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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 1/31/2016

Guests: Donald Trump, Robby Mook, Tom Vilsack, Andy McGuire, Jeff Kaufmann, Jennifer Jacobs, Ann Selzer

Show: HARDBALL Date: January 31, 2016 Guest: Donald Trump, Robby Mook, Tom Vilsack, Andy McGuire, Jeff Kaufmann, Jennifer Jacobs, Ann Selzer

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: A long time coming. Now it`s here. Let`s 



MATTHEWS: Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews out in Des Moines, Iowa, 24 hours to go until caucus night here in Iowa.

It`s the state that launched Illinois Senator Barack Obama on his path to the White House in 2008. This year, two insurgent candidates are trying to upend their political establishments -- Bernie Sanders on the left, Donald Trump on the right. Polls suggest anything could happen.

We`ve got Donald Trump coming up on the phone here and Hillary Clinton`s campaign manager coming up here on set. We`ve got one hell of a show for you tonight.

Anyway, the cover of today`s "Des Moines Register" says it all. Those two candidates, Trump and Clinton, are the front-runners in Iowa. Both locked in very close races.

Let`s get right to it. Donald Trump will be here soon. He`s rising in "The Des Moines Register" poll of likely Republican caucus-goers. It`s the last poll before the caucus. And he leads Ted Cruz by five points. Trump has gained six points since January 10th. Cruz has lost two.

Robert Costa is with me now. He`s with "The Washington Post."

I don`t know what that sound is we`re hearing anyway.

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST: Maybe it`s Trump calling in.

MATTHEWS: Well, we`ll get -- we`ve got Trump on the line.

Donald Trump, Mr. Trump, thank you for joining us. We`ve got a good number for you in the poll. Your numbers look good in the poll, but they`re about five points ahead now. Are you going to win? DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): Well, I hope I`m going to win. You know, it`s an election, who knows. But I tell you we have a tremendous amount of relationship with the people of Iowa. We have -- I have been all over the state, I`ve been here numerous times, many times, and we`ve had tremendous rallies. I just got back from two very big rallies. We had an endorsement, as you know, from Jerry Falwell, Jr., who was amazing today. And the endorsement was incredible, from Liberty University. And he has seen every candidate, he knows every candidate. And he endorsed Donald Trump.

And we have so many other endorsements: Sarah Palin, even Sheriff Joe. I don`t know if you`ll like that one, but I like it --


MATTHEWS: I know who he is.

TRUMP: We`re very firm on illegal immigration. But we`ve had tremendous endorsements, Chris, and, you know, the relationship with the people of Iowa has been fantastic.

MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s morally wrong, morally wrong for someone to be elected president who comes from some other country?

TRUMP: Well, what are you getting at?

MATTHEWS: I`m talking about --

TRUMP: Are you talking about Ted Cruz? MATTHEWS: Yes. TRUMP: Are you talking about Ted Cruz? MATTHEWS: Yes. TRUMP: Because he was born in Canada? Well, he was born in Canada.

No, I just think that if you look at your constitutional scholars, Chris, numerous of them have now come out and said he`s not allowed to be president. I guess he can run, but he can`t be president. And it`s a real question mark. It`s a real problem that he`s got. I mean, he`s got a lot of problems. He didn`t file a financial disclosure on Goldman Sachs and Citibank loans, which is a pretty big problem for him. But then, you know, you have the problem where he was born in Canada. He was a Canadian citizen until 15 months ago jointly with the United States, I guess. But he was a Canadian citizen.

Here is a guy, a United States senator and he`s a Canadian citizen, and he only disputed that 15 months ago and terminated it. And he said amazingly, Chris, to me he said he didn`t know he was a Canadian citizen.

The fact is he was born in Canada. He lived there for an extended period of time, and now he`s running. And according to constitutional scholars and great constitutional lawyers, he`s not allowed to serve as president. MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s a moral issue, that Americans should be born here if they`re going to be president of the United States or is it just --

TRUMP: No, I think it`s a constitutional issue. I think it`s pretty clear the way it reads to me. I mean, I would say it`s a constitutional issue. But it`s not even me.

And, you know, Chris, it`s not even a question of is it absolute? The Democrats will bring a lawsuit. If he were the nominee -- they have already said it -- they`ll bring a lawsuit, and it`s going to take two years or three years or five years -- you know more about lawsuits than anybody. It`s going to take many years to determine whether or not he, in fact, is able and allowed to serve under the Constitution as president.

And how do you run for office and how do people elect a person that they don`t even know if he`s going to be able to serve?

Now, Laurence Tribe, as you know, came up with a very strong feeling that it`s not settled law. This is not settled. But you have other people now coming out with much stronger opinions saying that not only is it not settled, but he`s not allowed to serve as president.

He lived in Canada for years, and he was born on Canadian soil. They say you have to be born on United States soil.

Now, different for John McCain, because his parents were both citizens and he was born on a military base. I would rate that totally different. That would be unfair.


TRUMP: But in this case, he was born in Canada. I think it`s a big problem.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about a very immediate problem here, and that`s the last-minute mailer by the Cruz campaign out here in Iowa to scare voters into showing up. It`s made to look like an official government document declaring a voting violation for not caucusing in prior elections. Iowa`s secretary of state has slammed the mailer, saying -- accusing citizens of Iowa of voting violation based on Iowa caucus participation or lack thereof is false representation of an official act. To repeat --


TRUMP: I think it was incredible. I have never heard of it before. I guess it`s something that has been done. It`s not allowed to be done. A couple of people that are serious professionals like I`m sure yourself, you may have seen that. I think -- Chris, I think you have seen it all. If you haven`t -- have you ever seen anything like this? I thought it was disgraceful.

