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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 1/29/2016

Guests: Paul Singer, Dave Catanese, Jeremy Peters, John Feehery, Jon Ralston, Michelle Bernard, Jonathan Allen, Mollie Hemingway, Carol Pogash

Show: HARDBALL Date: January 29, 2016 Guest: Paul Singer, Dave Catanese, Jeremy Peters, John Feehery, Jon Ralston, Michelle Bernard, Jonathan Allen, Mollie Hemingway, Carol Pogash

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Like it or Trump it!

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews, in Washington on the way to Des Moines.

Well, did he it, didn`t he. Donald Trump didn`t show up for the big performance Thursday night, but there was no understudy there to replace him, no Judy Garland character to step into the spotlight, no political ingenue to take advantage of the diva not making it.

Yes, the whole affair, from his event to the Fox debate, went just as Donald Trump planned it. He got all the attention, and the other candidates squabbled like supporting players over the little bit of story Trump didn`t grab for himself.

And just a reminder. It didn`t used to be like this.

I`m joined right now by NBC`s Katy Tur, as well as David Catanese, senior political writer with "U.S. News & World Report" and Paul Singer, Washington correspondent for "USA Today."

Katy, you are a Trump expert. If you don`t write a book about this, I`ll be amazed because you have so much story to tell.

Last night, I looked at all the -- just the old newspapers today (ph). I know it`s the old way of doing things. All over the front pages, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump. And I`m looking at all the wire stuff, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, all the little news item stories we all lose in the morning -- use in the morning to find out what`s going.

He dominated. And the most important think, I think, from his point of view, nobody stepped in, except Cruz stepped in to be beat up.


MATTHEWS: It was, like, his night to get beat up, not to take the place of Trump but to be beaten up. Your thoughts, or your observations in reporting, please.

TUR: I think that the one thing we`ve seen in the past seven months is that Donald Trump been, to use a cliche, really able to suck all of the oxygen out of the room whenever he needs to in order to get all of the headlines on himself.

He has dominated almost every single news cycle in this campaign season thus far, and he`s heading into Iowa on Monday with all of that momentum, especially after that fund-raiser where he was able to say, I`m the strong man, I am the leader, I`m -- I have action. Where these guys are all on stage just talk (ph), I was able to raise $6 million for veterans, for you guys in that crowd, when those other politicians were doing what other politicians do. They were standing on a stage and they were arguing at each other and they were not getting anything done.

That`s what his supporters want to see him do. They want to see him go into Washington and get things done, make it work again, get compromises on the table, get legislation passed, fight for them, not the special interests, not their donors.

The big thing that resonates with him is that they -- is him funding his own campaign. They think that he`s not beholden to other billionaires...


TUR: ... even though he is a billionaire himself. The question is, though, after Iowa, if he`s able to take Iowa and then potentially New Hampshire, if he gets this nomination, he`s going to have to tack at some point towards the center, go a little bit more moderate and reconcile those extreme views that he`s won over a certain portion of the Republican electorate with and then woo over some of those soft Democrats or those independents in order to win the general election.

You cannot win a general election by talking about a Muslim ban, by talking about a lot of the other extreme views that he has had that has appealed to the Republican base. He`s going to have to find a way to reconcile that and woo others who want to see a more moderate version of Donald Trump or a more moderate version of their president, of their candidate.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, that`s the way it`s always been. I don`t know if anything`s ever the way it`s always been, Katy, but I do think you`re right, that`s the way it has always been. You move to the center.

But in his case, he`s got to keep that core nationalistic thing he has, whatever you want to call it, that core appeal he`s got, and not let that crack. How does he do that? How does he stay true to being Donald Trump and also become more acceptable to the people that don`t trust him now?

TUR: I think the thing that Donald Trump has in his arsenal is that he is very good at reading a room, he`s very good at wooing people, getting them on his side. He has a charm of him.

Will that work with everybody? I don`t think so. He has angered a lot of minority groups. He`s angered a lot of women`s groups. There are a lot of people out there who don`t trust him, who don`t like anything he says.

But there are those who don`t necessarily like his positions, but like his personality. And what he`s going to need to do going forward is try and find a way to win them over with his personality to make it seem like he wasn`t so extreme, like he`s going to go in there and he doesn`t necessarily care about some of the more extreme social issues necessarily, but that they need to vote for him because he`s going to be able to get the economy working again...


TUR: ... get Washington working again, make deals when this Congress, the past few Congresses, frankly, have not been able to do anything. They`ve been at a standstill.

So that`s what his positives can be. The question is, is he going to be able to convince those who have been so offended by him in this election cycle?


TUR: I know we`ve talked so much about him and we`re talking to his supporters, mind you. But when you go outside of that Donald Trump bubble, there is a lot of dislike for him. There are a lot of people who think that he`s full of lot of hot air, a lot of people who think that he is just talking a lot of nonsense, it`s all about him and it`s just a big ego for him, it`s a big game, that he doesn`t really want to run the country, he just likes the idea of wining the presidency.

MATTHEWS: Well, I will say one thing from my observations back here and around the country is that the people who are against Trump speak so loudly. They love to let you know very quickly they don`t like him. They don`t -- they think he`s offensive, or whatever, and for all the reasons you mentioned, the ethnic stuff especially.

