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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 1/25/2016

Guests: David Drucker, Marcela Garcia, John Kasich, Amanda Merkel, Ruth Marcus

Show: HARDBALL Date: January 25, 2016 Guest: David Drucker, Marcela Garcia, John Kasich, Amanda Merkel, Ruth Marcus

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Trump and Sanders -- could both win?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington beginning what could be the wildest week in modern American politics.

Could it be that voters, real people heading to a cold night in Iowa, will give victory to the twin candidates of historic change? Donald Trump, man of the right, promises to make America again. Socialist Bernie Sanders promises to head left and stay there from here to the last year of his presidency.

Could Iowa choose both? Could those two names, Trump and Sanders, loom in the headlines of the Tuesday morning newspapers? Could this be the start of something big in America, or simply (ph) the latest tectonic shift from the time of the country`s reasonably centrist politics?

Here`s where the race stands on the Republican side. According to the latest poll out of Iowa, Donald Trump leads by 11 points, 34 to 23. According to that FOX News poll, Trump is up 11 points since earlier this month, Cruz is down 4. Trump continues to lead big in New Hampshire. He`s got 31 percent there compared to Cruz`s 14 and Rubio`s 13.

One reason is this could be -- we see continued attacks on Cruz`s constitutional eligibility. Well, today, Trump tweeted, "It`s time for Ted Cruz to either settle this problem, his problem, with the fact that he was born in Canada and was a citizen of Canada, or get out of the race. " He also talked about this weekend including a crack about Cruz`s support of the Keystone pipeline.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All conservatives want the Keystone pipeline. You know who`s going to approve that fast? Ted Cruz! He`s from Canada. He`s from Canada! Oh, I never thought of that. This is a first. Ted Cruz will approve the Keystone pipeline because it benefits Canada. It`s great! He could be the only guy who`ll run for president, then he`ll run for prime minister of Canada.


MATTHEWS: Well, according to "The Wall Street Journal" today, quote, "Donald Trump made his decision to start skewering Senator Ted Cruz as his private jet was approaching New Hampshire earlier this month. Quote, `Ted is hanging around the top too long,` the Republican presidential front- runner announced on the plane, according to his campaign manager, `time to take him down.`"

Well, NBC`s Hallie Jackson in Iowa following the Cruz campaign. Perry Bacon is senior political reporter for NBC News. And David Drucker is senior correspondent for "The Washington Examiner." Thank you all.

Let`s start with Hallie. It does seem to be a paper bag you have to bang your way out of, if you`re Ted Cruz, on this constitutional eligibility issue. I`m looking at polls that show a third of Republican voters think there`s a problem there.

How does he get out of that without sounding very defensive? I`m an American, darn it! What is he supposed to say?

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: By pivoting, Chris, frankly, to more attacks on Donald Trump and highlighting what he and his campaign believe are the lack of conservative credentials that Trump has. That`s what Cruz does every time you ask him about this. He believes that this is a settled matter. He immediately turns to attacks on Donald Trump`s policy, not personality, as he will be the first to tell you.

He said today, in fact, that he likes Donald Trump. He think he`s bold. He thinks he`s brash. He thinks he`s energized the electorate. But by our count, he`s hit Trump on some 15 different policy topics just in the last couple of weeks.

MATTHEWS: Yes, and it`s funny, though, that Larry Tribe who taught Cruz his -- Ted Cruz`s constitutional law keeps racking (ph) at him. Is that just partisan? How does he deal with that?

JACKSON: Ted Cruz tries to make it partisan, Chris. Yes, he paints Tribe as a Clinton supporter, a liberal Democrat that Trump is now tying himself to, in the view of Cruz and his campaign.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s take a look at this. Cruz today called -- well, actually, Trump called Cruz a nervous wreck, and tweeted, "Cruz going down fast in recent polls, dropping like a rock. Lies never work."

Now, that is tough stuff. Let me go to Perry Bacon on that. This fight -- you know, we`re going to -- I always try to think like, you know, writing the news headline the next day. What will it say the next day if Trump wins? It will say he scored on this question of constitutional eligibility because it`s the one thing that happened in the last couple of weeks -- in the last couple of weeks, within the weeks in which Cruz has gone down a bit, but Trump gone way up.

PERRY BACON, NBC SR. POLITICAL REPORTER: Exactly. Like, two weeks from -- two weeks ago, Cruz leading most polls. Trump starts talking about, You were born in Canada, raises the debate. Cruz did -- in that debate, I thought did pretty well in pushing back, but he has -- but Trump has raised a lot of questions in voters` minds. It appears to have worked.

Also, Rubio attacked Cruz a lot in that period, too. Cruz may have got ahead of the polls a little too early in some ways. He had a month for Trump and Rubio to attack him, and they succeeded in doing so.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to David Drucker. I have no idea what you`re going to say, but what do you make of this fight, of why it has shifted so dramatically in two weeks? I can only think it`s the doubts, you know, the old power of suggestion, the power of suggestion, the voters, Maybe he isn`t an American natural-born -- I don`t know what else has happened in two weeks.

DAVID DRUCKER, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Yes, I`m not sure exactly myself. I think there are a couple things, though, to look for here.