MATTHEWS: No, I have never heard of this baby. I have heard of some of this stuff on Social Security organizations that say official document, but I have never heard this particular thing. Let me ask you about --


TRUMP: I think it`s one of the most disgraceful things I have seen in politics. When you say (PHONE GAP) violation, and then they`re giving you F`s for your voting records and they`re saying immediately come and vote. I think it`s one of the most horrible things that I have seen in politics, and I have seen pretty bad stuff just like you have.

And this just came and now, as you know, he`s under investigation by the attorney general or whomever in Iowa. I think what he did, to do that and he knew about it.

You know, it`s interesting. In Canada, he said he didn`t know he was a Canadian citizen. Then he said he didn`t know they didn`t file his loan from, you know, that -- Goldman Sachs and Citibank weren`t mentioned because he wants to be Robin Hood.

This guy is a lying guy. He`s hated by everybody. Here is a guy that can`t even get the endorsement of a very, very good governor of Texas, as you know. If you can`t get the endorsement from your governor of Texas, your sitting governor of Texas.

Can`t get the endorsement from one of his colleagues in the Senate. Not one senator is endorsing him, and he works with them on a daily basis when he shows up to work. I mean, this Ted Cruz is terrible.

And then he says things about me in ads that are so untrue, it`s unbelievable. It`s unbelievable. He takes an ad and says things that are absolutely, unbelievably untrue.

And other than I have a little bit of a megaphone more so than other people, they wouldn`t know what the truth is. But when he did this violation called voting violation, I guess that`s what you`re talking about, I don`t think I have ever seen anything like that in politics so bad. MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about a high level here, about you being president of the United States. The leader of our country -- and take the seat that Lincoln held and others have held. When you think about Mount Rushmore -- and I`m dead serious about this -- I have been there, I have been overwhelmed by the place. I sat there for two hours one time just staring at these four presidents. TRUMP: I agree. MATTHEWS: When you look at those four presidents, when you sit -- tell me what they say to you. What do they say to you about the inspiring notion of the presidency of the United States?

Let`s start with Washington. What does he say to you?


TRUMP: Yes. It`s greatness. I mean, if you think about it, it`s really about greatness and it`s about, you know, these were outstanding people.

By the way, it`s also an outstanding, you know, piece of art. It`s an incredible thing that was done.

But it`s about greatness for our country. Our country is going to be great again.

We have a lot of problems, Chris. And I know -- you know, look. I know, in a certain way, you have a certain respect for me. And I do watch your show, by the way.

But this is about making America truly great again. We have $19 trillion in debt. We`re going up to $21 trillion. The new budget is a disaster, by the way.


TRUMP: I mean, they never cut. There`s so much fraud, waste, and abuse, Chris, which you would be all in favor of. You don`t want to see fraud, waste, and abuse. I know that, I know you.

And frankly there`s so much fraud, waste, abuse when you look at what`s going on.

Our military is not what it should be. Our military -- in fact, it was on your show, I believe, General Odierno made the statement that we are least prepared -- in terms of preparedness, one of the worst periods ever in the history of our country.

We have a lot of problems with our country right now, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about Hillary Clinton and this latest development with regard to her e-mails. You know, there was a Petraeus problem. He got in big trouble for it. He had to plea that issue. Of course, I respected the guy otherwise.

But Hillary Clinton using her personal e-mail and sending top secret stuff. Now, her defense is it has been consistent that they were not marked top secret when she was either receiving or sending them. And now they may have been declared that subsequent to that.

How can you find criminality in that? Is there criminality in something that`s changed its status after she`s finished with it?

TRUMP: Well, according to the lawyers, the answer is yes. Now, I`m not a lawyer, so I really don`t know.

I do say this, I do say this. Why would she do it? I mean, what is she doing?

You know, the judgment was so bad, Chris. You wouldn`t have done it. You would have said let me use the government server, and let`s assume that Trump is listening on the line, OK? Big deal. Why the hell did she do it, whether it`s Whitewater or whether it`s this?

You know, most people said she should have been indicted for Whitewater, but it`s always something. I mean --

MATTHEWS: What did she do wrong with Whitewater? I don`t remember --

TRUMP: Chris, one thing you will say, too, most of the lawyers --

MATTHEWS: But what did she do wrong in Whitewater? I thought they got cleared on that. I thought they were cleared in Whitewater. I thought they were cleared in Whitewater. TRUMP: No, a friend of mine who was very much involved in that thing said that she escaped by the thinnest of margins. I mean, it was something that she had a real problem with, and a lot of people felt she should have been indicted for Whitewater.

Now, the e-mails I think are very, very serious, and you mentioned General Petraeus. I mean, they destroyed his life over it. I was very happy to hear they`re not going to take away his rank and everything. In fact, in my speeches over the last three or four weeks, I said leave him alone, he`s suffered enough.


TRUMP: But with Hillary, they say actually that you don`t have to have that on it. It`s automatic that you don`t have to have that.

But the real question I ask in terms of judgment, why would she have done this? Put the server in a basement or in a closet? I mean, why does she do these things? It`s so ridiculous.

I mean, even if you assume people are listening or whatever or you want privacy from the government or whatever her reason, it`s such bad judgment. You know, whether it`s criminal or not --

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s --

TRUMP: -- the lawyers do say it`s criminal though, Chris. I will say that. MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about "The New York Times" judgment today. They have endorsed Hillary Clinton. They`ve obviously passed over the e-mail issue. They have endorsed one of your rivals, John Kasich.

Did that surprise you?

TRUMP: No, not really. Look, you know, "The New York Times" is "The New York Times," and it really doesn`t -- I don`t think it will have any impact at all on the race. When "The New York Times" endorses a Republican, I don`t think it`s going to have any impact whatsoever on the race.