But the people who are for him are not always out loud about it. They`re quiet about it. I think there`s a lot of secret support for Trump, right, left, right, center. That`s what I`m coming across. They quietly for him because like something about his attitude.

I`m not sure we`re going to figure out whether (INAUDIBLE) can be distilled away from the bad stuff because that`s going to be his challenge. As you point out, he`s got to take away the bad, somehow reemphasize or emphasize the part that people find attractive about him because he does look like the clear front-runner going into the caucuses Monday night.

TUR: Let me just...


TUR: Quick -- let me make a quick point. I`ve been speaking to voters here quite a bit, and I found one gentleman the other day who said that he was still deciding between Jeb Bush and Donald Trump.


TUR: And I found that to be a pretty surprising decision he was going to make. Then I talked to another woman at this veterans` fund-raiser, this veterans` event, and she said at the moment, she is an independent voter and she is still deciding between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.


TUR: And I said, How do you reconcile those two views? And she says she likes Hillary Clinton. She likes her strength. She likes that she has experience. She says there`s nobody out there that`s more qualified for this job. But there is also something about Donald Trump that she cannot take her eyes off of. She likes that he is bucking tradition, he`s bucking the establishment. And she says it`s going it to be down to the wire. She`s going to walk into her local caucus station, she`s going to decide just then and just there who she`s going to vote for, whether it`s Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, which is such a surprising thing. And I think that that is...

MATTHEWS: I think that`s great reporting.

TUR: ... something we`re seeing...

MATTHEWS: I think that`s...

TUR: ... all over the country.

MATTHEWS: Katy, you are great. I really mean this because that`s the kind of thing I think is going on. And it`s -- I was thinking as you were talking, when they couldn`t decide between Jeb Bush and Donald Trump -- it`s like I`m going to the pet store, I don`t know whether to get a dog or a cat. I mean, it (INAUDIBLE) it`s so wild across the board, or a zebra! I mean, it`s like, What are we getting here? It`s like this crazy decision-making!

Thank you so much, Katy Tur out in Iowa.

Anyway, Thursday night was proof, many believe, that Donald Trump doesn`t even need debates. The name Trump shared the front pages today in the side by side with his Republican rivals in "The New York Times," in "The Wall Street Journal." He was in "The Washington Post. " The headline on NBC`s "First Read" this morning was, "Why Donald Trump won the debate without showing up."

ABC`s political director wrote, "Debate without Donald Trump favors Donald Trump." Among conservative media, the headline on The Drudge Report read "The seven dwarfed by Donald Trump." Pretty good headline here.

On social media, Trump gained the most followers on Twitter and was the most mentioned candidate of the night. He was the most searched candidate on Google, as well. So everywhere we look, the -- the -- what do you call it -- the metrics favor him.

So let me go to our guests. They`re here. Katy had to go and do something else, but let me go to David Catanese in a minute, but first with Paul Singer.

This night -- it could have gone either way. Roger Ailes apparently, his people were calling him up right to the end, Come on over...


MATTHEWS: Fox still got a good number, but he had a lot of interest. We covered him for a half hour, you know?

SINGER: And in some ways, he`s playing the classic front-runner card, right? Front-runners don`t like debates and they don`t like the debates for the reason that Ted Cruz saw.


MATTHEWS: He doesn`t want one next week, either.

SINGER: Right. When you`re the front-runner, you get bloodied by everybody else on the stage. So you know, Donald Trump had no real reason to want to do this debate in the first place. He was already ahead, or he saw himself ahead. He was gaining traction on Cruz...


SINGER: ... over the past few weeks. And he had a perfectly good excuse. He could say, Well, Fox isn`t treating me fairly, so you know...

MATTHEWS: Well, they did put out the wiseguy PR thing.

SINGER: They put out a wiseguy PR thing. That gave him the moment he needed. And now he can walk away not looking like he is, you know, rejecting the process, but saying, just like a front-runner says, you know...

MATTHEWS: Do you think he -- let me go to David Catanese...


SINGER: ... let someone else talk.

MATTHEWS: David, was anybody smart enough to figure out the -- well, I thought it might happen. I thought there`d be a fight between Rubio, and of course, Cruz, which there was because they`re two and three in this race. But a lot of the negative stuff did not work for Cruz, like Chris Wallace was very strong last night. I mean, it was a tough night for Cruz. He did -- he looks better attacking Trump than playing defense, I thought. Your thoughts.

DAVID CATANESE, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Absolutely. I think he had a rough night because all the arrows were fired at him, first of all. But also, you know, he made that joke in the beginning about -- about Trump, calling him a maniac, and that sort of -- you know, the audience thought that was funny, but it`s harder to hit Trump and land a punch when he`s not on the stage-


CATANESE: ... and he`s split-screened at another event. And Trump did this from a position of strength. But remember, when he announced doing it, a lot of the political class said, This is risky. How can you do this? How can you thumb your nose in Iowans` face? But Trump did this from a position of strength in that he knew -- he knew he could drive coverage by himself, and that is unique to him. None of those other candidates could do that.

But it was also personal for Trump. He thought Fox News went too far with that statement, and he was going to punish them. And I was at his rally, and he said -- he sort of made the parallel to dealing with Iran, which, you know, you could roll your eyes at, but he said, Look, you can`t let people treat you badly. You`ve got to punish them. You`ve got to be tough. And that reinforces his brand.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, it`s like haggling in business. If you go to the Middle East and you go into a souk, it`s just the way things are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to walk away.

