challengers and Cruz -- well, he`s nobody`s day at the beach, Cruz. He`s absolutely the most unappealing of all the candidates. Katy, that`s why Trump`s (INAUDIBLE) You`re down on Trump. Why?    TUR: I -- I`m... MATTHEWS: You seem down on -- you keep saying by the time we get there, he won`t be there. There`s no reason to believe he`ll still be there. TUR: I`m neutral on Trump. MATTHEWS: What`s with the doomsday on this guy? TUR: I`m neutral on Trump. I do think Donald Trump is having a good time with this. I also think Donald Trump enjoys seeing himself on these - - on a grand scale, and this is the grandest scale of all in this country. I do think that he`s very good at reading audiences. He`s also very good at smelling weakness. And I think he sees a real weakness in the Republican Party right now in terms of their candidates. As you said, Marco Rubio doesn`t have a lot of experience so far. He can be compared to President Obama, with just one term in the Senate. He`s got financial issues. He has a Senate voting records that is getting panned. Ted Cruz, no walk in -- no day at the beach, I think is what you said. I think people agree with that. I think Ben Carson has got a very low energy appeal to some people, but that won`t necessarily appeal to independents down the line. And when you talk to people in the RNC, and when you talk to independents in the field, or even some Democrats, Donald Trump is appealing to them because they believe he`s an outsider. They like that he`s rough around the edges and he`s different. I think there`s a lot of people in this country that want something different, and Donald Trump is the epitome of different. And all along the, way he`s very entertaining. If he dips down to third in the polls, fourth in the polls, there`s a part of me that thinks that he`s going to get out early because he doesn`t want to let anyone see that he would have lost. If he gets out early, he can say, If I`d gone all the way, I would have gotten more votes and I could have won... MATTHEWS: OK. I disagree.    TUR: ... but I got out because... MATTHEWS: That`s an interesting thought. TUR: ... -I got tired of it. MATTHEWS: You`re on -- you`re closer to him than I am. I don`t think he`ll quit. But Katy Tur, you are our watcher. You`re the one -- you`re out front. You`re on point. And by the way, he has a pulse, which separates him from at least half the candidates. And he has a mouth. Anyway, Katy Tur, thanks for coming from the campaign route out there. You`re with him. Eugene Robinson -- wise man. And Jay Newton-Small, weekly magazines. Coming up, the big Republican victory last night in Kentucky means one thing for the 2016 election outsiders. In Kentucky, the new governor-elect sounds a whole lot like Donald Trump. As I said, the guy in the suit, the guy with the resume, the guy like Bill Clinton and Walter Mondale and all the politicians we`ve known all our lives got his ass handed to him. Plus, striking new poll numbers about the decline of organized religion in America. A rising number of Americans now say they`re not religiously affiliated, and those people are for the Democrats. And it`s up to the point here now where the "nones" -- that`s N-O-N-E-S, not the religious sisters, people with no religious affiliation -- are now the second largest religious group in the Democratic Party. And finally tonight, the HARDBALL roundtable will tell me something I don`t know. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`ve got breaking news now. A U.S. official tells NBC News that a bomb may have brought down that Russian jetliner over the Sinai over this weekend, killing all 224 aboard. The official also says the investigation is focused on the possibility that ISIS operatives or sympathizers were directly involved in the bombing.    NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, is with us now. What do we know? ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: We know this from U.S. officials and British officials. In fact, the British foreign secretary said that there was a significant possibility that there was a bomb and that that`s why they are suspending flights from Sharm el-Sheikh. U.S. officials say they are looking into this, that it is one of the two possibilities. There are only two possibilities here -- a bomb or a mechanical failure. We know from Lockerbie, from TWA, that initial reports can be very misleading and that it could take years and years to develop the tiny pieces of evidence that actually concluded that it was a bomb, in the case of Lockerbie. So we have to be a little bit cautious here. But right now, they are -- the leading possibility is a bomb, a bomb somehow that was placed on the airliner. And they are looking at the security, the