He`s not doing very well. He`s at -- a guy I`ve actually gotten to like him, but his numbers are certainly bad.

I just looked at the new poll that just came out, as you know in Iowa, the whole thing just came out. I guess I read it on Bloomberg or some place where I`m leading. "The Des Moines Register" and Bloomberg poll. And it seems to be a very respected poll, but I`m leading by five or six points in that one, and doing very well with evangelicals, doing very well with Tea Party, you know, doing very well in the poll.

Now, let`s see what happens because as you know, Chris, the only poll that matters is the one tomorrow.

But -- so I don`t even talk about it. But the poll did just come out, and I know Kasich is not at the top of that poll, and he`s very close to the bottom of the poll.

MATTHEWS: Well, I want to ask you a big question about --

TRUMP: Go ahead.

MATTHEWS: -- you said earlier today, I think it was George Stephanopoulos, you were surprised how far you`ve come since June, and a lot of people are surprised. I`m not entirely surprised.

But I think there`s something going on in the Republican Party. I think the establishment of the Republican Party has really been blown away. The fact that Bush is getting 2 percent out here in the poll, the fact that his father won out here in 1980, that his brother won out here in 2000. The Bush establishment, if you will, is just blown away.

What is it that changed in the cosmos of the Republican Party to brush away, sweep away the people, the Bob Doles, the people that been elected -- although Dole likes you --

TRUMP: He does.

MATTHEWS: -- the people that have been electing for years out here. What happened? What did they do wrong? TRUMP: Number one, I`m very proud of the fact that Bob Dole respects me and likes me, and I thought that was -- and he totally dislikes Cruz, and so do a lot of other people, so does the governor of Iowa dislike Cruz. Everybody -- who doesn`t dislike him? But you know, it`s interesting. I think it`s an amazing question, and it`s going to be studied for a long time.

Number one, I think I have actually been a very good candidate. I mean, get tremendous response in my speeches. I have by far the biggest audiences -- by the way, bigger than Bernie. Bernie is second, and he is bigger than - in terms of the audience size -- bigger than any of the other Republicans.

But I had 35,000 in Mobile, Alabama. We have 21,000 in Dallas, and -- I mean, we have massive audiences all over. I mean, everywhere. I just left another one. I`m in Iowa now. I just left another one.

I do think I have been a very good candidate. I think that`s why you`re not that surprised, because you and I have known each other a long time from the University of Pennsylvania where we did it on the stage of the church. It was beautiful. And, you know, I don`t think you`re that surprised. And I don`t think people that know me are that surprised. But people that don`t know me are surprised because I`m not a politician. I haven`t done this before. I have never done it before.

But, you know, my life has been about winning, and it has been about closing the deal, closing it, getting it done. And, you know, I do think there is an anger in the Republican Party (PHONE GAP), and that anger is also in the Democrat Party. There`s an anger in both parties. There`s an anger in the country about the incompetence.

I mean, whether it`s giving the Iranians $150 billion and the deal that was made, whether it`s Sergeant Bergdahl. We get Bergdahl, who is a traitor, and we hand over five guys they have been after, Chris, for a period of many, many years. I mean, they have wanted him for nine years. We`ve given them five guys. They`re back on the battlefield, or they will be very soon, trying to kill everybody including us.

You know, we just don`t do deals. Look at the trade deals that we have with China, where we have a trade deficit with China of $500 billion a year.

And I think there`s a great anger in the country. They`re not angry people, but they`re angry at what`s happening to our country, Chris. And a lot of people have said -- I think you`re one of them, I know you`re one of them, but a lot of people have said I tapped into that.

I haven`t tapped into it as a politician tapping into something. But I am angry about how incompetently we`re run and some of the things that we do as a country. I mean, we just have to stop.

MATTHEWS: Yes, one last question, and this is about you.

TRUMP: Go ahead.

MATTHEWS: I say to people, be careful about how you judge Trump. Don`t judge him by how glib he is or good he is on the stump. Think about the buildings he put up, and think about what he`s had to deal with in places like New York and Jersey.

You`ve got to deal with labor unions. You got to deal with local pols with their hands out.

TRUMP: Right.

MATTHEWS: You may have to deal with some tough guys. And every one of those times, you have dealt with those elements.

Is this a guide to what kind of president you would be, a guy who would be tough with those elements -- and not always clean elements you have to deal with? Your thoughts?

TRUMP: Well, we`re dealing with world elements --

MATTHEWS: You got a building put up.

TRUMP: Yes, I appreciate the question, Chris, and I have heard you say it. And actually, because of you, I sort of in the process of making an ad where it`s just like a second piece for different jobs I have done over the country and actually even over the world because I built a great company.

And I have tremendous success and tremendous numbers of successful jobs. I`m going to probably try to make an ad. If we can make it exciting enough, we`re going to make an ad on it. But I will say this, Chris -- I have dealt with some very tough customers in terms of politicians. You know politics in New York is as tough as it gets, pretty much as tough as it gets.

And when you can get zoning for almost 6,000 units on the Hudson River along the west side of Manhattan --


TRUMP: -- where you have many, many community board members and every politician in the city is totally against it and they have marches and rallies and everything else. And I got it approved and I got it built, and it`s now a thriving city within the city. And so many other jobs, Trump Towers, they said the most you will ever be able to go is 20 stories and I built a 68-story building. And then that`s what I do.

I have dealt with politicians, Chris, all my life. You understand that. A lot of people don`t. I`ve dealt with them, including in other countries because I have things going in many, many other countries, very big successes.

And I deal with people and I deal with politicians and I deal with leaders of countries. And having that -- I believe I have more experience than anybody else to be president, and I think we`ll do a great job. And I think you will be very happy with the job I do.