First of all, Donald Trump has a knack for controlling the sort of narrative, right? So it`s not so much, I think, that voters writ large on the Republican side worried about Cruz`s eligibility, but it`s that he took control of the debate and what everybody was talking about. And that naturally means Cruz is on the defensive, having to explain this.

I think the other thing, though Chris -- and this is really important to understand -- is that every candidate in this race, at least the leading candidates, have been knocked around pretty good with the exception of Donald Trump. The primary super-PAC that is supporting Ted Cruz finally goes on the air after almost a month of Cruz getting battered by Trump. When do they finally go on the air? Today, with a week left to go until the caucuses. And so it`s hard to soften somebody up--

MATTHEWS: What are they saying in the ad?


DRUCKER: It`s hard to fight back if you`re not actually spending money on TV.

MATTHEWS: What`s the knock--

JACKSON: Two ads, Chris.

MATTHEWS: What`s the knock going to be on Trump? Do you know, Hallie? Let me go back to Hallie. Hallie, what are the knocks going to be?

JACKSON: Yes. Two of them, one -- the first ad that`s out from this super-PAC shows Donald Trump several years back, basically endorsing Ted Cruz, introducing him at an event, saying, Hey, I like Ted, and listing all the things he likes about him.

But the more -- what Cruz supporters see potentially is the more effective ad is the one that paints Trump as simply not conservative enough. And it reprises some of Trump`s comments made to Tim Russert on "MEET THE PRESS" back in 1999, where he talked about partial-birth abortion and he talked about his stance on some of these pro-life issues.

MATTHEWS: Did he come out for partial-birth or against it?

JACKSON: This is what he said back in 1999, that he was in support of partial-birth abortion. Trump obviously now says that he is very pro-life and has talked about this is -- this is part of what he talks about when he tweets that "Lies never work" from Ted Cruz, some of those tweets just coming in from Donald Trump tonight.

MATTHEWS: That`s stirring (ph). Anyway, in recent days -- or -- Trump has tried to distinguish himself from Cruz over the question of getting things done. Here he is.


TRUMP: One of the problems with Ted Cruz is everybody hates him. I mean, he`s such a nasty guy. Everybody hates him. He can`t talk -- think of it, not one United States senator has endorsed him. Not one!

I think I`m going to get along great with a lot of people. I got along with Democrats. I got along with -- when I was -- before I was doing this, I got along with the Democrats, with the Republicans, with the liberals, with the -- I get along with people.

Guys like Ted Cruz will never make a deal because he`s a strident guy. No, you cannot have that! And you know what? There`s a point at which -- let`s get to the little (ph) establishment. We got to get things done, folks, OK? Believe me, don`t worry, we`re going to make such great deals. But at a certain point, you can`t be so strident.

Ronald Reagan would get along with Tip O`Neill and they`d sit down and they`d make great deals for everybody. That`s what the country`s about, really.


MATTHEWS: This is so interesting. In a matter of two weeks, he`s hit three points. First (INAUDIBLE) clearly, the one that worked about the constitutionality of the guy running because he`s from Canada. We all know he`s from Canada. We all know he lived there for a couple years. But he will argue because he had an American mother, he`s constitutionally settled as a natural born. OK, that`s the -- two argument -- two to one, he`s winning the argument, but that`s not good enough if one thirds got a doubt about you.

The second one is he took all that big loan, uncollaborated (sic) loan, un -- what do you call it -- un--


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Goldman Sachs loan--


MATTHEWS: Goldman Sachs without any collateral, un-collateral loan -- collatorized loan, and that could have snuck out at the wrong time.

And now he`s saying he can`t make a deal. And I just saw a poll -- it`s not just the TIp O`Neill-Reagan thing, which I knew about, that they did disagree on everything but found a way to cut deals when they had to.

DRUCKER: You wrote about it (INAUDIBLE)--

MATTHEWS: I wrote abut. But the other thing is that I just saw a poll -- he may have seen it, too -- that said most people would like to see people who could make a deal, rather than just were resolute in their ideology, which surprised me.

BACON: Two things fascinating in that clip. First of all, Donald Trump essentially comparing himself to Ronald Reagan.


BACON: The figure that all Republicans like, and saying, I can cut deals like Ronald Reagan. I`m skeptical of that. But it`s a smart argument to make--

MATTHEWS: You`re skeptical--


BACON: That he could make deals. A lot of Democrats really do not like him. And the second point is, Donald Trump calling someone else strident. Very funny, but maybe--


BACON: -- highlight some problems with Cruz.

MATTHEWS: Anyway -- anyway, go back to -- is Cruz responding to that one, Hallie, or is he just ignoring the one that says, You`re no deal maker, nobody likes you? The fact that nobody likes you part--

JACKSON: No, he--

MATTHEWS: -- what do you say with that, People do like me? I mean, you can`t win that argument.

JACKSON: He`s turning it. What Ted Cruz is doing, Chris, is flipping this around and making this the fundamental choice that caucus goers and voters have to make. Cruz is essentially saying, Sure, the establishment doesn`t like me, and he`s wrapping himself in it and he`s running with it.

