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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 1/19/2016

Guests: Jeremy Peters, Anne Gearan, Ben Ginsburg, Heidi Przybyla

Show: HARDBALL Date: January 19, 2016 Guest: Jeremy Peters, Anne Gearan, Ben Ginsburg, Heidi Przybyla

SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VICE PRES. NOMINEE: You know what? You guys haven`t tried to do that every day since that night in `08, when I was on stage nominated for VP, and I got to say, yes, I`ll go, send me, you betcha, I`ll serve! And like you all, I`m still standing.

So those of us who`ve kind of gone through the ringer, as Mr. Trump has, makes me respect you even more, that you`re here and you`re putting your efforts and you`re putting reputation, you`re putting relationships on the line to do the right thing for this country because you are ready to make America great again!


PALIN: Well, I am here because, like you, I know that it is now or never. I`m in it to win it because we believe in America and we love our freedom. And if you love your freedom, thank a vet. Thank a vet and know that the United States military deserves a commander-in-chief who loves our country passionately and will never apologize for this country...


PALIN: ... a new commander-in-chief, who will never leave our men behind, a new commander-in-chief, one who will never lie to the families of the fallen!


PALIN: I`m in it because just last week, we`re watching our sailors suffer and be humiliated on a world stage at the hands of Iranian captors, in violation of international law, because a weak-kneed capitulator-in-chief has decided that America will lead from behind. And he, who would negotiate deals, kind of with the skills of a community organizer maybe organizing a neighborhood tea -- yes, well -- he deciding that, no, America would apologize, and as part of the deal, as the enemy sends a message to the rest of the world that they capture and we kowtow and we apologize, and then we bend over and say, Thank you, enemy!

We are ready for a change! We are ready, and our troops deserve the best, a new commander-in-chief whose track record of success has proven he is the master at the art of the deal. He is one who would know to negotiate.

Only one candidate`s record of success proves he is the master of the art of the deal. He is beholden to no one but we, the people! How refreshing! He is perfectly positioned to let you make America great again.

Are you ready for that, Iowa?


PALIN: No more pussyfooting around! Our troops deserve the best! You deserve the best!

He is from the private sector, not a politician. Can I get a hallelujah?

CROWD: Hallelujah!

PALIN: Where in the private sector you actually have to balance budgets in order to prioritize, to keep the main theme, the main thing. And he knows the main thing of a president is to keep us safe economically and militarily. He knows the main thing, and he knows how to lead the charge.

So troops, hang in there because help`s on the way because he, better than anyone -- isn`t he known for being able to command, fire...


PALIN: Are you ready for a commander-in-chief -- you ready for a commander-in-chief who will let our warriors do their job and go kick ISIS ass?


PALIN: Ready for someone who will secure our borders to secure our jobs and to secure our homes, ready to make America again? Are you ready to stump for Trump? I`m here to support the next president of the United States, Donald Trump!


PALIN: Now, eight years ago, I warned that Obama`s promised fundamental transformation of America -- that it was going to take more from you and leave America weaker on the world stage and that we would soon be unrecognizable. Well, it`s the one promise that Obama kept.

But he didn`t do it alone. And this is important to remember, especially those of you, like me, a member of the GOP -- this is what we have to remember in this very contested, competitive, great primary race. Trump`s candidacy -- it has exposed not just that tragic -- the ramifications of that betrayal of a transformation of our country. But two, he has exposed the complicity on both sides of the aisle that has enabled it, OK?

Well, Trump -- what he`s been able to do, which is really ticking people off, which I`m glad about -- he`s going rogue left and right, man! That`s why he`s doing so well!


PALIN: He`s been able to tear the veil off this idea of the system, the way that the system really works. And please hear me on this. I want you to understand more and more how the system, the establishment works and has gotten us into the troubles that we are in in America.

The permanent political class has been doing the bidding of their campaign donor class. And that`s why you see that the borders are kept open for them, for their cheap labor that they want to come in. That`s why they`ve been bloating budgets. It`s for crony capitalists to be able to suck off of them! It`s why we see these lousy trade deals that gut our industry for special interests elsewhere.

We need someone new who has the power and is in the position to bust up that establishment, to make things great again. It`s part of the problem.

His candidacy, which is a movement, it`s a force, it`s a strategy -- it proves as long as the politicos -- they get to keep their titles and their perks and their media ratings, they don`t really care who wins elections. Believe me on this.

And the proof of this, look what`s happening today. Our own GOP machine, the establishment, they who would assemble the political landscape, they`re attacking their own front-runner! Now, would the left ever, would the DNC ever come after their front-runner and her supporters? No, because they don`t eat their own! They don`t self-destruct.

But for the GOP establishment to be coming after Donald Trump`s supporters, even with accusations that are so false -- they are so busted, the way that this thing works. We, you, a diverse, dynamic, needed support base, that they would attack, and now some of them even whispering they`re ready to throw in for Hillary over Trump because they can`t afford to see the status quo go! Otherwise, they won`t be able to be slurping off the gravy train that`s been feeding them all these years. They don`t want that to end!


PALIN: Well, and then, funny, ha-ha, not funny -- but now what they`re doing is wailing, Well, Trump and his Trumpeters -- well, they`re not conservative enough. Oh, my goodness gracious! What the heck would the establishment know about conservatism?