And believe it or not, Chris, I have a very big heart because we have to take care of our people, too. We have to take care -- it`s not just about being a tough guy. We have to take care of our people from the standpoint of medical care and everything else, and I will do that. And I`ll do a good job. MATTHEWS: OK. Donald Trump, thanks for joining us tonight, the night before the caucuses. Good luck tomorrow.

I`m joined here in Iowa by "Washington Post" national political --

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

Political reporter Robert Costa.

You covered this guy, Robert. Give me a sense of that. I was going to ask him did he ever have to pay one of these politicians, but why get into that now?

But I`d say this -- I think he`s a mixed bag. He said a lot of things I don`t like at all. In fact, I really don`t like, but I think there`s something that`s grabbed people about that guy. I think it`s building. I think it`s "Make America Great Again" is maybe the best motto I have heard from a politician in years.

COSTA: I mean, listening to Trump there, this is a deal, and he`s trying to close the deal and so much of a deal is timing. We had Cruz on the bug bus tour in early January. It seemed like Cruz was taking Iowa away but then Canada came up as an issue. Cruz stumbled in the polls.

Trump now, a day before the caucus caucuses, he`s closing the deal. The biggest thing I`m watching in Iowa on the trail, new voters. People who have been disengaged from politics. They`re going to Trump on the Republican side.

MATTHEWS: What about the evangelicals out here, the people that are really basing their politics on their religious beliefs? How does he get them?

COSTA: It`s always been Trump`s big weakness. He`s bringing in Sarah Palin. She`s going to come in again on Monday, to campaign for Trump. He`s been campaigning with Jerry Falwell. Big megachurch guy from Dallas, Robert Jeffress have been introducing Trump on the trail.

He`s been going to church. Went to church on Sunday.

MATTHEWS: Is this his first time? I think he`s going to church before.

COSTA: I was with Trump at church.


COSTA: But, you know, the funny thing about Trump, watching Trump in church, he`s there, he`s following the hymns along, even took a few selfies in the aisle, but he`s there. He`s trying to say, religious voters, I may not know every line in the Bible, but I can connect with you.

MATTHEWS: Well, politicians are nimble. Anyway, thank you, Robert Costa.

Tune in tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern when we`re going to have -- I will be joining Rachel Maddow and Brian Williams for primetime coverage on the eve of the Iowa caucuses. Big night for MSNBC tonight.

Coming up, a look at the Democratic front-runner in this race, Hillary Clinton. Her campaign manager is coming to sit next to me, along with someone who knows a lot about this state, former two-term Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack.

You`re watching a special edition of HARDBALL, live from Des Moines, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Java Joe`s in Des Moines, Iowa.

The Iowa caucuses less than 24 hours away right now, and Hillary Clinton`s leading her closest rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders by just three points, according to the latest "Des Moines Register" poll.

Joining me right is Hillary Clinton`s campaign manager, Robby Mook, and Iowa`s former two-term Democratic governor, Tom Vilsack, a long time Hillary Clinton supporter. So, we have that straight here.

Look, you just heard Trump. Let`s just not talk about -- let`s talk about the Democrats. A couple things jumped at me in going over the numbers: 42 percent of Iowa caucus-goers in 2008, the one Obama won, were single. This is an amazingly single state. I mean, people out here are pretty married I think, but single.

Why is that -- how is that the case? Are they 17-year-olds because you can vote at 17? Are they -- what`s going on? That`s a lot of single. Usually good for Democrats.

ROBBY MOOK, CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, Secretary Vilsack knows the state much better than me but we`re expecting a big turnout tomorrow, and - -

MATTHEWS: Will single people be voting Democrat?

MOOK: I think they will -- you know, single women are really important target for our campaign and for Democrats generally, and so, we expect them to be coming out in big numbers and supporting Hillary. But we expect a general high turnout across the board.

If you look back, the historic precedent for the Iowa caucuses is most relevant this time is 2000. You had a two-term Democratic president. You would basically a two-candidate race here. That was about 60,000 people. We think turnout is going to be significantly higher than that. It was 120,000 --

MATTHEWS: Do you think that`s good for you guys for Secretary Clinton?

MOOK: I do.

MATTHEWS: Bigger turnout?

MOOK: I do. And Secretary Vilsack can speak to this, I sense a lot of enthusiasm out there.

MATTHEWS: But the new -- the first time, would you say the first time caucus attenders would be pro-Hillary or pro-Sanders?

TOM VILSACK (D), FORMER IOWA GOVERNOR: You know, it`s interesting, Chris. I think the people that are absolutely committed to going to the caucus are more pro-Hillary than pro-Sanders.

MATTHEWS: That`s true, I believe that.

VILSACK: They`re also more passionate, believe it or not. They`re more --

MATTHEWS: What about the newbies that you`re talking -- Robby is talking about?

VILSACK: I think they`re split. I think, obviously, Senator Sanders has got a lot of young people who are passionate, but so is Hillary. I mean, when you talk to moms, single moms, you talk to grand moms, they haven`t caucused before, but they`re very interested because they have been passionately persevering in terms of their passion. They`re not openly passionate. They`re inwardly passionate.

MATTHEWS: They don`t go to rallies and yell.

VILSACK: But they show up. They are absolutely committed to this woman because they know she has been fighting their fight for decades.

MATTHEWS: You know, I`m amazed by Senator Sanders` success. I mean, to me, he`s -- I like him, he`s a flashback to 1968. You know what I`m talking about.

He could be an assistant professor at Berkeley or Madison or Ann Arbor or out here at Iowa State, and he`s just a guy with a bull horn yelling out at the administration building. He`s not a revolutionary. He says that word. But are you surprised at his appeal to young voters?