MATTHEWS: You have to be willing to walk away. And at that point, the guy says, Come on back, we can do something here. You have to go to that point.

Anyway, taking a victory lap, Trump appeared to revel in Cruz`s rough night. Here`s what he said at a rally in New Hampshire today.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He got really pummeled last night. Actually, I`m glad I wasn`t there because I guess all of that -- he got pummeled.


TRUMP: Wow. And you know, they didn`t even mention that he was born in Canada, right? You know, it`s -- when you`re born in Canada, you`re not supposed to be running for president of the United States. Prime minister of Canada, no problem. No, no. He can run for Canada.

Ted Cruz may not be a U.S. citizen, right? But he`s an anchor baby. No, he`s an anchor baby. Ted Cruz is an anchor baby in Canada.

It is a problem for him, by the way. I think that`s one of the reasons he`s crashing. I think that`s one of the reasons he`s a nervous wreck, too. He`s figured, What the hell happened?

He`s a citizen of Canada and he was a senator from Texas and he`s a senator of Canada, joint with the U.S. How the hell does that work?


MATTHEWS: David Catanese and Paul, you guys all watched "Goodfellas," the Scorsese movie, and it`s a guy -- one of the mob guys is Joey Two Times -- I got to go out and get the paper, get the paper. He says everything twice.

Cruz (sic) says everything three or four, five times. And David, why does it work? Why doesn`t it sound redundant and stupid? It works for him. (INAUDIBLE) in Canada. (INAUDIBLE) up there. He says it over and over, and people seem to laugh every time he says it! What`s happening?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he`s just talking. He`s talking. He`s just talking, like a conversation. He doesn`t go up there with a teleprompter or a script. Rarely does he use notes. And he`s good at it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s got at it because he`s a performer. But look, I think also what happened is that those lines that you just played there, in not going to the debate, Trump deprived Cruz of being able to come back with a witty response, right? He could go at -- he can go at Cruz at these rallies by himself that he knows he`s going to get coverage. But Cruz is a smart guy. He would have had a line for Trump, responding to him in it, like the did the prior debate...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... saying, Hey, your mom was born overseas, you might be ineligible, too. So...

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s absurd, by the way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... Trump knows Cruz is smart...

MATTHEWS: That`s an absurd...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... deprive him of the opportunity.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, I thought Chris Wallace was very good last night. I loved it hen he said it is a debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, and Wallace was able to -- and -- check the issue here. You know, Wallace was able to sit there and take Cruz on and argue with him...

MATTHEWS: Mano a mano, as they like to say, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Chris Wallace is not being beaten up by the press this week...

MATTHEWS: No, he did very well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the way that Megyn Kelly...

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... had been last time she tried (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: I thought she -- I thought they evened out the use of the anchors the other night. All three of them -- nobody -- nobody tried to star. But I thought Chris was very strong.

Anyway, and David Catanese, thank you, David Catanese. Thank you, Paul Singer.

Our coverage of the Iowa caucuses continues this weekend, of course. Join me at 5:00 PM Eastern on Sunday night -- Sunday night for a special edition for HARDBALL, Sunday night (INAUDIBLE) two times, Following that, a two- hour primetime show. I`ll be with Brian Williams and Rachel -- Rachel Maddow for complete coverage on the eve of the Iowa caucuses. That`s from 8:00 to 10:00. Coming up -- also, it`s 5:00 o`clock Sunday, to be Joey Two Times, and 8:00 to 10:00 Sunday night.

Coming up, back in the headlines, Hillary Clinton`s e-mails in the news again, not good for her. The State Department says 22 of her e-mails from her server are considered top secret. The Clinton campaign is pushing back. They`re saying of course they were declared top secret after she sent them. We`ll get the latest.

Plus, the biggest lose -- no doubt, Donald Trump stole the show Thursday night, and Ted Cruz had a target on his back. "The Des Moines Register" put it bluntly -- "Rough night for Cruz." The Texas senator hopes to leave Iowa a winner, but can he find victory after a bruising from his fellow Republicans?

Also, weekend with Bernie. In the Democratic side of the race, polls are close, too close for comfort for Hillary Clinton, of course. And as the clock ticks down, she and Sanders are going at it. Could Bernie pull off a one-two punch, wins in Iowa and then in New Hampshire?

Then closing arguments. The countdown is on, so just what are the final sales pitches from these candidates, Democratic and Republican? And what could bring this fight down to the wire Monday night? Well, the last- minute advertising, of course, on television.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: With just a short time until the Iowa caucuses now, this is not the kind of story Hillary Clinton was hoping to see. The State Department said 22 e-mails from Clinton`s private server have been marked top secret and will not be released to the public. It`s the first time entire e-mails from Clinton`s server were deemed too sensitive to share with the public. Clinton`s spokesperson called the move overclassification run amok.

NBC`s Kristen Welker joins us now from Des Moines with the latest. How do we put this in perspective, these things? Do we know whether they were marked top secret before or after they were sent? Do we even know that?

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, the State Department is saying they believe at this point that these e-mails were marked classified after the fact, top secret after the fact.

I think you`re asking the right question, though, Chris. How do we put this into a broader perspective? Let`s take a step back. The State Department has released several batches of Secretary Clinton`s e-mails. In each case, we have seen parts of several e-mails deemed classified or top secret, and the State Department decides to redact or withhold parts of those e-mails.