And when it comes to being unable to make deals, Ted Cruz runs on that, too. He says, Hey, look at what`s happened in Washington, with Republicans having some power and still being unable to put bills and to put things on the president`s desk for him to veto.

So Cruz is taking these attacks and turning them and running with them because I believe that the campaign thinks that`s the best strategy for them to prove to conservatives that Cruz is the one that is backing them. That`s a strategy that potentially comes with risks, obviously, in a general election and beyond, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to David on that. Is this -- who wins the argument, the deal maker, or the guy who marches to his own drummer?

DRUCKER: Well, you know, in a primary, the guy who marches to his own drummer should win the day, and Ted Cruz has built his entire political image on not cutting deals but on standing firm on principle, a la, What you, the voters, want me to do, not just to go along and get along in D.C.

So if Ted Cruz wanted a storyline in the final week against Donald Trump, this is the storyline he wants. Now let`s see if it works. It should work based on everything we know about the Republican base.


DRUCKER: But if Trump has mixed up the Republican base and turned it into something else, it may not work as well.

MATTHEWS: Well, anyway, this weekend, Donald Trump joked, you could say, his base of support was so solid, almost nothing could stop him, even if he shot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue. Here he is actually saying this. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: The people, my people are so smart. And you know what else they say about my people? The polls, they say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that, where I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn`t lose any voters, OK? It`s, like, incredible.


MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Perry with--


MATTHEWS: I mean, clearly it`s metaphorical because -- or whatever the word is. Oh, it`s -- it`s hyperbolic. I don`t know what you call it. But the fact is -- the hyperbole -- because, obviously, if he shot somebody on 5th Avenue, he`d be arrested and maybe go to prison for life. I mean--

BACON: Hopefully, he won`t test out this theory.

MATTHEWS: it`s not -- it`s not a real statement. What does it say?


BACON: -- something is right, which is Ben Carson went up and then went down. Carly went up and went down. Trump has had this 25 percent in Iowa and New Hampshire and nationally (INAUDIBLE) not went down. The sort of core of voters--


BACON: -- who are deeply concerned about immigration, Syrian refugees. He`s really done -- he`s got -- like, Marco`s went up and then went down some. And hasn`t (INAUDIBLE) go up. Trump`s got a good core. Question becomes, as the number of candidates go down in the race, does that core gets bigger or does that core stay the same? He needs the core to get bigger still to win the race, I would argue, but there`s no -- he`s going up in Iowa, so the core is getting slightly larger.

MATTHEWS: Yes. David, he seems to represent, you know, like, you might have in a big city, in an ethnic area, somebody they`re loyal to -- All right, the guy stole a few bucks, OK, the guy did this -- they`re so loyal to the person. And we`ve known them all, Irish, they`re black, they`re all different kinds of ethnic groups. Third world leaders are like this. The people are so loyal to them, no matter what infractions they commit, rhetorically or even criminally, the guy says, yes, but I`m with him. It`s almost like that with Trump`s people.

DRUCKER: It really is. And I actually don`t think Trump`s being inaccurate. I think he could go in the middle of 5th Avenue and gun down about 25 people--


DRUCKER: -- and he`s probably (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: But the police would be there. New York`s finest would be there to take care of the situation.


DRUCKER: He`s making a point that is borne out by the polls, that when he gets a supporter -- and the polling shows this -- they don`t go away. Other campaigns have noticed this.

MATTHEWS: I think so.

DRUCKER: And so all I would say is that if you`re going and try to take down Trump, you`ve got to spend money on television. Nobody`s done it. We don`t actually know how Teflon he is until they actually do it.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Hallie, last word about Cruz. Is he going to win this thing? Do you think he`s going to win? I`ll ask you the reporter`s question. Are they confident?

JACKSON: I think the campaign is feeling good about the organization and the resources on the ground. As you`ve heard Ted Cruz say repeatedly, he`s not trying to take votes for granted. This comes down to, as you know, organization. Can you get out the vote?

That`s what this is going to be about in one week from today, Chris. Can Trump bring out that big tent, all those people who haven`t previously caucused? If he can, then he`s got a real shot at winning. And if he can`t and if Cruz can bring out the people who have caucused, those hard- core supporters, then he`s looking like he could be in a strong position.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think it`s about that. It could turn out to be that third that never voted before in either party, and if they show up, it`s a good night for Trump. If they don`t, if it`s too cold, it`s a good night for Cruz.

Thank you, Hallie Jackson, as always. Thank you, Perry Bacon. Thank you, David Drucker.

Coming up -- with a week to go before Iowa, it`s a dogfight among Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. And now President Obama`s openly praising his former secretary of state. The latest on the Democratic fight straight ahead.

Plus, keep an eye on Ohio governor John Kasich. He`s on the move up in New Hampshire. He joins us from the campaign trail tonight.

And is former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg serious about running for president? And should we be serious about that?

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with two fast-moving trains about to leave the station and the difficulty of stopping either one once they do.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`ve got some new numbers on the Republican race in upcoming big states. Let`s go to the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

In Georgia, which votes super-Tuesday on March 1st, Donald Trump is on top. Trump has 39 percent, Ted Cruz 29 percent, Marco Rubio just 13.