MOOK: Well, I think what voters are looking for more than anything in their selection is someone who can go to Washington and really get something done, and I think Senator Sanders is talking about a lot of the same issues Hillary is. Getting everybody covered with health care, making sure people can afford college but the really important difference in this race is that Hillary has proposals that can really get done --

MATTHEWS: He said he`s going to give us, which sounds great if you`re 20 years old, free tuition at state universities, free, free. A lot bigger Social Security benefits checks when you retire, lots bigger. And what`s the other -- health care is a right from birth. That`s a pretty good offer.

MOOK: Look, it sounds really good on paper, but the question is and "The New York Times" has talked about this, "The Concord Monitor", "The Des Moines Register", these are ideas that sound good on paper but they can`t get done in Washington. And what people are looking for in a candidate is someone who can break through the gridlock and really deliver results and people know Hillary can do that.

MATTHEWS: Did you know 43 percent of your Democratic caucus attenders out here are socialists? I mean --

VILSACK: Look --

MATTHEWS: They accept the word. There`s no reason to be hesitant about it or squeamish about it. They fully accept the word socialist. Does that surprise you?

VILSACK: What they are interested in is a fair and equitable --

MATTHEWS: But why do they accept the word socialist when ten years ago they wouldn`t have?

VILSACK: Well, because it`s a progress -- we`re moving progressively towards a better understanding of what`s happening in this country and the need for us to sort of focus on the middle class. Focus on income inequality which is what Hillary has been talking about.

And to Robby`s point, look, this is about getting things done. At the end of the day, this is about getting things done.

MATTHEWS: Are you a socialist?


MATTHEWS: No, I`m asking.

VILSACK: I`m a Democrat.

MATTHEWS: Are you a socialist?

VILSACK: I am a Democrat.

MATTHEWS: Hillary says she`s not a socialist. Are you a socialist?

MOOK: I`m a Democrat, and a proud one.

MATTHEWS: OK, what`s the difference between a Democrat and a socialist?

MOOK: I think, again --

MATTHEWS: No, what`s the difference between a Democrat and a socialist. Help our viewers.

MOOK: I will let Bernie Sanders describe --

MATTHEWS: Why are you guys so squeamish about this?

VILSACK: I`ll tell you a difference. I think the difference for me is getting things done. There`s one thing about --

MATTHEWS: You`d like an effective socialist.

VILSACK: I would like to have a Democrat who says free tuition for those who absolutely need it, but not for Donald Trump`s kids. I get that. That makes sense because we want to bring the cost of college down.

I get the fact that we want to expand access to health care. We need to do it in --

MATTHEWS: I`m not leading the band on this.

Claire McCaskill who is a moderate Democrat from Missouri, a senator, said if you run as socialist for president, the Republicans will have a hammer and sickle in their ads. Is that true? Is that a good prediction?

MOOK: I think what we want this election to be about is how we can really help families. I don`t think we want an argument over capitalism versus socialism. I think Hillary will provide --

MATTHEWS: You will not have it here. No, we argue over definitions here.

Robby, will you win tomorrow night?

MOOK: We feel really good.

MATTHEWS: How about objective statement? Not a feel good statement. Will you win tomorrow night?

MOOK: We`re going to win the Iowa caucuses.

MATTHEWS: Governor, who`s going to win tomorrow night?

VILSACK: Hey, I`m with my chair. My campaign manager.

MATTHEWS: I like your loyalty. You are a loyal man. Governor Vilsack, thank you.

What was better job -- governor here or secretary of agriculture?

VILSACK: Secretary of agriculture is a great job. It`s like being governor of 50 states.

MATTHEWS: Is that really?

VILSACK: It`s a fabulous job. Totally under-appreciated.

MATTEHWS: Do you know where I can get some Burpee seeds? Just kidding.

Anyway, thank you, Robby Mook, and thank you -- the only joke I have. It`s not real. Secretary Tom Vilsack of agriculture.

Up next, a look at Iowa from both sides of the aisle. I`m going to speak with both the Democratic and Republican Party chairmen out here in Iowa about what we can expect tomorrow night. We`ll see how they spin this baby.

This is HARDBALL, live from Des Moines, on the eve of the Iowa caucuses.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to get a sense for -- between Clinton and Sanders, just gut feeling in terms of who will be the best, who will do the best job moving forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re tired of being pushed around. We want to regain our standing in the world, and, you know, let`s be realistic about where we`re headed in the future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe a woman president is good for the future, but Hillary is not the right one because she`s changed her mind so many times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One thing I`m doing in 2016 is caucus.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL, live from Des Moines on the eve of the Iowa caucuses. It really is that time.

Tomorrow night, we`re going to get our first glimpse of how real voters really act and vote about this year`s field of presidential candidates. From the unconventional campaign of Donald Trump to the surprisingly competitive race between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, the road to the caucuses have been filled with epic battles -- and let`s face, it one surprise after another.

Joining me right now is Iowa Democratic chair, Andy McGuire. You sound like a second baseman for the Cubs, Andy McGuire.


MATTHEWS: And Republican chair, Jeff Kaufmann.

Thank you, both.

Jeff, the HARDBALL question to you is the secretary of state of Iowa has said the mailings coming out for the Cruz campaign on election eve are false representations of an official act. Your view as the party chair? Referee this baby.

JEFF KAUFMANN, IOWA REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN: Our secretary of state has been elected three times. He`s our official election official in this state. I`m going to let he and the Cruz campaign work this thing out.

MATTHEWS: So, you`re not going to decide who is right or wrong?

KAUFMANN: No, I`m not the election official. I provide -- hopefully a fair and balanced --

MATTHEWS: What`s the party chairman`s job if it isn`t to be the important person deciding these things?