In this case, as you rightfully point out, they`ve decided that 22 e-mails are top secret in their entirety, and so they are withholding those e-mails completely, the Clinton campaign pushing back and saying, Look, these e- mails were classified after the fact, that Secretary Clinton never sent or received any information that was classified or top secret.

I`ll read you part of a statement released by Brian Fallon. He says, quote, "We firmly oppose the complete blocking of the release of these e- mails. This appears to be overclassification run amok. We will pursue all appropriate avenues to see that her e-mails are released in a manner consistent with her call last year."

As you`ll remember, Chris, she did call for all of her e-mails to be released. She wants this, essentially, to be off of the table as a political issue. But now, of course, this information coming just days before the all-important Iowa caucuses, and the race here could not be tighter.

We`ve looked at the past five polls. Secretary Clinton leads in three of those polls, Bernie Sanders leads in two of those polls. So this is really a jump ball.

And of course, the last thing Clinton campaign wants right now is any type of negative headline that could influence caucus goers. And that`s the big question. How will they respond to this? That`s the great unknown at this point, Chris.

I`ve been talking to voters throughout the day. Of course, young voters are the key to this. A quick anecdote. I interviewed two college students. Both of them are leaning toward Bernie Sanders. I asked them if they were going to caucus on Monday. One said, I don`t think so because I have classes. The other one said to me, I think so. I`m going to try to get there.

So that`s how volatile this is. But of course, any headline, any change in the headlines could influence voters.

MATTHEWS: Because it gets to the whole question of electability, of something that goes down -- you know, the shoe drops in one of these -- or this case two months from now, you could argue it`s a big problem for Hillary Clinton.

Anyway, thank you, Kristen Welker.

WELKER: Indeed.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, HARDBALL`s back after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, the front page of "The Des Moines Register" punched him pretty hard, "Tough Night for Cruz." With Donald Trump boycotting the debate, Senator Ted Cruz came under fire from multiple fronts last night. And with just such a short time until the caucuses, Trump`s number one competition in Iowa seemed to be hobbled.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The only budget that Ted has ever voted for is a budget that Rand Paul sponsored that brags about cutting defense spending.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What is particularly insulting, though, is that he is the king of saying, oh, you`re for amnesty. Everybody`s for amnesty except for Ted Cruz.

But it`s a falseness, and that`s an authenticity problem -- that everybody he knows is not as perfect as him because we`re all for amnesty.

RUBIO: This is the lie that Ted`s campaign is built on, and Rand touched upon it -- that he`s the most conservative guy, and everyone else is a -- you know, everyone else is a RINO.

The truth is, Ted, throughout this campaign, you`ve been willing to say or do anything in order to get votes.

You helped design George W. Bush`s immigration policy.

Now you want to trump Trump on immigration. But you can`t -- we`re not going to beat Hillary Clinton with someone who`s willing to say or do anything to win an election.


MATTHEWS: God, they`re putting the knife in.

NBC`s Hallie Jackson is in Iowa Covering the Trump campaign. John Feehery is a Republican strategist, and Jeremy Peters writes for "The New York Times."

Hallie, give me a sense. Did the Cruz people expect this assault from every direction?

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they weren`t surprised by it. Senator Cruz had been preparing for that once it was clear that Trump would probably be -- not be on that debate stage.

It became clear that the person who then took center stage, Ted Cruz, then the front-runner, was going to be facing that incoming fire. The headline, I asked him about that, "The Des Moines Register" headline saying he had a rough night, and Cruz did what he often does, which is pivot to hitting the media, saying he`s not surprised that the mainstream media wouldn`t have liked his performance. What matters to him, he said, was getting out here, turning out the vote, making sure those that caucus-goers show up on Monday.

We spent a little time with our crews down at his campaign headquarters here in Iowa. They talk all the time about their nearly 12,000 volunteers, more than 10,000 volunteers getting out there and making phone calls and really working it on the ground. And the Cruz campaign will need that to actually happen in order to pull out a strong showing here Monday.

MATTHEWS: What about his attacks? I wouldn`t call them attacks, but questioning of the monitors last night -- moderators last night, going after Chris Wallace?

JACKSON: Well, yes.

MATTHEWS: He really did complain about that -- he said they were ganging up, they were setting up the questions so somebody would fire against him, and then, you know, and that didn`t quite work. Here it is. He repeatedly challenged moderator Chris Wallace over the rules.

Let`s watch that.


CRUZ: Chris, I was mentioned in that question.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, you weren`t. Your name wasn`t mentioned, Ted.

CRUZ: Actually, I was...

BUSH: Chris, keep it coming.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: I don`t think that your name was mentioned...

CRUZ: Chris, your questions that you...


WALLACE: Sir, I think -- I think the question was...

CRUZ: What was your question...

WALLACE: It`s not my question that you get a chance to respond to. It`s his answer.


WALLACE: You don`t get 30 seconds to respond to me.

CRUZ: I would note that the last four questions have been, "Rand, please attack Ted. Marco, please attack Ted. Chris, please attack Ted. Jeb, please attack Ted."

CRUZ: Let me just say this...

WALLACE: It is a debate, sir.