In Texas, where voters also head to the polls on March 1st, home state senator Ted Cruz is at 45, Trump is at second with 30 percent, Rubio again in third at 8.

And to Florida voters, which votes on March 15th in Florida, Trump dominates with 41 percent. Ted Cruz comes in second with 22, Marco Rubio again in third at 18. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush doesn`t even come close. He`s at 4 percent in Florida.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Now the Democrats. In a recent podcast interview with Politico with Politico`s Glenn Thrush, President Obama basically endorsed Hillary Clinton.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The other thing that I`ll -- I`ll always remember is the sheer strength, determination, endurance, stick-to-it-ness, never-give-up attitude that Hillary had during those primaries.

I mean, we had as competitive and lengthy and expensive and tough primary fight as there`s been in modern American politics. And she had to do everything that I had to do, except, like Ginger Rogers, backwards in heels.


MATTHEWS: Well, the president went on to say that he would like to see more women in politics generally.


OBAMA: My number one priority is having a Democratic president succeed me. And I think there`s no doubt that -- that given our history, I want more women in politics generally, and I want my daughters to feel that there`s nothing they can`t do.


MATTHEWS: Well, this comes off a banner weekend, at least newspaper banner weekend, for Hillary Clinton, in which she received three major newspaper endorsements -- Iowa`s "Des Moines Register," "The Concord Monitor" up in New Hampshire, and the big one, "The Boston Globe," which covers its neighboring state of New Hampshire quite well.

Kasie Hunt is a political correspondent for MSNBC, Marcela Garcia is on the editorial board of "The Boston Globe," and Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer with "The Washington Post."

Look, I`m not sure what these all matter, but I do think they matter around people who read the paper and read editorial pages.

Let me go to Marcela.

When you sit down in the -- on the board, did you hear from all the candidates before you made the endorsement?

MARCELA GARCIA, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": Absolutely. Yes, we met with all three in the Democratic Party. And we spent a great deal of time debating how the interviews went and how they performed.

We were particularly impressed with Hillary Clinton, obviously. And so we decided to go with her.

MATTHEWS: That`s a change from eight years ago, right?

GARCIA: Yes. We -- well, the paper endorsed President Obama, now President Obama, back then.

And, you know, it was a controversial decision back then, from what I understand, from what I hear. I wasn`t here then.


GARCIA: But it was something unexpected. People in this state are very much supportive of Hillary Clinton. In fact, she went on to win the primary. The state went for her, rather than Obama, despite our endorsement and despite the support of other elected officials here in the state.

But, yes, she`s definitely a different person, obviously. She has been tested. She has eight years more experience. She was particularly impressive on her handle of foreign policy issues, which really, really made us go for her, yes.

MATTHEWS: Marcela, let me ask you a tough question. I hope you can answer this factually. How many women were on the editorial board back in 2008 and how many are on it now?

GARCIA: How many women?

MATTHEWS: Yes, women.

GARCIA: How many women? Right now, we have one, two, three, four, five, six out of about 12 people or so.

MATTHEWS: That`s a good match. That`s a good match. (CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What did have back in 2008?

GARCIA: Back then, I have no idea. I`m going to have to pass on that. I really have no idea.

I would think that it`s about -- obviously, there`s people that are currently on our editorial board that were members back then. But, again, from what I hear, she pretty much was a rock star here in the state. There`s a very -- people love her here in Massachusetts, women Democrats.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me know sometime. I`m curious about that, if you ask around.

GARCIA: I will let you know.

MATTHEWS: I just want to know whether the number of women in a room affects how the room decides things. I think there is an issue.

Let me go to Kasie Hunt.

Kasie, I thought you were great yesterday. And that`s a serious encomium from me, because there`s something you said that I think really explains for people who weren`t paying as much attention as we are to this whole campaign -- somebody was talking the usual line about, oh, these people are excellent presidential candidates. They just can`t campaign as well as the others.

And you just made the point that all these so-called better at general election candidates just haven`t come across to the voters as big as the people like Sanders and Trump. I thought that word big was pretty good.

Go ahead. Your thoughts about this race, Hillary vs. Bernie Sanders, right now?

KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I think that is what it takes, Chris.

And I do think I was talking specifically about the Republican side in that instance that you`re citing. And I think that`s a lot of these guys who tried to take on Donald Trump haven`t been able to stand up to him in that way.

I think, on the Democratic side, there`s been a certain degree of surprise that Bernie Sanders has turned out to be the kind of candidate that can potentially stand up to somebody who is as big in the imaginations and minds and history and culture of this country as Hillary Clinton, and of course her husband, Bill Clinton.

She in many ways -- she`s getting all these endorsements. She has all this institutional support, many of the labor unions. She has this locked down in a way that we haven`t seen in a while, which is why so many people discounted Bernie Sanders.

And what he`s managed to do, is by generating these crowds and really making an unexpected mark, is suddenly seem like a force that is big enough to take her on. And he`s doing it on the force of these policy ideas. And you`re starting to see the Clinton campaign respond issue by issue. Just today, there was some talk about two big companies merging in a corporate inversion to avoid paying U.S. taxes, this, of course, squarely in Bernie Sanders` wheelhouse.