Tell me, is this conservative, GOP majorities handing Obama a blank check to fund "Obama care" and Planned Parenthood and illegal immigration that competes for your jobs and turning safety nets into hammocks and all these new Democrat voters that are going to be coming on over the border, as we keep the borders open, and bequeathing our children millions in new debt and refusing to fight back for our solvency and our sovereignty, even though that`s why we elected them and sent them as a majority to D.C.?

No! If they`re not willing to do that, then how are they to tell us that we`re not conservative enough in order to be able to make these changes in America that we know need to be made? Now they`re concerned about this ideological purity? Give me a break! Who are they to say that?

Oh, and tell somebody like Phyllis Schlafly -- she is the Republican conservative movement icon and hero and a Trump supporter. Tell her she`s not conservative enough. How about the rest of us? Right-wing and bitter- clinging proud clingers of our guns, our God and our religions and Our constitution -- tell us that we`re not red enough? Yes, coming from the establishment. Right.

Well, he being the only one who`s been willing -- he`s got the guts to wear the issues that need to be spoken about and debated on his sleeve, where the rest of some of these establishment candidates, they just wanted to duck and hide. They didn`t want to talk about these issues until he brought them up. In fact, they`ve been wearing this political correctness kind of like a suicide vest.

And enough is enough! These issues that Donald Trump talks about had to be debated, and he brought them to the forefront. And that`s why we are where we are today, with good discussion, a good, heated, and very competitive primary is where we are. And now, though, to be lectured that, Well, you guys are all sounding kind of angry, is what we`re hearing from the establishment.

Doggone right we`re angry! Justifiably so! Yes! You know, they stomp on our neck and then they tell us, Just chill, OK? Just (INAUDIBLE) just relax.

Well, look, we are mad and we`ve been had. They need to get used to it. This election is more than just your basic ABCs, "anybody but Clinton."


PALIN: It`s more than that this go-around. When we`re talking about a nation without borders, when we`re talking about bankruptcies in our federal government, debt that our children and our grandchildren -- they`ll never be able to pay off, when we`re talking about no more Reaganesque power that comes from strength, power through strength, well, then, we`re talking about our very existence.

So no, we`re not going to chill. In fact, it`s time to drill, baby, drill down...


PALIN: ... and hold these folks accountable. And we need to stop the self-sabotage and elect new an independent, a candidate who represents that and represents America first, finally, pro-constitution, common sense solutions that he brings to the table.

Yes, the status quo has got to go, otherwise we`re just going to get more of the same. And with their failed agenda, it can`t be salvaged, it must be savaged! And Donald Trump is the right one to do that.

Are you ready for new and are you ready for the leader who will let you make America great again?


PALIN: It`s going to take a whole team. It`s going to take a whole team, fighters, all of us in the private sector, fighters in the House and the Senate. So our friends who are fighters in the House and the Senate today, they need to stay there and help out. They can help our new leader in the positions that they are in.

Let me say something really positive about one of those individuals, Rand Paul. I`m going to tell you about that libertarian streak in him that is healthy because he knows you only go to war if you`re determined to win the war! And you quit footing the bill for these nations who are oil-rich! We`re paying for some of their skirmishes that have been going on for centuries, where they`re fighting each other, and yelling, Allah-uh akbar, calling jihad on each other`s heads forever and ever. Like I`ve said before, let them duke it out and let Allah sort it out!

We`ll fight for American interests, and as Donald Trump has said, other nations, where we have been footing the bill. But we haven`t prioritized our own domestic budgets well enough to be able to afford what we`re doing overseas.

Things are going to change under president Trump!


PALIN: So we can be an unbeatable team with fighters there in the House and the Senate. Yes, our leader, a little bit different. He`s a multi- billionaire, not that there`s anything wrong with that. But it`s amazing. He is not elitist at all. Oh, I just hope you all get to know him more and more as a person and a family man and what he`s been able to accomplish with this -- it`s kind of this quiet generosity. Yes, maybe his largess kind of, I don`t know, some would say gets in the way of that quiet generosity and his compassion. But if you know him as a person -- and you`ll get to know him more and more -- you`ll have even more respect not just for his record of success and the good intentions for America, but who he is as a person.

He`s not an elitist. And yes, as a multi-billionaire, we still root him on because he roots us on. And he has -- he`s spent his life with the working man. And he tells us, Joe six-packs, he said, you know, I`ve worked very, very hard and I`ve succeeded. Hugely, I`ve succeeded, he says. And he says, And I want you to succeed, too.

And that is refreshing because he, as he builds things -- he builds big things, things that touch the sky, big infrastructure that puts other people to work. He has spent his life looking up and respecting the hard hats and the steel-toed boots and the work ethic that you all have within you.

He, being an optimist, passionate about equal opportunity to work, this self-made success of his, you know that he doesn`t get his power, his high, off of opium, other people`s money, like a lot of dopes in Washington do. They`re addicted to opium, where they take other people`s money and then their high is getting to redistribute it, right? And then they get to be really popular people when they get to give out your hard money.

Well, he doesn`t do that. His power, his passion, it`s the fabric of America, and it`s woven by work ethic and dreams and drive and faith in the almighty. What a combination! Are you ready to share in that again, Iowa, because that`s what`s going to let you make America great again!


PALIN: He`s going to be able to empower you to look out for one another again instead of relying on a bankrupt government to supposedly be looking out for you. No! And I think you`re ready for that.

And Iowa, I believe, too, that you`re ready to see that our vets are treated better than illegal immigrations are treated in this country.