MATTHEWS: You know, I think he thought it would have the same impact it did the last time debate. Remember, last time, he just cobbled all the questions by the moderators and showed how -- CNBC moderators -- and made into the fact they were just trying to cause cage fights, as he put it.

And this time, he did the same exact thing and the crowd didn`t go with him. And then he had to tell that little joke about I will have to leave now, like he`s Trump.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He came off as a whiner, a real big problem for Ted Cruz.

The fact that Donald Trump was not on stage really gave everyone a chance to focus completely on Ted Cruz. And everybody dislikes Ted Cruz much more than they dislike Donald Trump. And I think that came off with the moderators and with all the opponents on stage. It was actually a good opportunity for everybody to pile on Ted.

MATTHEWS: Jeremy, does your reporting go into that level of detail about who likes and dislikes? Because I think do it`s interesting that they didn`t seem to have any problem facing him. I noticed that Marco Rubio is a very strong debater too, and he faced him. He looked at him. And then they looked back at each other. And it is mano a mano.

Your thoughts?

JEREMY PETERS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": The amount of debate prep that Marco Rubio has been doing over this week has been incredible. I mean, it`s been intensive. It`s been almost every single day. He takes time on the campaign bus as he is crisscrossing Iowa to do it. He was ready for this.

Was there anybody on that stage who liked Ted Cruz? It certainly wasn`t apparent to me that they were. And judging by their reactions today, a lot of them, Trump, Rubio, Huckabee, Rand Paul, they almost relished attacking him and piling on, and bringing up just how poorly he fared in the debate.


JACKSON: And you know what, Chris?

MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Hallie.

JACKSON: I was just going to jump in on this likability issue, because it`s something that the campaign is aware is a vulnerability for Cruz.

And here is what interesting. Heidi Cruz, his wife, was on the campaign trail today and spoke very forcefully to the crowd about likability, hitting it really hard. She said he is likable. He`s likable to voters. He`s not likable to people who are betraying you in Washington, she said. She told stories about him bringing her flowers.

It seemed to be a charm offensive by Heidi Cruz to try and turn some of that narrative around.

MATTHEWS: That`s smart.

Any way, Jeremy, you report today in "The New York Times" that the Rubio camp -- that`s Marco Rubio -- hopes a Trump victory on Monday will bolster Rubio`s standing as the only acceptable alternative for Republican votes. I thought it was very smart.

Here`s your piece: "The Florida senator and his advisers have concluded that a head-to-head battle with Mr. Trump over the next several weeks would be much more advantageous than one with Senator Cruz of Texas, whose success would greatly complicate Mr. Rubio`s hopes of consolidating his support inside the Republican Party. A victory by Mr. Trump would send panicked Republicans toward Mr. Rubio and his campaign."

I think that`s very insightful. And I get the sense that Rubio, who is Mr. Preparation, as Hallie pointed out, everything is about preparation, in fact, to the point that everything seems like a recitation even the way he talks -- that he`s planning to be the last saloon for the establishment.

Here`s the Last Chance Saloon. If you don`t like Trump, you have got to go with this guy you may have problems with, he may be too young, too perky or whatever, but he`s the guy.

What do you think? Tell us more about what you were thinking in putting that piece together today.

PETERS: It`s not only hard for Marco Rubio to get the nomination with John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie in the way, but it`s hard for him to do it with Ted Cruz in the way, because actually you wouldn`t think this, but Cruz and Rubio have a lot of overlap in terms of the voters that are attracted to both of them.

So if Cruz is there, Rubio can`t appeal to those voters. More importantly, the donors that Rubio really needs to fight this long slog that he envisions for the rest of the campaign, he needs money to do that. And those people that would fund his campaign are right now with either Jeb Bush or other candidates, and he sees a Trump victory as a way of helping him consolidate the support of those donors who would be panicked by Trump winning.

MATTHEWS: Well said.

Thank you so much, Hallie Jackson, tonight. Thank you, John Feehery and Jeremy Peters.

Coming up, weekend with Bernie. The polls are neck and neck obviously out there in Iowa on the Democratic side. Can Bernie Sanders pull off an Iowa upset?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.



SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have never run a negative ad in my life. I have been in many campaigns. And you ask the people of Vermont, they will tell you Bernie Sanders has never run a negative ad. I hate and detest these 30-second ugly negative ads. I don`t like negative campaigns. I have never run a negative ad in my life.

KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Are you going to run a negative ad against Hillary Clinton?


HUNT: What`s the difference between a negative and a contrast ad?

SANDERS: Well, it depends, number one, whether you`re telling the truth or not.


MATTHEWS: I like the way he looked over his glasses there at Kasie. "It depends whether you`re telling the truth or not."

Anyway, Bernie Sanders has repeatedly spoken out about negative ads, but his campaign on Thursday released a new TV spot that nails Hillary Clinton at least by inference for the speaking fees she has received from Goldman Sachs. Here it is.


NARRATOR: Goldman Sachs just settled with authorities for their part in the crisis that put seven million out of work and millions out of their homes. How does Wall Street get away with it? Millions in campaign contributions and speaking fees.

As long as Washington is bought and paid for, we can`t build an economy that works for people.

SANDERS: I`m Bernie Sanders and I approve this message.


MATTHEWS: Well, Senator Sanders has maintained that the ad was not negative, but here is what he told -- actually, here is what he told NBC`s Andrea Mitchell.



SANDERS: Does it mention Hillary Clinton?