But he was out in front it with a press release, Hillary Clinton following a few hours later. So, I think there are a lot of examples of that. He`s driving the debate in that way.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to the counterforce here, to use your term, to Jonathan here, the counterforce being President Obama, who Hillary has been clinging to, like guns and the Bible, the whole thing. She`s been clinging strong to the president, for a lot of good reasons, because he`s a sort of more centrist Democrat anyway.

The fact that he`s endorsed her, basically, in this Glenn Thrush interview -- and, by the way, we quoted from it. It`s pretty adulatory. It`s really amazing, what he said about her. And, by the way, it`s all true, because what he said about how gutsy she was and steadfast in the primaries after she lost to him in Iowa last time, when they fought in 2008 -- she really was an impressive, heroic figure there up in New Hampshire.

I watched it. And I was for Obama. I thought she was heroic. So, I think he`s telling the truth. But is it going to matter?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, here, Chris, let`s be clear. The president didn`t directly come right on out there and say, I endorse Hillary Clinton for president.

And, in fact, in the clip that you played about how the president wants more women in politics, it was in response to a sort of underhanded, in a good journalistic way, approach of Glenn Thrush to get him to endorse Hillary Clinton by asking him, how would it feel to you to be succeeded by the first woman president after the nation`s had the first black president? And he dodged.

But the president did everything, walking right up to the line in saying all sorts of nice things about -- as you said, adulatory things about Hillary Clinton, while also saying nice things about Bernie Sanders, because, as we all know, if Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic nominee for president, she is going to need those Bernie Sanders supporters.

And she`s going to need their enthusiasm and she`s going to need their votes in the general election. So, no one wants to tick off the Bernie Sanders voters.

MATTHEWS: I did think there was something personal, though, in what the president said in that interview. You know what he said?


MATTHEWS: He said, I want my daughters -- you know what I mean here, when you talk about your kids. And he wanted -- I have heard fathers. I have a daughter, too, who is very ambitious.

And I think -- she`s up at Harvard now. I got to tell you, I`m impressed by what women are able to do today. The doors have opened over the last 40, 50 years.

And some of the people are walking through those doors. And I think that it`s pretty impressive that the father, who`s a president and a father, is talking about his daughters` view the world if Hillary Clinton is the president. He did see that.


CAPEHART: Yes, absolutely. No, no. Yes, yes, absolutely, the president did see that.

Look, as the president said in that interview, you know, he is in a very reflective mood. He is in this space where he can take a step back and look at his presidency and look at what`s going to come after him. And if Hillary Clinton becomes the next president of the United States, I think he will be extremely happy with that result.


I want to thank Marcela.

Marcela, thank you for joining us. And I think your editorial means a lot. And I love "The Globe." Who doesn`t love "The Globe?" Thank you.

GARCIA: Thank you so much.

MATTHEWS: And, Kasie, Kasie, you`re getting smarter and smarter. I mean that. And that is some outfit you got on out there. It looks like it`s that cold that you have to wear that thing. Anyway--

HUNT: Thanks, Chris. It`s a little chilly. I don`t do well in the cold.


MATTHEWS: I would say those are earmuffs. Those are earmuffs. Anyway--


MATTHEWS: Up next: He`s got a successful record as a congressman and swing state governor, but in an anti-establishment year, is that the right resume? I want to talk in a minute now with -- for a minute -- a lot more minutes than one -- with presidential candidate John Kasich. He`s coming here.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.



GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, I think we`re doing well in the polls. We`re up in second place in most of them. And it`s better to be up than it is to be down, but what it all means, I think, come Election Day, we`re still not going to know who`s going to win.



Welcome back to HARDBALL.

There`s been talk of a Kasich surge up in New Hampshire, after five polls over the last few weeks show the Ohio governor taking second place right behind Trump in the Granite State. To do well on primary day, Kasich needs to win over a large share of the independent voters that represent a majority of New Hampshire`s electorate.

But there`s no predicting what they will decide to do by Election Day. Under New Hampshire law, by the way, independent voters can vote in either the Republican or the Democratic contest.

And as "The Boston Globe" noted this weekend, voters in the state are notoriously late-deciders. And independents can switch between the Democratic and Republican contest, voting in whichever contest they find more compelling the day of the primary. Such gyrations are injecting another element of uncertainty in what has been an utterly unpredictable season.

The WBUR poll finds that Kasich is the only Republican with a net positive favorability rating among New Hampshire`s independent voters. That means that the more independents show up for the Republican contest, the better Kasich is going to do.

I`m joined right now by the phone by Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Governor, thank you for having us.

Let`s talk, if we can, about independents. What is your appeal to the independent up there, meaning the person who won`t even register Democrat or Republican?

KASICH: Well, Chris, you know what?

Look, I have taken a can-do approach. You and I worked together for years when things got done. And what I tell people is, rather than living on the side of the street where we`re down, why don`t we live on the side of the street where the sun`s shining, and realize that we can solve the problems of the border and Social Security and getting jobs going again and getting the wages up.