PALIN: And you`re ready for the tax reform he talks about to open up Main Street again. And you`re ready to stop the race-baiting and the division based on color and zip code, to unify around the right issues, the issues important to me or I wouldn`t be endorsing him -- pro-life, pro-2nd amendment, strict constitutionality, those things that are unifying values and their time-tested truths involved.

These are unifying values from big cities and tiny towns, from big mountain states and the Big Apple to the big, beautiful heartland that`s in between.

Now, finally, friends, I want you to try to picture this. It`s a nice thing to picture. Exactly one year from tomorrow, former president Barack Obama...


PALIN: ... he packs up the teleprompters and the selfie sticks and the Greek columns and all that hopey-changey stuff and he heads on back to Chicago, where I`m sure he can find some community there to organize again. There, he can finally look up, President Obama will be able to look up. And there, over his head, he`ll be able to see that shining, towering Trump tower.


PALIN: Yes, Barack, he built that, and that says a lot! Iowa, you say a lot being here tonight, supporting the right man who will allow you to make America great again!

God bless you! God bless the United States of America and our next president of the United States, Donald J. Trump!


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We`re going to give `em hell.


TRUMP: I just want to thank Sarah and Todd, just really amazing people. This is a woman that from day one, I said, if I ever do this, I have to get her support. She feels it. She understands it better than anybody.

And Sarah, on behalf of myself, my family and the country, I want to thank you very much. Thank you, darling. Thank you.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Quite an event, what you just saw.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews. I`ve been watching this with you. I`m in Washington.

"Let Me Start" today with a ballyhoo day in the Republican Party. Sarah Palin has just endorsed Donald Trump. You saw it all there. The guy who has dominated the media has just added 10,000 watts of Tea Party juice to his megaphone.

Sarah Palin has a rare kinetic ability, a stage presence that is unmatched in American politics. When she`s out there, people watch. More than anything else, her arrival to 2016 politics promises fun.

You watch a guy like Cruz, everything looks pretty painful. Anyway, not for Donald Trump and not for Palin. You don`t know what`s coming next from either of them. Suddenly, it`s karaoke time on this campaign trail.

NBC`s Katy Tur is in Iowa tonight with the Trump campaign. Perry Bacon`s here with me. He`s senior political reporter for NBC News. And former RNC chair Michael Steele is also with us. He`s MSNBC`s great political analyst.

Katy Tur, this -- how long did it take to get this thing? We didn`t find out about this until late today. When did this Trump perfect match come together?

KATY TUR, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We`re not sure when it came together. They said they have been working on it for -- for quite some time.

There`s been a -- you know, a -- to use a silly word for this, a romance between the two for many years now. Back in 2011, when she was at that pizzeria in New York and she was -- rumors -- there were rumors that she might run for president, someone asked Donald Trump if he would run as her vice president, and he kind of left the door open for that.

So they have been chatting now for years. And this seems more like a natural fit, though, for her to be endorsing him. They`re very similar in a lot of ways. They both like big productions. They both were reality show TV stars. They`re similar on their political platforms.

I do want to talk about the room here tonight. It was a different rally for Donald Trump. The energy was much lower than it normally is in this crowd. And when Palin took the stage, the crowd was largely silent throughout much of her speech.

It was a very different feeling than we get at a lot of the rallies, partially because Donald Trump speaks very off the cuff, or he seems like he`s speaking very off the cuff. He riles the crowd up with the way he speaks. She was very much reading from notes for this. And it didn`t seem to grab the attention of a lot of the crowd.

She used a lot of her classic Palin, pithy comments, talking about -- excuse me -- wearing political correctness like a suicide vest, that can`t be salvaged, it must be savaged.


TUR: Let them duke it out and let Allah sort it out. She even referenced Joe Six-Pack at one point, talking about how Donald Trump was a billionaire, not that there`s anything wrong with that.

This speech itself, it didn`t seem like it was rousing at all. It didn`t seem like it was inspiring anybody else.


MATTHEWS: I`m looking at a lot of people.

TUR: It seemed like it was just a bunch of talking points and a bunch of pithy lines.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree.

TUR: One guy in the crowd said he didn`t come here for either of them. He said he came here for the comedy show, and he didn`t even seem to be laughing, frankly.

MATTHEWS: Those students behind you, are they Ohio -- are they Iowa State students?

TUR: Iowa State students. This is a much younger crowd than Donald Trump normally gets, and that could be part of the reason why the energy was so much lower in this room than normal. It seemed like, when people were cheering, it was generally the older people in this crowd, not the younger college-age students.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I think the younger ones may have been just been watching the spectacle and not part of the movement, if you will.

What amazed me is why Trump didn`t take the opportunity to explain to the people how easy it is to go to a caucus in two weeks and vote. All you have to do is show up, basically, register to vote when you get there, and sign in his name, and you win. I mean, he made it sound like it`s a little harder. I don`t think that was smart, because it ain`t. It ain`t hard.

TUR: Well, his Iowa co-chair, Tana Goertz, got up on stage -- she does at most of his Iowa rallies -- and explained how to do it to the crowd and pepped them up.


TUR: She explained it in a much simpler way. All you have got to do is show up and raise your hand, and you can caucus for Donald Trump.

So, that happens before he takes the stage. He doesn`t really get into the specifics of that. But, again, Chris, I`m not sure that this was the right place or the right time for him to -- maybe the right time, but maybe not the right place for him to hold this endorsement.