KAUFMANN: Not to decide policy.


KAUFMANN: Not to determine what --

MATTHEWS: It`s like Debbie Wasserman Schultz when I ask her the difference between a Democrat and a socialist -- not talking.

Let me ask you about this race. I am surprised at your party, the Democratic Party, is so the open in expressing its ideology to the left. I know -- your state has always amazed me. Tom Harkin re-elected over and over and over again, sort of a Hubert Humphrey Democrat, Democrat, unhyphenated.

And on the other side of the party, an unhyphenated Republican, Grassley, Grassley, Grassley. The full Grassley.

Very traditional party people. And now you have gone to a primary, a caucus that looks like maybe Trump will win and maybe Bernie will be within two or three points. What happened?

MCGUIRE: Well, I don`t know --

MATTHEWS: You have insurgencies going on.

MCGUIRE: We do. I think people are trying to express themselves. You know, this is what`s great about it.

MATTHEWS: They used to express themselves by voting for Bob Dole over and over again. And Bushes, Bushes, Bushes over and over again. And now, Bush is running at 2 percent.

Well, I`m going to go back and forth if you don`t answer.


MATTHEWS: What`s going on out here? Why is everybody going bonkers?

MCGUIRE: But this is what`s great about Iowa. If you just had sound bites, then we might have a different outcome. But in Iowa, you can go face the voters and the voters can tell what they`re thinking.

MATTHEWS: What`s their mood? What`s the mood in the Republican Party?

KAUFMANN: People are angry. I mean, people aren`t satisfied with when we send folks to Washington, they`re not following through, and I think there`s a greet deal of enthusiasm. I think this is an unorthodox 2016.

MATTHEWS: Are you surprised -- you know, I think Citizens United has gotten more power as a negative than a positive so far. Everybody said the Koch brothers are going to run this campaign. Sheldon Adelson from Vegas is going to run this campaign. They spent $15 million out here on the Bush campaign and nada.

Whereas, Trump is out here sort of living off the land.

KAUFMANN: Chris, that I mean, that`s the beauty, honestly, of the Iowa causes --

MATTHEWS: And Bernie is running against Citizens United.


KAUFMANN: You can -- you can take your message to the people. We`re a relatively inexpensive media market. You can do the full Grassley 99 tour. You can bypass all the traditional venues and take it to the people. I think that`s what`s happening.

MCGUIRE: I think that`s happening. And Citizens United, all of our candidates are against it.

MATTHEWS: You know what I think is general to your two parties, coming, neither one, either Republicans, regular conservatives, or Democratic liberals, progressives, like the Iraq war. I see nobody out there waving the banner for the Iraq war and I think that`s one reason why Jeb is in trouble. They didn`t like what W did.

Your thoughts? Can you say that? Are you allowed to say that? That the Iraq war was a mistake?

KAUFMANN: Well, that would be a personal opinion on my part. I mean, in terms of -- I`m not going to express that one way or the other.

MATTHEWS: It seems to be hurting the Bush guy.

KAUFMANN: I can tell you this, among the issues I`m hearing about out there in the Republican primary, I`m not hearing a lot about the Iraq war. I am pro-work guy (ph). What I`m hearing about --

MATTHEWS: Because the hawks won`t talk anymore. That`s why, they`re finished.

MCGUIRE: You know, Chris, I think they`re talking about what is at their kitchen table. They`re talking about college affordability and income inequality. They`re not talking about the Iraq war. I agree with him.

MATTHEWS: Do you know why?


MATTHEWS: It was a disaster.

Let me ask you about Jeb. Why is he zero out here? He`s at 2 percent. He`s got name ID, which is 100 percent. Why is he getting 2 percent?

KAUFMANN: You can take it directly to the people in Iowa, if this were New York or California --

MATTHEWS: Is he the dog food the dog doesn`t like despite all the advertising?

KAUFMANN: You don`t -- you clearly don`t want the Republican chair to phrase anything like that.

MCGUIRE: I`m going to give that to you.

MATTHEWS: But out here, how about O`Malley. Everybody sort of likes Martin O`Malley.

MCGUIRE: He`s a great candidate.

MATTHEWS: And he`s a governor, he had a pretty effective governorship. There`s questions about Baltimore, because it`s a troubled city. But, you know, I swear, I`d never seen a guy run as hard with so little success.

MCGUIRE: You know, but, Chris, I would tell you -- I know polls were right but when I`m out around the state, I hear a lot for O`Malley. I think we have --

MATTHEWS: Give me a number. Give me a prediction.


MATTHEWS: Andy McGuire.

MCGUIRE: Ten to twelve percent.

MATTHEWS: I know it`s McGuire and O`Malley, I get it.

MCGUIRE: Oh there you go. There you go.

MATTHEWS: I`m making the connection. Just kidding.

Anyway, he`ll do better than expected?

MCGUIRE: I think he will.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. Andy McGuire, the Democratic chair out here, and Jeff Kaufmann, the Republican chair -- it`s great to have you on. Thank you. You seem to be friendly with each other.

Up next, just a day away from knowing who leaves Iowa the winner and who will be looking for redemption up in New Hampshire. By the way, they always go together.

I will speak with Iowa`s top pollster and political reporter about which way this race is going tomorrow night. They`re going to have to make these predictions.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Java Joe`s in Des Moines, Iowa.

The latest polling shows Donald Trump is the front-runner according to "The Des Moines Register"/Bloomberg poll. Trump leads Cruz by five. That`s five points, and momentum is in his favor apparently. Trump is up by six points since early -- moved up by six since earlier this month. That`s just in January, since the 10th, while Cruz has dropped by a couple points.