SANDERS: Does it have any image of Hillary Clinton?


Aren`t you suggesting she`s bought by Wall Street?

SANDERS: No, I`m not suggesting anything at all.


MATTHEWS: Well, he`s not suggesting anything at all, he said.

This comes as Nevada journalist Jon Ralston reports that Sanders campaign volunteers have been posing as culinary union members to approach and try to influence the vote ahead of the Nevada caucuses.

"Culinary officials have been made aware of the faux union workers at four hotels. The Sanders campaigners are wearing the distinctive yellow Local 226 pins, implying they are union members, to gain access to employee dining rooms. Beyond the obvious deception, union officials surely also are concerned about the implication that the organization has endorsed Sanders, despite its recent pledge to remain neutral until after the caucus."

I`m joined by the man who broke that story, Kasie Hunt, of course, as well as Jon Ralston, host of "The Ralston Report," "Ralston Live."

Let me go to Jon on this. Just explain this. Why would volunteers or operatives for Bernie Sanders sneak into a lunchroom where workers, culinary workers at the hotels out there have lunch? What are they up to?

JON RALSTON, "RALSTON REPORTS": Well, Chris, there are thousands of workers, as you know, on the Las Vegas Strip and they`re going to be at least I think half-a-dozen caucus sites on February 20 on the Strip.

And so these workers are going to be on their breaks, able to go and vote in the caucus. This a target-rich environment. But this was incredibly sneaky of the Sanders people, and these casinos, as you may remember from 2008, were war zones back then too when the culinary union did what it is not doing this year and they endorsed Barack Obama very early.

Bill and Hillary Clinton went crazy. Bill Clinton called the chairman of one of the most prominent casinos, Kirk Kerkorian, and said that they`re up to no good in the casinos, it`s not fair. And so now the Sanders people are doing this, the Clinton campaign knows about it. The culinary union now says it`s been resolved, Chris.

But they did something that I have never heard of being done during one of these elections.

MATTHEWS: God, it reminds me of the 1940s, when you had real labor wars. This is pretty aggressive stuff.

Let me go over to Kasie on the other news story. And that`s the ad being put out this weekend by Senator Sanders. Clearly, there is a reference, I`m just watching this, being Hillary Clinton taking that $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs, which Bernie Sanders talks about all the time, and an ad that talks about speaking fees from Goldman Sachs.

I mean, how do you not say that`s about Hillary?

HUNT: I think it`s definitely a stretch. And Bernie Sanders has used this attack on Hillary Clinton over the course of the campaign, talking about these speaking fees.

So the stretch is not very difficult. And the Sanders campaign did wrestle with this question. And you can see Sanders himself in some ways wrestling with how negative he wants to go. The idea that he doesn`t run negative ads is very important to the political brand that he has, to what he is selling to people.

And so if he goes too negative, too aggressively, there is some risk there for him. But there is also some risk in not doing it. If you look at how Secretary Clinton could potentially be attacked, this idea of, first of all, on the speaking fees, and, second of all, on political calculation and whether or not she`s being honest, it`s that honesty and trustworthiness number.

And that`s the attack you`re hearing from Sanders on the campaign trail. At rallies this week, he has talked about how she switched her position over the years on DOMA, for example, or on trade. He basically is insinuating that she`s just doing it because it`s politically convenient.

And that`s something that we see in the polling resonates with these voters. The question is, how far is he willing to go at this point to try to lock up these Iowa caucuses?

MATTHEWS: Well, staying with you for a second, Kasie, is he going for a knockout? I mean, it looks like he`s moving ahead of her in Iowa right now from back here in Washington.

And if he`s moving ahead, why he is taking the risk of looking like the kind of politician he doesn`t want to be seen as, a negative politician? And why would he take a risk, unless he wants to make sure he wins out in Iowa and then he makes sure he wins in places like Nevada, very early on, because he wants to knock her out in the first two or three races, so he doesn`t have to go the long haul with it? That what he seems to making the risk toward. Your thinking?

HUNT: Well, the other thing that has been going on too is he is sending mailers to people in Iowa that have logos for the AARP and the League of Conservation Voters displayed on the mailers.

It doesn`t necessarily say that he has gotten endorsements from these groups. And in fact the League of Conservation Voters has endorsed Hillary Clinton and explicitly asked the Sanders campaign to please take this logo off of its mailers. So, I mean, clearly, there is more to the story and there`s more going on at this point.

But I do think that the question for him is if he wants to take this all the way home, does he want to look back and say he didn`t do everything possible? Now, I would say dirty campaigning is in one category. Attacking your rival is in another category. That is obviously that happens all the time in political campaigns. I don`t think anyone is necessarily making a moral judgment about that one way or the other.

But, you know, I think that he just has to decide, OK, am I going to put it all in? And I will say ,while he has been on the rise over the course of the month, month-and-a-half, the sense on the ground right now from both sides is that Hillary seems to have the slight edge going into the last final weekend of campaigning.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I should not have said dirty. I should say negative, because -- but, from his point, the way he talks to you in that interview a few minutes ago he showed, he seems to talk as if that`s really dirty, that`s the kind of thing he wouldn`t do.

Jon -- let me go to Jon.

What do you see as the Nevada outlook right now for the caucuses? Who do you see winning there? Can you see a trajectory coming out of Iowa? Suppose it`s very tight in Iowa, and Bernie wins in New Hampshire. what happens in Nevada?