baggage handlers, the people surrounding the plane, the mechanics, because U.S. intelligence and other intelligence agencies have vetted the passenger lists, and the passenger lists per se did not arouse any suspicions. MATTHEWS: Now, passengers are mostly Russians, tourists. MITCHELL: Mostly Russians, Russian tourists. Sharm el-Sheikh has been the jewel in the crown of Egypt, and it was a prized possession and construction of Mubarak, Hosni Mubarak. It`s where we go to cover summits, to cover, you know, Israeli and Palestinian and U.S. peace talks for years and years, for decades. And it is a place of lavish hotels and of extreme poverty, surrounded by Bedouin tribes and a lot of terror groups. I`ve covered terror incidents there in the past, obviously, under close scrutiny because it is the Sinai of the Israelis and it`s one access point into Gaza. So they keep close eye on it. And there`s a lot of scrutiny, as well, by the other... MATTHEWS: OK, in geopolitical terms, what will the Russians do if they decide that it was, in fact, an ISIS attack on their people? MITCHELL: Well, Russia has already, as of September 30th, become engaged in the war against ISIS, they say, even though U.S. sources say that what they have really been hitting is anti-Assad, other rebel groups, not ISIS mostly. But Russia has just become engaged in the region, going after Assad`s enemies, and also, they say, going after ISIS. So it`s really hard to disaggregate. But it could be that Russia is being targeted because they`ve now become engaged in Syria. / MATTHEWS: I just keep thinking Russian nationalism and Vladimir Putin and how he has been leading the band, but he`s also responding to Russian resurgent nationalism. What`s going to be the reaction of the Russian people when they realize or decide that 200 of their people, their compatriots, have been shot, you know, on purpose, killed on purpose?    MITCHELL: Well, I cannot... MATTHEWS: Shot out of the sky. MITCHELL: You can`t underestimate the popularity of Vladimir Putin in Russia, with all of these moves, with his assertions. He is extraordinarily popular. And it is a state-controlled media right now, so they are only getting whatever he wants out. MATTHEWS: OK. Andrea Mitchell, thank you. We`re going to continue to follow developments in that story throughout the night. HARDBALL returns after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Last night`s wild and dramatic upset in Kentucky is a warning shot to the country. A candidate dismissed and dismantled by the Republican Party as a fringe candidate has been reborn in the mold of Donald Trump and is a very convincing winner. What was the fringe just a year ago is now very, very electable in the Republican Party. Last year, Matt Bevin, a Tea Party red hot millionaire with no political experience, got crushed by Senator Mitch McConnell in the Kentucky Senate primary race. They dismissed Bevin as an East Coast con man with delusions of grandeur. They said he was part of the Tea Party fringe. They ridiculed his appearance at a pro-cock fighting rally. Yes, cock fighting. Well, last night, that fringe candidate won the Kentucky governor`s race in a surprise landslide, defeating the state`s Democratic attorney general, Jack Conway, by nine points. Bevin will become just the third Republican governor in Kentucky since 1947. Bevin ran as an outsider. He touted his business record and his wealth. He was spotted last week traveling the state in a gold Cadillac Escalade. He shunned reporters for unflattering coverage. He was not the establishment pick.    Well, the Democratic Governors Association put out this statement after Bevin`s win. "Attorney General Jack Conway ran into the unexpected headwinds of Trump mania" -- this is the Democrats talking -- "losing to an outsider candidate in the year of the outsider." Well, here`s Bevin speaking about his victory last night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MATT BEVIN (R), KENTUCKY GOVERNOR-ELECT: This will change the tenor of what happens in the 2016 race. It truly will. This is going to change the tenor of the state, just as it changed the tenor of this election and the way we executed this campaign. I truly think we as a state have the ability to change the tenor of what politics looks like, what representation looks like, what a seat at the table means, what it will mean when Kentucky shines like the beacon that it will be. I`m grateful to you. I`m thankful to you. God bless you and may God bless the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Thank you. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Here`s the Democrat Jack Conway`s concession speech. And I love concession speeches. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JACK CONWAY (D), KENTUCKY GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Folks, tonight was not the result that we had hoped for. But it is a result that we respect.    So, while this is bitter tonight, I understand that life is very sweet, and I`m looking out at a crowd of a lot of great friends. My precious daughters, Eva and Alex, Eva, Alex, daddy`s going to be home a lot. (LAUGHTER) (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: That was a nice line. "Daddy`s going to be home a lot." That is a nice consolation price for being a human being. Howard Fineman`s the global editorial director at The Huffington Post. And Perry Bacon is NBC News senior political reporter. How often do we return to your beat of Louisville, Kentucky? HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you have got an all-Kentucky contingent here. MATTHEWS: OK. Well, let`s talk about that. How national was this movement? The DNC, the Democratic Governor`s Association said it was a national splash, it was Trump mania. FINEMAN: Well, I -- two people you did not see standing on the podium there were the two Republican senators, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the United States Senate.    MATTHEWS: Well, they didn`t want anybody else on that stage. (CROSSTALK) FINEMAN: OK. Well, but it`s important. And even Rand Paul wasn`t there. MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: Because this guy is so outside the mainstream that, when people asked him who he might support for president in 2016, he didn`t even say the Kentucky senator who`s running. He said Ben Carson. And I -- there`s no question that this guy Matt Bevin is another indicator of the strong yen for outsiders here. Jack Conway MATTHEWS: A nine-point victory. FINEMAN: It was. And, by the way, nobody predicted it, nobody. MATTHEWS: The other guy was up by five. FINEMAN: It was -- at best, it was a wash going into Election Day. What happened was that the Republicans turned out in bigger numbers than expected. The Democrats were faced with a candidate who was standard issue Insider politician. MATTHEWS: Yes. But I described the pattern. You go to law school, you go to be attorney general, you run for governor. It`s the pattern of success.    FINEMAN: And, also, he`d run -- and he`d run and lost before. He was trying once again. And Bevin... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Yes, just like Bill Clinton tried it once. FINEMAN: Bevin is the quintessential outsider. And if I were Trump or Carson, I would say, this shows why I have got strength nationally. And I think it does. MATTHEWS: National, but neighborly here. PERRY BACON, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I have a much more conventional explanation. A Republican won a state that is trending much more Republican every day. Like, remember Alison Grimes last time. The polls showed she was within three or five. She lost by 15. These polls showed... MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute. Why are the polls off? BACON: I think they`re -- the state is becoming more Republican very quickly. MATTHEWS: But why are the polls off? BACON: Because they`re not -- all these people who say they`re Democrats, you know, who are registered Democrats keep voting Republican.    (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: So the model`s wrong? BACON: The model`s wrong, yes. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Just a minute. Is he on to something nationally? Are you on to something nationally here? BACON: I think it`s in Kentucky particularly, in these Southern states. MATTHEWS: Well, I`m just saying, because everybody says, well, Trump can`t last, Carson can`t last. Maybe they will do even bigger, do even better. (CROSSTALK) FINEMAN: Because for the reason that I think Perry is hinting at, was a lot of people don`t want to necessarily admit that they`re going outside the system, but they`re going to do it. MATTHEWS: I remember Obama beat the spread.    FINEMAN: OK. The other thing is that a lot of these polls are taken by media organizations. And in Kentucky, another thing that Matt Bevin did was basically cut off the entire state media, cut off "The Courier-Journal," the biggest newspaper in the state, cut of "The Lexington Herald," the second biggest paper. MATTHEWS: You mean no interviews. FINEMAN: No interviews. Oh, he was at war with them, totally at war with the media, which is another big theme of this year coming up. Every Republican event you go to, you attack the media and it`s huge in response. And that`s because the media also is viewed as part of being the problem. MATTHEWS: Don`t believe the press. Don`t believe the polls. FINEMAN: Exactly. MATTHEWS: Anyway, on the stump, Bevin