Meanwhile, the Republican establishment seems to have collapsed in Iowa. George W. Bush carried this state in 2000. George Herbert Walker Bush did the same in 1980, but Jeb Bush doesn`t even register in the top six this year. He has 2 percent of the vote here.

So, what`s happening in the Republican Party here in Iowa?

Jennifer Jacobs is chief politics reporter for "The Des Moines Register" and Ann Selzer is an Iowa pollster who conducted "The Des Moines Register" poll.

Thank you, ladies, for coming.

And this is going to be fun, because I love trying to figure out -- you`re the crystal ball person but you`re right. You`ve got this great reputation out here, Ann. Was this year harder to poll than before because of these newbies, certainly Trump, and also Bernie Sanders, left and right coming at the center?

ANN SELZER, POLLSTER: Well, it gets harder every year. So, just the mechanics of trying to get in contact with people, that part just gets harder every year.

On the Republican side, you have a huge field and really trying to get a handle on what that was going to mean in terms of turnout because in theory, you had 17 candidates at one point who could be bringing in new people. Just made the whole thing difficult to be sure.

And the Democratic side, you had kind of deja vu all over again. You have a presumptive nominee who had a huge lead not so very long ago and she`s stair stepped down. Bernie Sanders in each successive poll that we have done has gotten more and more and more support.

MATTHEWS: When you see a crowd -- when you see a crowd, Jennifer, and you see the enthusiasm for Trump or for Bernie, is there any way to crosswalk that over to a poll and say, yes, that makes sense with Ann`s poll?

JENNIFER JACOBS, DES MOINES REGISTER: Yes, definitely. You see amazing enthusiasm for both Bernie Sanders and for Trump. They are loud, a very loud audience for both of them.

MATTHEWS: What about this stick-to-itiveness we`re reading about? Ann, you have polled on this. Will you stick to your candidate or will you wobble?

SELZER: Well, this is where Donald Trump has a nice advantage. Seventy- one percent of his voters say we cannot be moved and that`s very strong. If you think that`s impressive, Hillary Clinton, it`s 83 percent of her supporters.

MATTHEWS: I think that`s one reason why I think Hillary, even though she`s only two ahead in your poll, I`m feeling strong on Hillary. I don`t know what`s in -- somebody says to me, Hillary is stronger than she looks.

JACOBS: She`s three ahead and exactly. She has the strengths in this poll. People are seeing her as the person they want to be the nominee. They want her to be the president. They see her as being the better leader. They see her as having the strength and experience.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk margin of error -- my least favorite topic, the most boring topic in the world. If you say -- what`s your margin of error in your poll?

SELZER: Plus or minus four.

MATTHEWS: Is that four for both candidates, what adds up to eight?

SELZER: In theory. Well, the number of each candidate to be four points higher or four points --

MATTHEWS: Well, if Hillary could be four points less and Bernie could be four points more, the poll doesn`t mean anything.

SELZER: Or equally likely, that the poll is farther apart with Hillary with the biggest lead.


SELZER: But here`s the thing -- the best estimate is the number we gave, the three-point lead. Everything else is an inferior estimate. Most likely to have --

MATTHEWS: You came out of the field Friday night.

SELZER: We did.

MATTHEWS: Now, Friday night, I always like to do two things when I make a prediction, for money or for newspaper bragging rights. I take the number on Thursday -- if I can get it Friday I love it, and I project it through wind direction and I just do the trajectory.

How do you figure the trajectory going from Friday to Monday night?

SELZER: You know, if we saw a trajectory we would have published a poll -- a chart that showed a trajectory. One of the surprising things was not a lot of movement the four days we were in the field.

MATTHEWS: It`s still.

SELZER: Previous caucuses, we saw the Howard Dean graph of doom, that on the day one of our last poll, he started as a contender and he popped down to fourth place by the end of the time. So, we have seen people come out of nowhere --


MATTHEWS: In other words you see this number prevailing on Monday night, the one you put based on the field Friday?

SELZER: We have no reason to feel there`s a prevailing wind at the back --

MATTHEWS: It`s so interesting.

JACOBS: There`s no reason to think that Bernie is dropping in a way that Howard Dean did in 2004, nor is he rising like Rick Santorum did, for example, in 2012 where Ann really detected that last-minute surge where the Republican winner from last cycle was doubling his support over the course of our poll.

MATTHEWS: What happened to the Republican Party out here, the one we grew up with, the unhyphenated Republicans? My daddy and mommy were Republicans. I`m a Republican. I voted for Dole, I voted for, you know, I voted for the Bushes. Now that seems to have dissipated.

SELZER: It does seem to have dissipated.

Now, we also had a fair number of candidates who represent that side of the Republican Party, and because they`re taking two points, three points, four points here and there, it allows Donald Trump with just 28 percent of the vote to be --

MATTHEWS: Do those people when they see your poll, now we get to dynamics, the last question which is my favorite. The new a couple of terms ago, cycles, was dynamic. Everything is a dynamic. When they see your poll and they see Hillary up three, they see Donald Trump up five or six, when they see that and they say they`re the front-runners, do they scramble from these lower tiered candidates to one of the two to have an impact on the election?

SELZER: My guess would be -- there`s no science that says that goes one way or the other. But my guess would be the candidates look at it and say we should work the room. The caucuses are designed to have things happen - -

MATTHEWS: Democratic caucuses are. Republicans you walk in, you vote. The Democrats --

JACOBS: There are speeches in the Republican caucus, too. There are surrogates there --

MATTHEWS: You can go in and vote and leave though, right?

JACOBS: Yes, you can. But you have to listen to speeches first.

MATTHEWS: Oh, you do?