It didn`t seem like one of his most pro-Trump crowds.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, they will probably be all over the place.

What`s the plan? I`m going to leave you with this question. What`s the plan? Is she going to travel with him, without him? Is she going to hit the road in all the tough early states or not?

TUR: She`s going to be with him in Iowa tomorrow. She`s going to travel with him to Tulsa. Unclear what her schedule will be after that.

But I was talking to the campaign manager a little bit earlier, and he said that she`s going to be a big boost to the campaign. They`re going to utilize her a lot and she`s going to be really active. And they`re hoping that it`s going to play really well here in Iowa, where, of course, they need to move the needle. He`s neck and neck with Ted Cruz right now.

Ted Cruz has wrapped up the evangelicals. He`s trying to get new caucus voters out. And they`re hoping that they Palin is going to do that. Unclear how much influence she`s going to have in the rest of the country now -- rest of the country, though. This seems like very much an Iowa- timed announcement.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much, Katy Tur.

Let`s go right now to moments ago. We saw Sarah Palin -- repeated shots at President Obama. Here she is.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: The United States military deserves a commander in chief who loves our country passionately and will never apologize for this country.


PALIN: A new commander in chief who will never leave our men behind, a new commander in chief, one who will never lie to the families of the fallen.


PALIN: A weak-kneed capitulator in chief has decided that America will lead from behind, and he who would negotiate deals, kind of like with the skills of a community organizer, maybe organizing a neighborhood tea.


MATTHEWS: Well, I have got Perry Bacon here from NBC and Michael Steele.

You know, I think it`s interesting. Why do you think he brought her in? He`s a couple points ahead. She shakes things up. She`s a game-changer. It`s fun. It`s no doubt fun, ballyhoo and all. Risky or not?

PERRY BACON, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Risky, but she does appeal to the Tea Party. Cruz is winning the very conservative voters. She does appeal to them.

And I thought her -- what a moment in politics, though. Eight years ago, she gave a speech about how great John McCain was at the convention, and now we`re here with her standing besides Donald Trump. And her speech really fit -- it wasn`t a great speech at times, but she really did capture his message.

MATTHEWS: It`s going to look good in print.

BACON: She kept talking about how the establishment is not working, is broken.


BACON: And that`s exactly Donald Trump`s message. She gave a really good speech. If you`re a Trump supporter, she really reinforced what you don`t like about the establishment.

MATTHEWS: I thought so. I thought -- what she didn`t do is take a good shot at Cruz.

BACON: No. She didn`t need to.

MATTHEWS: And I`m waiting. Is she going to birtherize him? Is she going to go that far?


I don`t think so, because they have a preexisting personal relationship. Remember, she stomped across Texas for Ted Cruz, helped pull him across the line, and Ted acknowledged that himself today. So I don`t think you will see her in that role. In fact, I think the whole Ted Cruz saga has pretty much run its course. I don`t think there will be much more on the birther side of that issue.

I want to go back to what you said, though.

MATTHEWS: But she believes the president is born -- was born in some other country.

STEELE: Yes, but that doesn`t matter. That`s not a part of the conversation, Chris.

MATTHEWS: She`s in the birther...


STEELE: That`s your conversation. That`s not her conversation.

MATTHEWS: No, her conversation is to accuse the president of being born in Kenya.

STEELE: But that`s not -- that`s not this race. That`s 2008. That`s not 2016.

MATTHEWS: So, she discriminates. So, she only says certain people are born...


STEELE: You say discriminate. I say move on.


MATTHEWS: I would say that she`s discerning.

STEELE: But there were three takeaways from the speech, and I think it`s very important to note.

Bust up the establishment. What would the establishment know about conservatives? That`s key. That`s a key line right there.


STEELE: And wearing P.C. like a suicide vest. But that line about, what would the establishment know about conservatives, that goes back to 2008. And it goes back to 2012.


STEELE: It goes back to this long line of grievances that the establishment -- or that conservatives have with the establishment.

MATTHEWS: My hunch is -- you know, I have watched her, like we all have, for years now. She has a particular kinetic quality on the stage. It`s very magnetic.

She will walk out on the stage. She`s obviously an attractive woman. And she will come out on the stage in kind of a strut, a cowgirl kind of thing she does, and it really works. Today they didn`t -- they didn`t do a good choreography. You couldn`t even see her behind that podium, that lectern.

They didn`t really present -- I thought that she`s great on stage as a political leader. She`s just dazzling. You can`t take your eyes off her. She sits in a booth and talks like everybody else, you can ignore her.


BACON: That`s why I thought this was a very different speech than you would hear.

And, also, at times, this was a Sarah Palin...

MATTHEWS: Well, she hasn`t memorized it yet.

BACON: She was at times Sarah Palin defending Sarah Palin. That`s what I thought what was so important about tonight.

You could tell at times she was saying, the establishment doesn`t like Donald Trump. She was almost saying, the establishment doesn`t like me.


MATTHEWS: Here it is. Here`s Sarah Palin taking shots at the Republican Party itself, which tells you what this campaign`s at.


PALIN: We need someone new who has the power and is in the position to bust up that establishment, to make things great again.

It`s part of the problem. His candidacy, which is a movement, it`s a force, it`s a strategy -- they`re attacking their own front-runner. For the GOP establishment to be coming after Donald Trump`s supporters even with accusations that are so false, they are so busted, the way that this thing works.