embraced his similarities to Trump. At a recent campaign event, he said: "I have no favors to pay back. There`s not one person in this state who believes they`re going to have a job in my administration. There`s not one person I have promised anything to. Donald Trump is an interesting fellow. Part of what people appreciate -- appreciate about him is the very same thing. He doesn`t owe anybody anything." BACON: Here`s the big difference. Mitch McConnell was standing beside Matt Bevin campaigning on Monday. I was there on Monday in Louisville, where McConnell was. And in the last stages of his campaign, the RGA pumped a -- the Republican Governors Association pumped a bunch of money in to campaign for Bevin. Like, Trump is saying no one should spend money for me. Bevin was very reliant on the party to support him at the end. (CROSSTALK)    FINEMAN: They had cut him off. They`d said, hey, we don`t want to have anything to do with this guy. Mitch McConnell had put up another guy who they thought was a well- groomed guy. This guy took it away. The interesting thing is McConnell has achieved his lifetime goal, which is to turn Kentucky totally red down to the grassroots, except the party is not really quite his party. He`s got Rand Paul. He`s got Rand Paul, and now this guy. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Let me ask you the $64,000 question, as we used to say. The country doesn`t like -- the people of this country, in the latest poll we put out, don`t like the direction this country`s in. And I think it`s going to affect the general election. I think it`s going to affect Bernie Sanders` advantages. People are going to do very well as outsiders this coming year because of that. Now, is the Republican Party going in the right direction, Howard Fineman? Is it going too far right or has it got it right? Has it figured out the country and it might just win the general election next year, even against Hillary, giving her... (CROSSTALK) FINEMAN: Here`s the thing. I think they have figured out the emotions of their voters, who, I`m telling you, the Republicans and people who think of themselves as conservatives are going to walk through walls to vote in 2016, all over the country and especially in the presidential election. MATTHEWS: Is that a majority of the country? FINEMAN: I don`t think it`s quite a majority. What the Republicans have to do is find the person who can keep that excitement going, and not excite the fear that will produce the same kind of turnout on the other side. And I don`t know who that is.    MATTHEWS: I don`t know who it is either. BACON: Matt Bevin cannot get elected president. He barely -- he struggled to win in this very conservative state. I really think the Trumps and the Ben Carsons, that -- if the Republicans want to win the election, people are dissatisfied with Obama. Why not just pick a normal, traditional candidate you might get over the line? MATTHEWS: Because two-thirds of the country is not happy with the direction we`re in right now. (CROSSTALK) BACON: ... Carsons are going to be very hard to get elected. MATTHEWS: I mean, maybe we`re looking at Rubio, the toy soldier. I don`t know. But he`s such a hawk, I wonder anyway, although the country may be more hawkish. You like my new term there, toy soldier? FINEMAN: Yes, I do. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I know. That`s pretty scary stuff. I will pay for that.    Thank you, Howard Fineman and Perry Bacon. Up next, losing their religion, striking new numbers on the declining influence of religion in America. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger with breaking news. U.S. officials say evidence indicates a bomb was behind Saturday`s Metrojet crash over Egypt`s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. Investigators are now looking into possible involvement by ISIS operatives or sympathizers. For the very latest on this story, we turn to NBC`s Tom Costello -- Tom. TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Milissa. Here`s where we stand at this hour. Several intelligence sources are telling NBC`s Jim Miklaszewski that the indications are right now that a bomb probably did bring down this plane. Intelligence sources telling NBC`s Andrea Mitchell a bomb is a prime suspect, but they have not ruled out the possibility of this being a mechanical issue. The Associated Press reporting that the United States has intercepts suggesting that a bomb is responsible. And, as you know, the British government today, Number 10 Downing Street coming out and saying, because of information which suggests a bomb may have brought down this plane, they are suspending all flights into and out of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and now they need to go through the process of evacuating their citizens who are there on holiday, all of this as this evidence is now being sifted through by investigators on the ground and looking at the black boxes as well, trying to determine if they can pinpoint a cause. But because of this possibility that a bomb brought down the plane, Russia sent teams of investigators to the Sharm el-Sheikh Airport. They did not like what they saw. They felt that the security cameras and an overall lax air of security were clearly of concern. And, tonight, the airport director at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, has been relieved of his responsibilities.    