JACOBS: You have to hear --

MATTHEWS: But the Democratic one, you have to sort of Saturday morning television for kids, where you have to stand in one corner and go to the other corner. There used to be a quiz show like that for kids.

Hey, it`s been an honor to have you on. You are very well respected. This newspaper is very, very respected.

And you write the main bar, which is always impressive. It`s easy to write columns. Writing the main bar is tough.

Thank you very much, Jennifer Jacobs. Thank you, Ann Selzer. Wait for them on Monday night if something goes wrong. They`ll be around.

Up next, Iowa has a special place in history for propelling unknown candidates to front-runner status and for taking down establishment candidates. NBC`s Tom Brokaw is coming here next. He`s been covering the caucuses since `80.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics, live from Des Moines, Iowa.



TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: Well, the man who campaigned the most in Iowa did catch Reagan and pass him, George Bush.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Iowa has sent something in motion, forward momentum is clearly established, and I am convinced I will be your next president. Thank you very, very much.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

What a picture. That was NBC`s Tom Brokaw covering Iowa caucus in Des Moines back in 1980. Republican victor that year, George Herbert Walker Bush, was clearly a part of the Washington establishment at that time. Senator Bob Dole and George W. Bush follow in that tradition in the caucuses that followed in `88, `96, and 2000.

But the Hawkeye State has shown something of a renegade streak more recently. Choosing lesser known conditions like Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012. Neither went on to win the Republican nomination.

I`m joined right now by long-time anchor and NBC News special correspondent, Tom Brokaw.

You know, I was going through the list, Tom. This date used to be predictable for Midwestern-type guys, the Bushes and, of course, Bob Dole, always won out here. Pretty predictable, unhyphenated Republicans.

BROKAW: Right.

MATTHEWS: I was a born a Republican. My mom and dad were. I`m a Republican.

That`s been superseded by the Tea Party, by the evangelicals, and now by this Trump thing, apparently.

BROKAW: We don`t know exactly what the root of it are, except, I believe, having to talked to a lot of people, recently, he`s taking first-timers to first caucuses because this state, like a lot of other states, even though he`s doing very well, Chris, we got 3.4 percent unemployment here, ethanol and farming is booming, you`ve seen Des Moines, how it`s booming.

But a lot of people in Iowa, like the rest of the country, are what I call half-cocked in the tick top position. We have a piece on "Nightly News" tonight about a man north of here who has got an ethanol station, convenience store, never gone to a caucus, but he`s been back in Washington, testifying about ethanol, that gave him all of Washington he wanted to see or hear. He`s going to vote for Trump in the caucus.

MATTHEWS: Because he`s for ethanol.

BROKAW: Yes, but not just ethanol. I think he just doesn`t think the establishment works anymore. By the way, seeing George Bush, who you must remember, beat a favorite son, Ronald Reagan, to begin his career. Bush came along and pocketed (ph) that first thing.

The next morning, at the hotel I saw him and I had him say to me, I got the big mo, Tom.

MATTHEWS: Yes, you got that quote from him.

BROKAW: Right.

MATTHEWS: That he took into New Hampshire and it didn`t work --

BROKAW: It didn`t work. Well, (INAUDIBLE), the campaign manager for Ronald Reagan --

MATTHEWS: A lot happened in that week, didn`t it?


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Democrats and I`m surprised, because you and I grew up with the term socialist being -- not communist, but not a nice word. And now, it`s -- people in Iowa among the caucus-goers, Democrats, 43 percent of them said, fine, I`m a socialist.

BROKAW: Well, you know, Iowa`s had a mixed history when it comes to populist politics. Henry Wallace came from here, for example. You remember Harold Hughes, had been the governor of this state one time. He was an old fashioned grassroots populist type. So, there`s been that --

MATTHEWS: You`re going to tell them who Henry Wallace was.

BROKAW: Henry Wallace a man who ran for president, eventually, on a two- party ticket, and he was an agricultural genius, you know, in terms of crop development and those kinds of things. And coming forward, to my time, Harold Hughes former truck driver who became a big, brawny governor of Iowa, but he was a left Democrat, quite honestly, a very populist guy.

MATTHEWS: A recovering alcoholic. A lot of personality there.

BROKAW: Recovering alcoholic, so there have been moments.

John Calder (ph), you know, who was a Teddy Kennedy roommate in Harvard and Teddy Kennedy Democrat when he was a senator --

MATTHEWS: How do you put it together, Grassley for life, Harkin for life, same electorate?

BROKAW: Well --

MATTHEWS: Left and right, center left, center right.

BROKAW: It`s not unusual in these states. I come from South Dakota, for example. There was a time in South Dakota, we had George McGovern the senator, and Joe Foss, Republican, marine hero of World War II, as the governor. I mean, we have left and right, two of them had one common commitment, which is to do what was best for the state.


BROKAW: And I think that`s true with Harkin and with Charles Grassley. You know, they`re not mortal enemies. They just see the political world --

MATTHEWS: If Trump wins tomorrow night, what do you think it says?

BROKAW: I don`t know. We`re all trying to keep track of this. You know, I`ve been lectured before but I don`t want to make calls early.

MATTHEWS: No, if he wins? What`s it say?

BROKAW: What does it say is that, I think if Trump wins tomorrow night, is that it`s Katy bar the door in a way, because it means that the country is angrier than we thought.

MATTHEWS: That`s well-said. Thank you, Tom Brokaw. That`s for coming on tonight.


MATTHEWS: And that does it for us tonight on HARDBALL.

Tune in 8:00 Eastern, I`ll join Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow for MSNBC`s primetime coverage on the eve, and it is the eve, it`s tomorrow, of the Iowa caucuses actually happening.

Our coverage live from Des Moines right after this.