MATTHEWS: Well, this is going right back at the Republican Party, the Reince Priebus crowd and all those people that seem like they`re just dying. They don`t control this thing anymore.

STEELE: It brings into the circle a lot of folks who have kind of been looking at this peripherally -- some are Ted Cruz`s supporters, some are supporters of other candidates -- who also have those same grievances, who share in that frustration with the establishment, even though they may be backing an establishment candidate.

MATTHEWS: Who`s the establishment candidate right now?

BACON: Marco Rubio.


STEELE: I think he`s the one...

BACON: He`s one of them. John Kasich, Jeb Bush.

MATTHEWS: Is he? Is he?


MATTHEWS: He was a Tea Party guy to start with.


BACON: ... immigration reform.

STEELE: Don`t buy that whole line of logic. But the...


MATTHEWS: What, history?

STEELE: Well, no, it`s not history.

Understand the circumstances on the ground in Florida at the time of that election and how that all came about. It`s not -- this is not something that was naturally born. It is a marriage of convenience that works -- worked at that moment. And we saw it play out, and this is the problem a lot of Tea Party types have with the Rubio position on immigration, is that they feel there was a bait and switch.

So, this -- so people like to play that line, but the folks on the ground will tell you something very, very different. But I think at the end of the day, the analysis still runs in Trump`s favor. He is solidifying the lead-up to Iowa. He is making this thing the final push and the final play to push back some more on Cruz and solidify that front-runner status, so that others, even if they make the attempt, it`s going to be harder and harder for them to do.

MATTHEWS: What would it be like to wake up -- you`re a Republican.

You`re a reporter.

What would it be like to wake up the morning after the Iowa caucuses, February 2, with Trump having beaten Cruz?

BACON: Potentially huge.


BACON: This is the weakest state for him. The evangelicals have not supported him. If he can win in Iowa, he can definitely win in New Hampshire.


MATTHEWS: So this is the big apple for him?

BACON: Then he can win potentially everywhere.

STEELE: Game-changer for everybody.

BACON: Everybody.

STEELE: At that point, folks then know what lies ahead in New Hampshire, and then South Carolina, done.

MATTHEWS: I know. I`m just waiting when we`re going to see the big money being dropped out there yet. I don`t know if...


BACON: What are they waiting for? I`m just confused by that.


MATTHEWS: I`m waiting. I`m waiting for Trump to spend some money.


BACON: I mean the opponents.

MATTHEWS: Oh. Yes, I know.

BACON: There`s very little money in states running against Trump, compared to -- the attacks in Iowa right now are against Rubio and Cruz. Rubio is at 12 percent.

MATTHEWS: Remember the Italian navy in World War II? It never came out of port. It was a good-looking navy. It was all white ships and everything, but it never came out of port. They never lost the navy.

I think the Republican establishment is the Italian navy from World War II, Mussolini`s navy.

Anyway, thank you, Michael. Where do these references come from? I don`t plan them, I promise you guys.

Perry Bacon, thank you, sir.

Coming up, reaction from the Cruz campaign to our top story tonight, the endorsement, just now, of Donald Trump by Sarah Palin. Cruz`s people have been trying to downplay this Palin endorsement all day today, but for Trump, it`s a value-added that may make all the difference come Iowa, which is less than two weeks.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


PALIN: We are ready, and our troops deserve the best, a new commander in chief, whose track record of success has proven he is the master at the art of the deal. He is one who would know to negotiate. Only one candidate`s record of success proves he is the master of the art of the deal. He is beholden to no one, but we the people.

How refreshing.




PALIN: You ready for a commander in chief who will let our warriors do their job and go kick ISIS` ass?




Welcome back to HARDBALL.

"Kick ISIS` ass."

Anyway, is Sarah Palin`s endorsement of Trump a blow to the Cruz campaign? Well, what do you think? Palin endorsed Cruz`s Senate back in `12, when he ran for Senate. In `13, Cruz introduced her at the CPAC event as somebody who picks winners.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It shakes up their entire world view, and you know what, she can pick winners. Let me tell you something, I would not be in the U.S. Senate today if it were not for Governor Sarah Palin.


CRUZ: She is fearless, she is principled, she is courageous, and she is a mama grizzly.



I`m joined right now by NBC`s Hallie Jackson. She`s up in New Hampshire with the Cruz campaign itself. "Washington Post" political writer Anne Gearan is with me here. And "New York Times" reporter Jeremy Peters is with me, as well as Republican attorney and insider establishment figure Ben Ginsberg, former counsel to the Bush -- you can`t be more establishment than that -- during the 2000 recount, which they won.

Let me go to Hallie Jackson.

What do the Cruz people think? They were betrayed by her? Is she -- are they afraid she`s going to join the birther thing against Cruz and say, just like President Obama, this guy`s from some other country?

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think they`re disappointed, Chris. I think that`s very fair to say. You have talked about the relationship that Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin have had over the years. You played that sound bite, she can pick a winner.

By the way, that was quoted in Donald Trump`s announcement of Sarah Palin`s endorsement. What to watch now, how hard will Sarah Palin go after Ted Cruz? And will she go after Ted Cruz in that way? Will she cheerlead for Donald Trump and leave it that or will she turn her guns on a guy like Cruz?

That does hold some danger potentially for Palin, who, remember, is a big voice within the Tea Party, but, then again, Ted Cruz has become one as well. So, let`s see what her strategy is moving forward. We will find soon...