RALSTON: That`s a very interesting question, right, Chris.

I mean, Hillary Clinton`s campaign has been here much longer than Bernie Sanders. She has hired a lot of the people from both her own campaign in `08 and Obama`s successful campaign in `08. They know Nevada. They have been here for about a year now. Bernie Sanders came in late. His people don`t know as much about the state.

But it`s going to depend, as you and Kasie were talking about, what happens if he does go all out and ends up eking out a victory in Iowa? He is going to probably win New Hampshire. He has got all that momentum. Don`t forget in the caucus here on the Democratic side, they`re going all out to get huge attendance.

There`s same-day registration. I think there`s a fear in the Clinton campaign here that a lot of those new registrants might be young people who might be Bernie votes. So, I think she has the advantage, but I don`t think it`s a lock by any means.

MATTHEWS: She won it eight years ago. I`m sure she wants to win it again this time. Thank you, Kasie Hunt, and thank you, Jon Ralston.

Coming up, closing arguments, the final candidate sales pitches, if you will, as the clock winds down to the Iowa caucuses on Monday.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.




HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don`t need another gridlock political debate that divides us if we are specific and focused and passionate about what we can get done. And that`s exactly what I`m offering you and asking you to support on Monday when you go to caucus.



It`s go time, of course. That was Hillary Clinton making her closing argument and final push in Iowa ahead of Monday`s caucuses. Well, the crucial first test in the fight for the Democratic nomination. It`s also one that Hillary lost eight years ago. Her challenge from the upstart campaign of Bernie Sanders is putting Clinton on the ropes.

And Sanders in the weaning hours is taking it to the Democratic front- runner.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is great to be against the war after you vote for the war. It is great to be for gay rights after you insult the entire gay community by supporting DOMA. It is great to finally kicking and screaming, come out against the TPP, but where were you on all of the other trade agreements.


MATTHEWS: Well, it`s go time for both parties, with candidates hoping their final pitches deliver a win.

Well, joining me right now is the HARDBALL roundtable tonight: Michelle Bernard is president of Bernard Center, Jonathan Allen is author of "HRC", that`s about Hillary, and Mollie Hemingway is the senior editor of "The Federalist".

Let me start with you Jon. I had the sense that it`s like a NASCAR race and Bernie just passing Hillary in Iowa right there. But he`s somebody told me needs a little bit of extra juice, so he`s doing the negative ad. I mean, it`s not going to make him look good. Negative ads don`t make you look good. But they do sometimes get you the last thing you need that last weekend.

JONATHAN ALLEN, AUTHOR, "HRC": I think two things that work here. Number one, I think he knows that he needs to make a contrast and say, "I`m different enough from Hillary Clinton that you should care about the differences between us." Number two, he is signal to Democrats he can take on Republicans in a general election. He`s not just stick a daisy in the barrel of their gun.

MATTHEWS: Whoa, a `60s phrase, an image in fact.

ALLEN: It`s retro Friday.

MATTHEWS: I remember that, going to San Francisco, wear a flower in your hair.

ALLEN: Yes, well, Bernie wants to show he`s got some muscle.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, the fact that a particular thing, why do you risk a negative ad when you have all the perfect people around think you`re Mr. Perfect. Why do you go -- why do you jam it and say, I`m going to stick it to this opponent right now?

MICHELLE BERNARD, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN: Well, first of all, I got to tell you -- I don`t see that as a negative ad.

MATTHEWS: What? The way they avoided prosecution, the fat guys in New York got away with it, because they paid off people speaking fees, i.e., Hillary Clinton?

BERNARD: But what --

MATTHEWS: With the 600k they gave her?

BERNARD: But the way he says it for example does not come off as other ads we have seen as most definitely negative ads.

MATTHEWS: Who else could he be talking about?

BERNARD: Well, he is talking about Hillary Clinton, but it doesn`t -- I`m telling you, when it comes from Bernie Sanders, I don`t think that most voters see it as a negative ad. I think it is a brilliant strategy and when Bernie Sanders, who has defended Hillary Clinton in debates.


BERNARD: -- you know, leave her alone, stop talking about the e-mails, nobody wants to hear about it. When he makes a comment like he did or insinuation about Hillary Clinton, people also remember that this is a man who was chivalrous and stood up for her.

MATTHEWS: Many a night, I`ve gotten here and reported and shown tape of Bernie Sanders going after her, three speaking fees she got from Goldman Sachs. Now he closes with the argument, that`s how they evaded prosecution, giving speaking fee money. It`s not a question whether you should be taking money from Wall Street. He`s saying that`s why they weren`t prosecuted, because Hillary Clinton took the 600,000 bucks. I think it was a negative ad.

Your thoughts?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: First of all, going negative is one of the few tried and true methods to actually gain ground when you`re in a tight race. Some polls have him ahead. Some polls have him slightly behind. It`s actually might be a gamble that pays off.

But I actually agree, it was not a terribly negative ad. This is a guy who has treated Hillary Clinton with kid gloves. He`s merely pointing that the excitement that is around his campaign is about rejection of crony capitalism. You`re seeing this on both sides of the aisle. People are sick and tired of the way big business works with government.