As for the United States, no U.S. carrier flies into the Sinai, out of the Sinai, or over the Sinai. And, in fact, a notice to airmen posted by the FAA in March of 2015 tells U.S. aviators to avoid the area. But if you fly into the Sinai, you need to get approval or notify the FAA in advance. And if you`re flying over the Sinai, you need to fly above 26,000 feet, because the concern had always been of the possibility of someone on the ground with a shoulder-fired missile. But, again, no U.S. carriers fly into, out of, or over the Sinai. And, in fact, now many European carriers are also avoiding that area altogether. So, at this hour, as we look at the total U.S. picture of intelligence and the British picture, there is mounting concern that a bomb brought down the plane, but it is not yet conclusive -- Milissa, back to you. REHBERGER: NBC`s Tom Costello, thank you very much. Earlier tonight on "MTP Daily," Chuck Todd spoke with Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham about the latest report. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It could have been a bomb. It could have been by a group outside of ISIL. It could have been mechanical failure. But this, I do know, that the desire of ISIL to kill people is only limited by their capability. So if it`s not ISIL, it`s not like they don`t want to do this. They want to do this and more. So, that`s what I do know. (END VIDEO CLIP) REHBERGER: NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is in Istanbul with more now on the capability of ISIS -- Richard. RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Milissa, ISIS has once again claimed responsibility for downing that Russian airliner, and today U.S. officials are increasingly suspicious that it was a bomb that brought down the plane, and that the bomb may have been smuggled onto the aircraft at the airport either by baggage handlers or someone who had access to the aircraft. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)    ENGEL (voice-over): If ISIS did bring down the Russian plane with a bomb, then the group which few had heard of only two years ago will have proved it has not just ambitions, but also deadly reach. In just a year, despite 8,000 U.S. and coalition airstrikes and the occasional, soon to become more frequent, special forces raid, ISIS has spread far beyond its strongholds in Syria and Iraq. In fact, U.S. military officials tell NBC News they worry about the growing signs of ISIS presence in a half-dozen other places, Afghanistan, West Africa, Libya, and in the Sinai Peninsula, where the Egyptian military has been battling ISIS for months. Why is ISIS spreading so rapidly? With its mountains of cash and savvy online recruitment, ISIS is more open to newcomers than al Qaeda ever was. Terrorists have always targeted planes. But in the post-9/11 world, increased security has made them more difficult to attack in the U.S. and many other places. That`s one possible reason why ISIS would target the low-cost Russian charter flying out of a small Egyptian airport. The other reason? Russia has declared war on ISIS in Syria. (END VIDEOTAPE) ENGEL: A senior U.S. official told me tonight, Milissa, that -- quote -- "the confidence is there" that a bomb brought down the Russian plane and he expects Russia will respond heavily and militarily, attacking ISIS in Syria -- Milissa. REHBERGER: Thank you, NBC`s Richard Engel in Istanbul. We will continue to follow developments in this story throughout the night here on MSNBC -- now back to HARDBALL. MATTHEWS: Welcome to HARDBALL. America is becoming less religious, and that decline is being driven by young people. The headline of a "U.S. News & World Report" story reads, "Millennials Are Slowly Taking America to Hell."    Well, that`s not my headline, I can tell you. Pew says the generational replacement is chipping away at America`s most faithful -- quote -- "As older, more religiously observant generations die out, they`re being replaced by far less religious young adults." While the millennial generation, who was born between 1981 and 1996, it`s the largest group of religiously unaffiliated adults in this country, behind the silent generation, baby boomers and Generation X. So, why are young adults increasingly less religious than their parents and grandparents? Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable. Carol Lee is White House correspondent for "The Wall Street Journal." David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones." And Rebecca Berg is a political reporter for RealClearPolitics. So, what do we make of this study? Because I find it fascinating that although people don`t go to church like they did or temple, they do feel themselves to be spiritual, spirituality is important in their lives, and they pray daily. David Corn. DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that`s the interesting thing here. Organized religion is going down. We`re just talking about a few percentage points. It`s not a big drop. But the people talking about their own spirituality and its importance, that`s going up a bit. And I think that`s a greater trend with younger people, who might be looking at organized religions the way you look at other institutions and seeing them as being corrupt, having different agendas, being too political or just not relevant to them, particularly young people who care a lot about tolerance, and they look at some religions and they see issues about that. MATTHEWS: I think you`re right. Rebecca, what about -- is this part of the anti-institutional attitude people seem to have towards everything now, except the military?    REBECCA BERG, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Absolutely. Absolutely. As a card-carrying millennial, I can speak to this personally. I have seen it up close with some of my peers. And, yes, it`s the organized part of religion that is really turning a lot of millennials off. It`s the same reason that you see very low voter turnout among millennials. It`s the same reason that they are kind of -- there`s this backlash against institutions in general. And religion is a big part of that. MATTHEWS: Carol, is this like they don`t want to watch the TV show when it`s on; they want to watch it at that their convenience two or three days later? (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Everything is Xfinity, Xfinity. Let`s watch "Homeland" later, not tonight. CAROL LEE, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Spirituality is... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I can`t go to church 8:30 Sunday morning. I`m going to dial it up around -- Tuesday night around 8:30 after supper. Is that it? LEE: Maybe there`s an element of that. But I think, if you look at generations, families have changed too. I mean, when I was growing up, it was -- we all went to church on the weekend. (CROSSTALK)    MATTHEWS: Did your parents -- you`re much younger than me. Certainly, you`re at that age over there, Rebecca. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Did your parents say, get up and get your church -- get to church? Did they say... (CROSSTALK) LEE: Yes. It was -- the family was a little bit more centered around that. Now you... MATTHEWS: Because your father was a minister. LEE: Family is -- well, my father was a minister. MATTHEWS: Well, that helps. LEE: So, it was kind of embedded. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Rebecca, were you pushed off to church or temple in the morning?    BERG: You know, I wasn`t. I was bat mitzvahed. But it was -- I grew up in a very secular family. And so, that I think -- I`ve become even more that way as I`ve grown older. MATTHEWS: You had no choice. You get to choice it`s late, it`s 8:30, ten minutes to get here. Then my very youngest brothers, there are five of us, I found out later on when I got back from Africa in the Peace Corps, they were sneaking off to Dunkin Donuts on Sunday morning and their only concern was they had sugar powder on them that gave them away. My two older -- you know, closer in age brothers and I wouldn`t think of not going. Now our own kids we would push them to go, but after a while you sort of stop, you don`t push it all the way. If they really don`t want to go, one kid really doesn`t want to go, you don`t push them like you used to. DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: This is an interesting -- LEE: No, that`s totally right. There`s not this sense of -- there`s families are raised in different ways now. There`s a lot more freedom with giving, you know, children choices. I have a 2-year-old son. He`s already getting choices. Has been for -- CORN: Uh-oh. LEE: -- a year now. And he makes those choices. And I think there`s just a general more openness. CORN: But we also have a changing idea about community too, when church was the center point of your community growing up. There are different ways that people find community now, and it`s not always religious. MATTHEWS: Let me tell you how we grew up. Holy Name Monday night. Sit out Tuesday night. Off night. Knights of Columbus Thursday night. Knights of Columbus bowling and poker Friday night. CORN: There you go.    