I`m just telling people that I have seen it throughout my career. I even refer in the Republican town hall meetings to the efforts of Tip O`Neill and Ronald Reagan when they fixed Social Security.


KASICH: And we just can`t spend all of our time fighting. And that`s a national security issue, too, don`t you think?

When America can`t solve problems, people around the world look at us and they go, what the heck`s wrong with that country?


MATTHEWS: I have watched you, Governor. I have watched you, Governor. You once -- used to play basketball late in the afternoon, like a lot of guys did. It was called heart attack prevention, House members, Democrats and Republicans.

And I remember one time, you used to play with Ron Dellums from the people`s republic of Berkeley, and you would find a way to cut the gold plate from the defense budget, you two guys, conservative and liberal.

So, I know it can be done.

KASICH: And, Chris, what I try to tell people is, I know we have problems, but let`s just not, like, stay here and think we can`t get things done.

And what I`m tell them is, we win the White House, we`re going to call the tune. Republicans then have a right to set the schedule. But we`re going to have to have a few Democrats who are going to come on and help us to get things done. We`re not going to fix Social Security without some bipartisanship. We`re not going to be able to do a lot of things unless we bring people together.

And I tell -- and you know what? People cheer. It`s Republicans cheering, too. It`s not just the independents. And what`s been funny is, everybody`s been saying all along, how are you going to distinguish yourself? Now everybody runs around saying, he`s the only positive guy.

I think that`s pretty cool. And I`m having a great time.

MATTHEWS: I think it`s true. Well, I hope so.

Your campaign responded to attacks from Jeb Bush`s super PAC with a new ad released over the weekend. Let`s watch that.


NARRATOR: What happened to Jeb? He had the name, the money, the support, and yet a lukewarm message, weak debates and sagging polls have left Jeb attacking John Kasich in desperation.

John Kasich is a leader. He shrunk government, balanced budgets and cut taxes $5 billion. There`s a better, brighter way, John Kasich.


MATTHEWS: So, there`s a little talk floating around. "The National Review," which has been horrendously negative on Trump, is suggesting in other articles -- they have different opinions throughout the magazine, apparently -- that you and Trump would make a ticket.


MATTHEWS: Well, I`m not laughing. You are. Why are you laughing?

KASICH: Because I`m not even commenting on that.

You know what? It`s just people have a lot of time on their hands, and they have got to write a bunch of stuff, right? I mean, that`s just the way it is.

No, I`m not laughing. Look, Chris, actually, there was a -- there was some kind of a poll out of Boston, out of a radio station in Boston, that apparently did a pretty good poll, and they had me tied with Trump among independents.

Now, look, the billionaires are starting to pound on me now, because -- you have known me a long time, I`m an independent guy. I`m a Republican. I`m a conservative. But you can`t predict me.

And we just got to see, with the pounding that they`re going to give me here over the next couple weeks, can I close the deal? And if I do -- and I have been telling you this. I have been coming on your show, and you`re talking about everybody else. You put me on. And I think you were like, oh, I don`t know about Kasich.


KASICH: And now, all of a sudden, you see? You know what, Chris?

I will tell you what it is, because you know this, too. Gordon Humphrey says we have the best ground game that he has seen in New Hampshire in 40 years. We have got people coming in from all over the country. We have got great people here in New Hampshire. And I think ground games win in a crowded field, don`t they? I mean, that`s what you do. You talk to voters.

MATTHEWS: Look, I have been hearing you tell me you`re going to win since you pulled me into that side room about four or five months ago. I know you believe you`re going to win. And I root for you, because I think this campaign can hear your voice and be better for it.

Thank you, Governor John Kasich. We will be following you next week up in New Hampshire.

KASICH: All right, Chris. Always good to talk to you.

MATTHEWS: And we will be there.

KASICH: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Coming up: Donald Trump has defied all expectations in his run for president. But could it be another billionaire coming in to shake the race up again? The roundtable will mull Michael Bloomberg`s potential third-party run, for whatever it`s worth.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening.

A Houston grand jury has indicted two anti-abortion activists accused of making undercover videos at a Planned Parenthood. The video sparked calls to cut off some government funding to the organization. Planned Parenthood was cleared of any wrongdoing in this case.

A manhunt continues for three inmates who escaped from a California prison on Friday. Authorities are asking for the public`s help to locate the three, who are said to be extremely dangerous. There is a $50,000 reward for information leading to their capture.

At least 41 deaths are blamed on a massive winter storm that dumped more than two feet of snow in some areas. Some deaths were caused by traffic accidents, while others were -- resulted from shoveling snow.

And Donald Trump is speaking at a rally in Farmington, New Hampshire. The candidate has been touting his poll numbers and sharpening his attacks on rival Ted Cruz -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It`s a New York state of mind on the campaign trail now. How did 2016 turn into the year of the New Yorker?

Democrat Hillary Clinton is the two-time senator from New York. She touts her New York values on the campaign trail.

Donald Trump, he`s a Republican, of course. He`s from Queens. He`s a real estate mogul whose buildings dot the skyline of New York.