JACKSON: ... tomorrow in Oklahoma and Iowa.

MATTHEWS: We will see how far she goes on the birther front, let alone the other conservative stuff. Thank you, Hallie.

One more question about -- were they surprised by this? We all got this as news today, and Chuck Todd confirmed it, and "New York Times" had it today.


MATTHEWS: Did they get blindsided?

JACKSON: I`m not sure that they necessarily had advanced notice that this was coming, but they were sort of aware that this was a possibility today.

I spoke with a communications director for the campaign who said to me early this morning that he would be disappointed to see Palin endorse, if she were to endorse, because he believed she was a champion for conservative causes and Donald Trump is simply not conservative enough.

That actually got him in a little bit of trouble, when he said the same thing on a different network, got some blowback from Bristol Palin there, when he said that it would be a blow to Sarah Palin if she did endorse Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I noticed that one of her strongest arguments from her just now was that he`s a real conservative, and if anybody attacks him, like the Republican Party establishment...

JACKSON: This is where she`s going to help bolster -- yes, she`s going to help bolster his bona fides, help bolster his conservative credentials in the face of attacks like the one that you`re seeing right now from Ted Cruz, even on the campaign trail today, that Donald Trump is simply a liberal in disguise.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes, well, she didn`t say that at all. She was very supportive of his credentials as a conservative.

Anyway, Palin seemed to be referencing Ted Cruz there, among others, when she talked about the fighters in the House and Senate who need to stay there. Let`s watch her.


PALIN: It`s going to take a whole team. It`s going to take a whole team, fighters, all of us in the private sector, fighters in the House and the Senate. So, our friends who are fighters in the House and the Senate today, they need to stay there and help out. They can help our new leader in the positions that they are in.


MATTHEWS: Anne Gearan, what do you think?

ANNE GEARAN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, she can out-free-associate Donald Trump, and that`s saying something.


GEARAN: But I actually -- I think her endorsement is of temporary importance, but little long-term value.

MATTHEWS: Well, can it last two weeks? Two weeks?

GEARAN: Yes, right. And that`s what it needs to last.


GEARAN: It needs to puncture Ted Cruz, and show strong support for Donald Trump within a niche market that she can talk to. Long-term, I don`t think it makes a huge difference.

MATTHEWS: Is this the kind of stuff you put in your oil or your gasoline to give it a little more pep?


MATTHEWS: I think it is worth -- or even nitroglycerin. I wonder whether this doesn`t just pep up Trump. I`m not sure the performance was 100 percent, but the name brand, I think, helps.

JEREMY PETERS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Maybe it`s like a struck match. It`s like a fleeting flame.

I don`t know. She just doesn`t have the juice she used to have. She had to cancel that whole subscription online service that she had, remember, that she was doing. She couldn`t get enough subscribers. She got bounced from FOX. She doesn`t have the appeal that she used to.

And when I was watching her on TV, I just kept thinking to myself, this seems like it was somebody`s idea of what they thought conservatism was four years ago. Right? And if you`re going to accuse Trump of being a phony conservative, bringing on Sarah Palin seems like a pretty good way of proving that, because she just doesn`t connect with the base the way she used to.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a buzzkill.

PETERS: And not only that...


MATTHEWS: Well, thank you for that. So, you think we just wasted a while covering that?


PETERS: Well, so he`s going to...


MATTHEWS: I wonder if you know the answer or if anybody knows, when she gets out on the trail, she gets do`d up pretty well, she looks good, she goes out on that trail, shows up, comes out of that stage with a certain strut, a certain style, and she puts on a show for people, especially out in the country, I think. And I`d be careful to assume that city mice have her figured.

PETERS: On the margins, I think she could probably help him.

MATTHEWS: She was the governor of Alaska. Look, I think we`re going to see it next week. I want to know if she`s out there hitting the trail. If she will be --


PETERS: I was reporting on this today, actually. And what somebody very close to her was telling me is she was going to join Trump in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

MATTHEWS: Would you put her as a warm-up act? Where would you put him on, as a warm up, separately from him? I wouldn`t put them on the stage together like that. It didn`t work.

BEN GINSBERG, FORMER RNC GENERAL COUNSEL: He needs surrogates. She`s a surrogate with him, with the audience they`re aiming for, which is the very conservative Republican primary audience. Furthermore, what she does is reinforce that he`s the disrupter in the race. He`s the outsider candidate, and that`s where it`s an advantage to Trump over Cruz.

MATTHEWS: So if you really want a firecracker to go off the night of the Iowa caucuses, heard around the world, you vote for Trump if you listen to her.

GINSBERG: That`s right, absolutely. And this announcement today, no matter what you want to give it for stage presence, plays to the right audience to be --

MATTHEWS: It will be on the front page of your paper tomorrow, right?


MATTHEWS: Top of the fold?

PETERS: I don`t know, I don`t design the page.


MATTHEWS: I bet it`s top of the fold of "USA Today," which is probably more representative than either of your papers.


PETERS: They`re all lamestream media, as far as she`s concerned.

MATTHEWS: Americans got that. You get out in the morning.

Anyway, we`re going back to Hallie.

Hallie, thank you. Hallie, let me ask you this --

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS: I was just going to say --


MATTHEWS: -- are they going to come back with Joni Ernest or somebody as a counterpunch? Do they have a counterpunch plan in the Cruz campaign for this today?