MATTHEWS: And you golf with your Knights of Columbus best buddies Saturday. It was a whole religious week growing up. Anyway, those who are religiously unaffiliated are the largest religious groups among Democrats, at 28 percent. That`s up nine points since 2007. Evangelicals make up the largest group among Republicans, at 38 percent. Rebecca, that makes perfect sense from what we know. Evangelicals are increasingly Republican. BERG: Exactly. And what we`re also seeing is that non-religious voters are decreasing in their support among Republicans. So, for the past 15 years, people who identify as non-religious, fewer and fewer of them are voting -- MATTHEWS: So the Democrats are becoming a secular party, Carol? LEE: Well, I don`t know about that. But the demographics -- if you look at what`s happening in this poll, there`s a long-term implication for the Republican Party because it`s not just -- you know, there`s obviously a decrease in religion among young voters who are eventually going to become older voters. You know, the younger generation is more diverse. Their views are more liberal, particularly on things like gay marriage, and that all coming together does not play well for the Republican Party long term. Like in terms of, you know, the upcoming presidential election you`ll see the number of millennial voters is significantly increased from 2008 and 2012 as eligible voters but they don`t vote. And so, they will vote maybe when they`re older but it`s not as huge an issue right now. MATTHEWS: I`m not sure these arguments about same sex and abortion rights. I just saw the numbers, being Roman Catholic -- 21 percent of the Republican Party`s Roman Catholic, 21 percent of the Democratic Party`s Roman Catholic. So, it`s a wash. It`s so interesting. After all these fights we have, it still evens out. Anyway, it`s a group that`s hard to herd anyway. The roundtable`s staying with us. Up next, these three reporters will tell me something I don`t know.    You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We`re here with our roundtable: Carol Lee, David Corn, Rebecca Berg. Start with Carol. Tell me something I don`t know. LEE: OK. So, Guantanamo Bay has been a very under the radar issue. MATTHEWS: Gitmo. LEE: Otherwise known as Gitmo, has been a very under the radar issue, and it`s about to become front and center, and there will be a big fight about it between the White House and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The White House is increasingly signaling that they are willing to take executive action to close the facility because the president is not getting what he wants -- MATTHEWS: What about the NIMBY problem? LEE: Well -- MATTHEWS: Nobody wants these prisoners in their backyard. How do we deal with it?    LEE: If the president does an executive action he`ll just have to reap the fallout. MATTHEWS: You`ll have to live with it. LEE: Yes. MATTHEWS: By the way, these super prisons are no place you can get out of. I don`t know why people talk about people escaping from them. Go ahead. CORN: Ben Carson`s in the news. "Mother Jones" put up a video of a speech he gave last year in which he said the media tries to shut him down but thank God -- he actually thanked God -- for giving him FOX News and saying without FOX News, we`d be Cuba. He said that with a straight face, as if he really believes that not only are we living in a Nazi Germany-like situation, we`re also living in a Cuba-like situation if it wasn`t for Roger Ailes and Bill O`Reilly. MATTHEWS: It`s funny how well he`s doing in the polls for a guy who can`t get his message out. CORN: Yes. Isn`t it? MATTHEWS: Rebecca. BERG: Well, Chris, we all know those of us who watched the last Republican debate, that Jeb Bush didn`t quite land his punches against Marco Rubio. MATTHEWS: He`s down to four.    BERG: But the attack line is actually starting to resonate with voters, his attack on Marco Rubio for not attending votes in the Senate. I went down to Florida recently, talked to some of their home state voters, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, people who have voted for them in the past that are now supporting Trump. Asked them why have you left team Jeb and team Marco and they told me regarding Marco Rubio, Senate votes were the problem. MATTHEWS: Well, it`s tough being a no-show and a credit risk. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. Thanks to everybody at the HARDBALL roundtable: Carol Lee, David Corn, and Rebecca Berg. Up next, the power behind the president -- a revealing look at how Lady Bird Johnson was the defining force behind LBJ`s path to the White House. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton is far ahead of her Democratic rivals in the South Carolina primary. According to a new Winthrop University poll, Clinton has 71 percent of Democrats supporting her, that`s 71 percent. Bernie Sanders 15 percent. Martin O`Malley just 2 percent. I`ll be live at Winthrop Friday night for full coverage of the Democratic forum hosted by my colleague Rachel Maddow. Join me from 6:00 to 8:00 Eastern, and I`ll come back again after Rachel speaks with each of the candidates. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)    MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. She was a Southern gentlewoman, and he was as big, brash and ornery as Texas himself. Ladybird and Lyndon Johnson were an unlikely couple who forged marriage that somehow lasted. The new book "Lady Bird and Lyndon: The Hidden Story of a Marriage that Made a President" is about a first lady who came to power amid epic tragedy and endured. You could almost say survived her marriage to one of the toughest American politicians of our lifetime. Joining me right now is author, Betty Boyd Caroli. Thank you very much. BETTY BOYD CAROLI, AUTHOR, "LADY BIRD AND LYNDON": Thank you. MATTHEWS: Is it an amazing book? Let`s talk about the scene we just saw on the Air Force One, November 22nd, 1963. All of a sudden, Lyndon Johnson, who was miserable as vice president, all of a sudden is president. CAROLI: Right. MATTHEWS: What did Lady Bird, how did she react to all that? CAROLI: She said that she was on stage for a part she never rehearsed but, in fact, no first lady ever came into that job better prepared than she. Remember, she had been in Washington for part of every year for 30 years. So she really took on the job in a way that nobody else has ever done I think. MATTHEWS: Lyndon Johnson was pretty much loathed by my generation, the Vietnam generation. They felt that the war was being prosecuted with no real hope of success. They kept asking for 100,000, 200,000 more troops after Ted. Johnson pushing and pushing. No one knew whether he thought we were winning no matter what winning meant and destroyed everything else about him.    How did she get through that with him? CAROLI: Well, she said the first two years in the White House were wine and roses. She had a great time. But after that, it was pure hell, and what she was talking about were the Vietnam years, and she said over and over that it was like swimming upstream. She said poverty, education, those are problems we know what we want. We can work towards them. But in Vietnam, there`s just no clear solution in sight. So, those were very tough years for her. MATTHEWS: Let`s get a taste of the Southern world, Texas world. Here`s a phone call, LBJ wasn`t the only politician in the family. Let`s listen. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON: I hope you have a wonderful new year. And wait a minute. A.W. wants to speak on behalf of me and Wesley and a few of them here, AND SAY howdy, after this girl talks to you. SEN. RICHARD RUSSELL: All right, sir. LADY BIRD JOHNSON: Senator? RUSSELL: Honey, how are you? LAYD BIRD: Oh, I`m fine. RUSSELL: I`ve just been seeing you with great approval in the newsroom and in the paper.    LADY BIRD: There`s nobody`s approval that I want more than yours. RUSSELL: Oh Lord, what a politician. No wonder Lyndon Johnson is president. (END AUDIO CLIP) MATTHEWS: What`s behind all that syrup? Syrup. So much syrup there. CAROLI: She was a tough person. I mean, you see that from the first essay she wrote in high school and many of the conversations with him. But when she wanted to turn on the charm, she was a real people pleaser. I mean, and he used her, Lyndon used her for that. On Air Force One, coming back from Dallas that day in 1963, they called Rose Kennedy which must have been a really tough call to make and who did Lyndon put on the phone to make it seem to be gracious and warm and in that difficult time? Lady Bird. He did it again and again. MATTHEWS: Credit to her to put up with the guy. CAROLI: Yes. MATTHEWS: I`m sure it was not an easy marriage. Anyway, we won`t go into that because the book gets to that. Betty Boyd Caroli, a great book. Now everybody loves politics got to read this one, "Lady Bird and Lyndon". Anyway, that`s the name. "The Hidden Story of a Marriage that Made a President".    You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: 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. 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