Socialist Bernie Sanders was born and raised in Brooklyn, of course. You can hear in his New York roots. Each time he rails against those billionaires.

And, wow, word is out that independent Michael Bloomberg, the Wall Street mogul, and three-time Gotham City mayor himself is really to drop $1 billion of his own money to make a run at the White House, he says if Bernie beats Hillary.

Here`s Donald Trump on a potential Bloomberg run.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Then, I`m going to have to deal against Hillary Clinton if she doesn`t go to jail, or I`m going to have to deal against Bernie. Or somebody, or Bloomberg comes in, which I would be great, I`d love to have him come in because I love the competition, frankly. I mean, it would be great if Bloomberg, I love Bloomberg to come in.


MATTHEWS: I love Bloomberg to come in. I love the way he talks.

Anyway, the HARDBALL round table to figure out this New York City subway series. "Huffington Post" senior political reporter, Amanda Terkel, "Huffington Post" global editorial director, Howard Fineman, and "Washington Post" columnist, Ruth Marcus.

I don`t have any idea. My theory about this guy, and I like Bloomberg, you know? I think three terms was one too many for New York City, but that`s OK. I don`t know what he does in the Electoral College. I suspect he doesn`t win any electoral votes.

But what he does is take away Florida from Hillary, has a shot at winning Connecticut and nowhere else have as much influence that`s good for the Democrats. He`s pro-gay rights, he`s pro-abortion rights, he`s anti-gun, he`s anti-big soda.

What does he do except take votes away from Hillary? I don`t believe he can decide when he says he`s going to decide before Hillary is out of the race, because I think Hillary will fight this out until June. I don`t think he`ll know if she`s out of the race.

RUTH MARCUS, THE WASHINGTON POST: A, that`s absolutely right.

MATTHEWS: All of it.

MARCUS: All of it. We can go home now.


MARCUS: He wants to run -- he wants to run, period.

MATTHEWS: Sure. That`s the first factor.

MARCUS: He wants to run in particular if there is Trump or Cruz on the one side, and a Bernie Sanders on the other. The problem of the logistics is this: he kind of has to make a decision whether to run, which is to say, to start to spend the money, and he`s already spent some money to get on the ballot in all 50 states. That`s a trigger that needs to be --


MARCUS: By March, by very early March.

Once he does that, he`s basically in it. By the way, the billions --


MARCUS: So he won`t know where Hillary is by that point.

MATTHEWS: Will his going in hurt Hillary? Just going in?

MARCUS: Going in, not sure. Staying in, yes, for sure. Though the Bloomberg folks argue that the polling suggests otherwise.

MATTHEWS: Give me other names. Is it Devan Fink? Is it Howard Wolfson? Who`s doing all this blabbing?

MARCUS: But Bloomberg in the race draws moderate Republicans.


MATTHEWS: -- more interested in this race than he is or he is more interested than they are?

MARCUS: He`s interested, and you know if you stood to make money on a Michael Bloomberg campaign, you might be interested.

MATTHEWS: Fair enough, Howard, you`re chuckling. You`re not chuckling. You`re warmly agreeing.

FINEMAN: Well, no, I think that this is Michael Bloomberg`s obsession, particularly. I mean, he`s a guy who`s incredibly successful. One of the most successful businessmen on the planet. Makes Donald Trump look like church change.

MATTHEWS: And he`s made money through communications.

FINEMAN: And he`s made through communications and he is a studious guy who`s always holding dinner parties which he holds forth about how dumb these other politicians are, and how he could figure out how to run things.

MATTHEWS: Apparently, Roger Altman`s house, he was at Roger Altman`s house, a big New York Democrat, and waxing on Hillary`s deficiencies last year.

FINEMAN: Right. He was a pretty good mayor, most people would think. However, this has a certain Groundhog Day feel to it. Including the fact that it happens right around February every four years.

MATTHEWS: Does he do this?

FINEMAN: He says, I`ve got to do. Now`s the time to do it.

MATTHEWS: As my dad would say, burning a hole in his pocket? Does he want to spend a billion?

FINEMAN: The money, it`s that.

MARCUS: That`s a big pocket.

FINEMAN: It`s a big pocket.

Also, he would hurt Hillary enormously.

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.

FINEMAN: Which is why Donald Trump says come on in, because then there would be a real New Yorker for Ted Cruz to run against. And make Donald Trump look conservative.

MATTHEWS: I think Hillary Clinton, in all fairness, is sort of a Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale Democrat. She`s a Democrat`s Democrat. She`s got the Democratic base, Black and white and Hispanic, that`s where they are the Democrats, most of them, at least until this year. We`ll see.

If he comes in, he goes right there.


MATTHEWS: That`s where he goes to.

AMANDA TERKEL, THE HUFFINGTON POST: This isn`t really about the other candidates. When you are that rich, I think you`re surrounded by people telling you what you want to hear, which is that you can save the country and that you should be president. So he does this every four years. He sends out these --

MATTHEWS: He`s seconding that emotion.

TERKEL: Yes, because it`s what he wants to hear and no one ever takes it seriously. The country is not clambering for Michael Bloomberg, especially not this cycle, which is why people --

MATTHEWS: OK. At these famous salons, does anybody ever stand up and say, Michael, you`re full of it?