JACKSON: They`re going to be rolling out, I think you`re going to see them rolling out some support over these next couple of weeks. I don`t think anyone will match, necessarily, Sarah Palin`s star power, right? But I`ll tell you who you might think the real winner of this day was, and that`s going to be Tina Fey and "Saturday Night Live". I think a lot of folks are going to be watching to see what happens this weekend.

MATTHEWS: You are ahead of me, so well. Thank you so much.

Anyway, Hallie Jackson, helping out Lorne Michael, anyway.

Anyway, Anne Gearan, thank you. We`re going to watch up of the folds tomorrow, we`re going to predict those things. Jeremy Peters of "The New York Times" and Ben Ginsburg of the GOP establishment.

Up next, the Republican roundtable, or the HARDBALL roundtable is coming here to discuss Trump`s big endorsement today by Sarah Palin. The question now is, what will it do for him in Iowa? That`s really what it`s about now. The big out there within less than two weeks now. We`re in a road zone.

In just a minute, by the way, Bernie Sanders hitting new highs in New Hampshire. Wait until you see his numbers in New Hampshire.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, Bernie Sanders has his biggest lead ever against Hillary Clinton up in New Hampshire. Look at this, a new CNN/WMUR poll of Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire just out tonight shows Sanders increasing his lead, as I said, over Hillary Clinton in that crucial first primary state.

Catch these numbers. Sanders tops Clinton by 27 points, 60, 6-0, to 33. That`s hers, 33. That`s a ten-point increase from where Sanders was in December, as seven-point slip for former Secretary Clinton.

Here`s Sanders` reaction to the new numbers.



REPORTER: Do you have to win --

SANDERS: You know, look, polls are polls. And today was a good poll and tomorrow may not be a good poll.


MATTHEWS: Wow. HARDBALL returns after this.



SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: You know, they stomp on our neck and then they tell us, just chill, OK? Just -- yes, just relax.

Well, look, we are mad and we`ve been had. They need to get used to it. This election is more than just your basic ABCs, "anybody but Clinton". We`re not going to chill. In fact, it`s time to drill, baby, drill.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was a scene not long ago in Iowa. In fact, up there in Ames, where Donald Trump landed a major endorsement from the darling of the Tea Party, former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin.

A little over three years ago, Palin was campaigning for Trump`s main rival, Ted Cruz, for that Senate race in Texas.


PALIN: Ted Cruz represents the positive change that we need! He represents that change, and that is why you see the disgusting attacks thrown at him. Texas, will you send a good man to Washington, D.C. to fight for all of us?!


MATTHEWS: Now, that`s a Palin show you saw right there. Palin`s endorsement led every network newscast tonight, by the way. Every one of them, ABC, NBC, CBS, and that`s, of course, it could be a big change factor in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.

Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable to round it out. Kasie Hunt is an MSNBC political correspondent, David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones", and Heidi Przybyla, she is a political reporter for "USA Today."

Let me ask you about this, how it changes things. The one danger I see here is I think Trump has emerged as a credible candidate in the suburbs of the Northeast. I looked at the numbers in Connecticut tonight he was reporting. I can see Trump, for example, smashing Bernie Sanders in the suburbs of the Northeast and the Midwest. I think he comes across sometimes, despite all the outrageous things he says, I think he`s a smart guy and knows how to make money. He`s more of a suburbanite than these other guys.

Now, bringing in Palin is dangerous, because Palin turns off suburban woman, suburban pro-choice woman who are thoughtful, read the newspaper. They go, wait a minute, this is too much of a cowgirl.

All that said, he ain`t running in the suburbs of Connecticut, right now. He`s not running in the suburbs of Philly or Chicago. He`s running in the outskirts, Kasie, of Iowa where people are very conservative.

KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He`s absolutely running in Iowa. And you can start to see it in the conservative media, this shift where some people were suggesting, oh, there are people in the establishment who could work with Donald Trump. And Donald Trump might be the one if we have to pick between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, we`re better off with Donald Trump. That was starting to bubble up. And this is going to help tamp that down and give him the kind of conservative credibility.

MATTHEWS: So, you saw that thing I was just saying as bad for him?



MATTHEWS: It was appealing to the Republican Party that I grew up around, reasonable people from the burbs.

HEIDI PRYZBYLA, USA TODAY: But if needs to win Iowa, this is what he needs.

CORN: But this is like a personality test in a way. He has to win in Iowa but he doesn`t to win in Iowa. If he wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina --

MATTHEWS: He can sure make his life easier by winning in Iowa.

CORN: Makes it easier. But by bringing on Sarah Palin, I think your point is true. It brands him in a way. Anybody who knows Donald Trump says --

MATTHEWS: Look what it did to McCain.

CORN: -- if he needs to move to the center the at any point to change his positions, figure out what else to say, he doesn`t need an anchor on him like -- an albatross like Sarah Palin. I think there are risks. We haven`t seen her campaign yet. She looked a little bit rusty tonight. And so --

MATTHEWS: I think she`s got the words down.

CORN: The next couple days, we`ll see her. I`ll bet you even odds she will say something that the Trump campaign will not like.

MATTHEWS: Well, she also will have a better rendition of what she said today. This is the first time she read any of this stuff. This was sight reading.