ALLEN: What I was laughing at before is what constitutes a negative ad in the Democratic primary, right? So if you`re Barack Obama, you say change, you can believe in. You can believe in me. Not she is a liar, but it`s basically the same message. It`s just Democratic don`t want to hear that in their primaries for whatever reason.

MATTHEWS: The roundtable is staying with us. And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. Be right back.



MATTHEWS: Come join us out in Iowa as HARDBALL covers the caucuses live from Des Moines. Our coverage begins Sunday night at 5:00 p.m. Eastern with a special edition of HARDBALL live from Java Joe`s.

And then join us at 8:00 p.m. when I`ll join Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow for complete MSNBC coverage previewing Monday`s main event.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Ms. Hemingway, tell me something I don`t know.

HEMINGWAY: So, everyone thinks that Donald Trump didn`t take part in FOX News debate because he was slightly insulted by their PR department. But I heard that he got wind of those brutal video montages that he had put together for the top tier candidates, showing where they flip-flop on different positions and didn`t want to face the criticism. If you think about how brutal they were for Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who have fairly minor flip-flops, imagine what they would have had --

MATTHEWS: And the only problem is that Roger and his people made the mistake giving him what he needed, an overt reason to show how they made fun of him.

HEMINGWAY: Yes, they should actually have shown the videotape in any case.

MATTHEWS: I thought they were going to do that. I thought they were going to ask those questions out loud that they had prepared, in fact, Megyn was going to have her questions prepared and just throw them out to the general direction of Donald Trump.


ALLEN: I was out in Des Moines last week and the best swag on the campaign trail is definitely Ted Cruz`s. His super PACs are inundating people with all kind of things, particularly these t-shirts with Ted Cruz face on them that say "choose Cruz". A lot of campaigns want people to buy things for them, bumper stickers and lawn signs. Ted Cruz, his super PAC, giving them away.


BERNARD: Maybe because nobody wants them. That might be a reason.

MATTHEWS: Tell me something I don`t know.

BERNARD: I`m going to be talking about Flint, because you know how upset I am about it. On January 2nd, Flint, Michigan officials that are poisoning people, I want to quote them real quickly, sent out a memo that said, although the water in Flint failed to meet treatment requirements, there, I quote now, "there is nothing you need to do unless you have severely compromised immune system, have an infant or are elderly."

However, recent reports have shown that Flint, Michigan`s administration, the governor`s administration felt differently about state employees and long before they admitted there was a problem with the water in Flint, they were providing state employees with bottled water. There`s a problem.

MATTHEWS: That is a kind of stuff that happens in bad countries.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you so much. Our roundtable, Michelle Bernard, Jonathan Allen, and Mollie Hemingway.

Coming up, some dessert on this Friday night. Donald Trump`s all time greatest quotations. We`ll end with that tonight.

HARDBALL back after this.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

And from his days honchoing the reality TV boardroom to the presidential campaign trail itself, Donald Trump has enmeshed himself and his brand in our collective psyche. He`s huge.

Well, journalist Carol Pogash has condensed some of Trump`s most memorial lines into a new book titled, "Quotations from Chairman Trump" and she joins us now.

Anyway, Trump has surprised us all throughout his campaign with statements like that of any candidate and unlike those of any candidate before him.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Apologizing is great thing, but you have to be wrong. I will absolutely apologize some time in the hopefully distant future if I`m ever wrong.


TRUMP: It`s not been easy for me. It`s not been easy for me. I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars.

How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?

Rand Paul shouldn`t be on this stage. He`s number 11. He`s got 1 percent in the polls and how he got up here, there`s far too many people, any way.


MATTHEWS: Well, Carol, thank you for joining us. You`re the first one -- it`s a very good looking little book. Even us journalist who carried around to see how bad he gets, how did -- did you study the quotations of Chairman Mao because it does look like the little red book right here?

CAROL POGASH, AUTHOR, "QUOTATIONS FROM CHAIRMAN TRUMP": I didn`t really study it. You talk about the similarity. Here are both of them. Yes, they`re very similar.

MATTHEWS: How about the thinking of the two men, the ego of the two men? Would you compare the two?

POGASH: Well, somewhat yes. I mean, that`s what made me think about because Trump has the sense this grandiosity about him. They both have Trump also had authoritarian streak. So, you know, I was so astonished by the things that Trump was saying. It just came to me that it`s so similar to the quotes of Chairman Mao.

MATTHEWS: So, let me ask you about, has he gotten a hold of this book yet? He`d probably would love this on this airplane with him. It`s like having the Gideon Bible aboard the plane.

POGASH: Well, one of the illustrations I have is of Trump holding the book up and reading it, because I think he`s only consulting with himself. I don`t think he`s seen it yet because I was only published, the hard bound copy only came out this week. I`ll be interested in his response. He`ll probably tweet an attack on me.

MATTHEWS: Thank so much for coming on and giving us the first good shot at this. The book is called "Quotations from Chairman Trump". Everybody is gong to buy this thing.

That`s HARDBALL for now and thanks for being with us.

And don`t forget to tune in for our special Sunday night edition of HARDBALL at 5:00 p.m. Eastern live from Java Joe`s. It`s a great restaurant in Des Moines.

Plus, at 8:00 p.m., I`ll be joined and joining Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow for the primetime coverage ahead of Monday`s caucuses.

Have a great weekend. It`s going to be a short weekend. We`re getting into politics fast on Sunday.