FINEMAN: I haven`t actually heard anybody ever do that. But again, I think that this would be an enormous help to Donald Trump. What also must gall him is that Donald Trump went and did this. Donald Trump is doing what Michael Bloomberg -- these titans of New York --

MATTHEWS: We`re talking about billionaires are so jealous of each other. Who is richer?

FINEMAN: Bloomberg is so much richer.

MARCUS: Bloomberg is so much richer.

MATTHEWS: What`s, richer than $11 billion?

MARCUS: Yes, like $41 billion.

MATTHEWS: What do you do with $30 billion you can`t do at $11 billion?


FINEMAN: I would like to figure that out.

MARCUS: I asked somebody the other day, so a billion? That`s like the limit? Because that`s not that much for a presidential campaign. But that`s table stakes, just to get in the game.


MATTHEWS: These plutocrats are saying that he has --

MARCUS: $30 million on the mayor`s race, ended up spending multiples of that.

MATTHEWS: Bernie would be in heaven against these two guys. Although, I don`t know. I don`t like -- I`m a prejudice guy on some issues. I didn`t like the Iraq war. I don`t like voter suppression.

And thirdly, I hate third-party candidates. I think person in the voting should pick the person they want to be president., who they think if they vote for has a chance to be president. Otherwise stop crapping around. This country can`t afford another Ralph Nader number, like we had with W. winning over Al Gore, with Al Gore`s sometimes weirdness. It would have been better.

Anyway, the round table sticking with us.

And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Tina Fey made a triumphant return to "Saturday Night Live" this weekend, reprising her role as Sarah Palin. Just days after the former Alaska governor herself endorsed Donald Trump.


TINA FEY: Trump and his Trumpeters are right-winging, beer-clinging, proud clingers of our guns, but he can kick ISIS` ass, because he commands fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope nobody`s allergic to nuts, because we`ve got a big one here. She`s two Corinthians short of a bible.


MATTHEWS: Well, the best part is, much of what Tina Fey used in that monologue wasn`t written by the "SNL`s" writers, but taken from Palin`s speech itself.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back now with a HARDBALL round table.

Amanda Terkel, tell me something I don`t know.

TERKEL: So, Bernie Sanders picked up an important endorsement today from a state lawmaker in South Carolina. He helped -- he`s African-American. He helped to lead the fight to get the confederate flag taken down. He`s the lawyer for Walter Scott, the black man who was unarmed and shot by police officers. He switched from Hillary to Bernie.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s good help.

FINEMAN: Here`s everything you need to know about how Ted Cruz approaches politics. He and his campaign decided that they should send water, bottles of clean water to people in Flint, Michigan. But they only sent them to people who were anti-abortion activists in Flint, only those people. You got to protect the unborn. We`ll worry about the rest of the people of Flint --

MATTHEWS: Did they have to mark the front of their houses?

FINEMAN: You have to worry about the rest of the people from Flint, somewhere else.

MATTHEWS: This is Old Testament, definitely, yes.

MARCUS: I`m not going Old Testament. But for some reason women voters, the Hillary Clinton campaign has learned, respond better to male validaters. Instead of younger women, or women out on the hustings introducing Clinton or stumping for here, you`re going to see more guys.

MATTHEWS: With deep voices.

MARCUS: More guys with deep voices.


FINEMAN: You know who Bill Clinton is, he`s the big validater.

MARCUS: Even in addition to him.

MATTHEWS: That is so weird. What great reporting. Who knows what to make of that?

Anyway, thank you. Thanks for our roundtable, Amanda Terkel, Howard Fineman, and Ruth Marcus with the stunner of the night.

When we return, let me finish with my two fast moving trains about to leave the station and the difficulty of stopping either one once they d leave. We`re talking politics. You`re watching the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish with this -- it`s a week to the Iowa caucus, a huge night for both parties. For the Democrats, we get to know whether Bernie Sanders has the big mo to beat Secretary Clinton, in the first big test of this presidential fight.

If he does, this could be a long battle indeed. It could out last the one eight years ago between President Obama and Clinton.

For the Republican, it`s a question of who gets in the first punch. If it`s Donald Trump, if he`s able to beat Ted Cruz in Cruz land, in evangelical Iowa, it`s hard to say where he can. If he knocks him down there, he will more than likely to do it in New Hampshire, where polls have him way ahead already.

If he can`t, if Cruz holds on Iowa, this battle like the Democratic fight, if Sanders wins next Monday could go on and on. So, the most influential result next Monday night will be wins for both Sanders and Trump. That would put the mark and prove hard to take off. It will say to the voters to the country and to the world that this country is in a winter of discontent that could very well become a spring of discontent, a summer of discontent, and then next November, an autumn of discontent.

And those who don`t believe these are, I guess, among those who believe within an even stronger certitude that last spring`s discontent would not lead to this summers` -- past summer`s discontent or to the last fall`s discontent. If you want to have an influence on all of this, you better get out there and vote. Once the train starts rolling, it will whistle through the country. I`ve noticed that over the years, there`s a thrill to fast moving train.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.