PRZYBYLA: I know you like numbers, Chris, so let me give you some numbers here. The last time we polled, because a lot of pollsters stopped asking about Sarah Palin, she was only 27 percentage points plus favorability in the Republican Party. That`s nationally. Those are the numbers that you`re talking about nationally in terms of the Northeast and the damage she could do.

But in Iowa, actually during the Joni Ernst, Ann Selzer (ph), the famous Iowa pollster, looked and it was 35 percent. She`s right around that same level as Trump. So I think she could help fire those people up. But does she bring in anyone new? They are the same exact audience --


MATTHEWS: Trump has to get people, your age, come to the thing and realize how easy it is to vote in these caucuses. Tonight he didn`t seem to sell it. It`s easy.

There`s a young woman that comes on, I`ve seen the 30-second ads online. She says just show up, print out the name Trump. Print it out and say you want to be a Republican and register as a Republican. Right there, you`re out in less than an hour. That is a good sales pitch, you know?

CORN: I think what happened tonight --

MATTHEWS: These are for newcomers.

CORN: -- is that what she does, I don`t know if she brings another vote to Donald Trump, but she allows him yet again to dominate the conversation.


CORN: There are 13 days left. Every day he dominates, it freezes out Ted Cruz. It never comes --

MATTHEWS: What about this thing somebody said awhile ago right here, he becomes the detonator cap by bringing her in, he becomes the most explosive candidate. If you want to blow apart the establishment in the Republican Party, what`s the biggest explosion, Trump or Cruz? He`s trying to make it Trump.

HUNT: My argument would be there was some danger in that switch for Trump and that you know, there was some sense that was starting to happen and that was ultimately going to help Cruz in Iowa because all the energy is anti-establishment. And this puts him back a little bit more in that corner with those voters. I`m not sure what it`s going to do among the Washington establishment.

MATTHEWS: It makes him more or less scary?

HUNT: I think it makes -- I`m not sure the Washington establishment thinks it`s going to make him more or less scary either way. But to voters, to this base, they care so much about --


MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about Democrats. I want to start with you on Democrats.

Hillary Clinton now looks at a difficult football. She would be looking at a difficult defense on the other side. She`s looking at the fact she probably can`t win New Hampshire at this point. It`s only three weeks off. She can win Iowa, obviously. But winning in Iowa won`t be enough to take her over the top in New Hampshire. This guy`s got a 2-1 lead.

So, how does she deal with that? Does she take the loss? Do you say I`m going to win Iowa and if I don`t win Iowa and if I don`t win New Hampshire, I`m going to look to South Carolina and the black vote?

CORN: You`d pay the cards. I mean, the good thing for her is there are only two choices. So, if Bernie Sanders happens to win in Iowa which I`m not sure is going to happen, but wins in New Hampshire, you go quickly to South Carolina --

MATTHEWS: You do think he`ll win New Hampshire?

CORN: Well, it looks pretty high (ph), I don`t know if he`s 27 points up. That really seems pretty big jump. But if he wins New Hampshire, whether you know, he`s won the first one or not, then we all focus on South Carolina. She will have the money and the discipline. It`s going to be a really difficult week or two for her in between loser lose, loser here we go again.


MATTHEWS: How about the last time when she had a fight and her people said South Carolina doesn`t count because it`s mostly African-Americans? They going to try that one again?

CORN: And Nevada, don`t forget Nevada, too.


CORN: Nevada.

MATTHEWS: You got to say Nevada.

CORN: She won`t be out of it, but it will be a miserably difficult week for the Clintons.

MATTHEWS: Yes, it`s going to be tough hoeing for them, although it`s good to get tough if they`re going to win the general.

HUNT: The last time it got tough for her is when she --

MATTHEWS: I think she ought to get recognized the world ain`t Hillary land. It`s a tough world. Take it on.

Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. They`ve been pretty for this. We`ve had a lot of time to prepare.

The politics -- the place for politics coming up.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.

Kasie, tell me something I don`t know.

HUNT: Hillary Clinton`s campaign is dying for Bernie Sanders to come under the kind of media scrutiny they think he`s going to get after that debate performance and his rising numbers in Iowa.

MATTHEWS: Will "The New York Times" go after him?

HUNT: It`s entirely possible.

MATTHEWS: They`ve been tough on Hillary.

HUNT: But I don`t work with "The New York Times". So --

MATTHEWS: I think she`s faced pretty tough scrutiny.

CORN: I talked to a senior DNC person today. They tell me a tremendous amount of regret in the high ranks of the DNC there the aren`t more debates.

MATTHEWS: By the way, Hillary Clinton may wish she had more debates.

CORN: They`re reflecting. It goes to show you anytime a political party changes the rules to get one set of -- it`s always backwards.

MATTHEWS: Is this the worst mistake since they didn`t take metro to Georgetown?


CORN: It`s up there.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

PRZYBYLA: The past couple of election cycles, Chris, the winner of social media won the collection. Barack Obama. This time, people are assuming the same thing will be true about Trump. The data is not bearing that out.

If you look at the winners by interactions on social media which we did, we did exclusively. You`ll see Ben Carson, you`ll see guys like Huckabee ahead of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

So, basically, the takeaway is that originality and being able to kind of be authentic on social is what is leading this election. But it doesn`t necessarily translate to votes.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you so much. Kasie -- I`m going to think about that because I didn`t understand it.


MATTHEWS: But thank you, David Corn. And thank you, Heidi Przybyla, by the way.

That does it for HARDBALL. I`m sure it was brilliant.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.