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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 2/8/2016

Guests: Donald Trump, Mark Halperin, John Heilemann, Heidi Przybyla, Annie Linskey, Joe McQuaid, Sean Maloney

Show: HARDBALL Date: February 8, 2016 Guest: Donald Trump, Mark Halperin, John Heilemann, Heidi Przybyla, Annie Linskey, Joe McQuaid, Sean Maloney

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Political Mardi Gras.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Manchester on the eve of the New Hampshire primary.

Donald Trump stands as the overwhelming favorite among Republicans here. The fight is on for second place. After Marco Rubio`s robotic, let`s call it, strange performance in Saturday`s debate, establishment Republicans are looking for a candidate.

It`s looking wide open. Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie all face an opportunity to grab the silver medal. And here`s where things stand tonight in the Granite State. According to the latest U. Mass. tracking poll, Trump is well ahead of his nearest opponents. The New York billionaire gets 34 percent. That`s 21 points ahead of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who are tied at second. Close behind, very close, are John Kasich and Jeb Bush, both at 10 percent.

Earlier today, I interviewed Donald Trump. I started by asking about that circular firing squad, if you will, we saw among the establishment candidates at Saturday`s Republican debate, which allowed Trump to stay out of the scrum.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I didn`t know what happened exactly. I was just sort of standing there watching everybody go wild. I was very happy about it. That`s OK with me.

MATTHEWS: What did you make of Marco Rubio doing an imitation from the "Blade Runner"? He just started repeating himself, repeating himself. Six times he repeated whole speech parts. What was it, short-term memory lapse?

TRUMP: I was standing right next to him. I don`t know what it was, but I was standing right there. He`s a nice guy. He`s been very nice to me, I must say. But I heard it once. I heard it a second time. I have, like, a good memory. And then I heard it a third. I said, I think it`s the exact same...


TRUMP: It wasn`t even -- like, I know you`ve replayed it. And then after the fifth time, I said, I wondered if he`s going do it once more. But it was a little bit...

MATTHEWS: He hung in there. Let me ask you about -- talk to the voter for a minute here. Don`t use up too much time. It`s snowing up here now. It snows in New Hampshire. People know how to put -- get cars, they got -- used to put chains on. Now they`ve got good tires. Why should they trudge through the snow for Donald Trump?

TRUMP: Well, you know, my whole concept and my whole theme, frankly, behind it, is make America great again, Chris. We`re going to strengthen up our borders. We`re not going to let the drugs pour in. New Hampshire has an unbelievable heroin problem and drug problem.

We`re going to build up our military. Nobody`s going to mess with us. We`re going to take care of our vets. We`re going to get rid of "Obama care." You and I haven`t discussed it. I mean, you know, whether you like it or don`t like it, it`s tremendous what`s happening in terms of the increases, 25, 35, 45 percent increases in "Obama care." It`s unheard of and...

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about how you get it done. Now, we know about the wall. We know about your (INAUDIBLE) and I think it appeals to a lot of people. But here`s what happens. You get inaugurated. You take the oath. You have the ball, the party that night. You get back to the Oval Office. You get a call from the speaker of the House. Say it`s Paul Ryan. You know, Mr. Trump, I think that idea of yours of building a wall is disgraceful. I won`t even bring it up for a vote.

What do you do?

TRUMP: I`m going to get it done, Chris. You know...

MATTHEWS: No, he`ll just say to you, I`m not bringing it up.

TRUMP: He may say that, but he may also go along with me 100 percent. And I think my history is that I cajole and I get people to do what they have to do.

MATTHEWS: What are your tools?

TRUMP: Washington -- Me. Washington is in gridlock right now. You understand that.

MATTHEWS: I know all about this.

TRUMP: It`s time.

MATTHEWS: And I know how things don`t get done.

TRUMP: And when you see Congress, what does it have, I think the last time I saw it was at 9 percent...

MATTHEWS: That`s where it belongs.

TRUMP: OK, about 9 percent. We`re going to make it better. We`re going to bring it...

MATTHEWS: OK, you...

TRUMP: We`re going to get things done.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about your experience. When you put up a building in New York, and there it is, that big building on 5th Avenue, the Trump Tower...


TRUMP: ... could never get it done.

MATTHEWS: I know. Well, here`s what. I`m just -- I`m not in the business. What I`ve heard about New York, you`ve got to pay a special percent, maybe 5, to the bad guys. You got to deal with councilmanic privilege, or some local councilman will stiff you just so he gets something out of you, or you`ve got a labor union that`s being very difficult.

What do you do? How do you scare them into doing what you want them to do or pay them off, or what do you do?

TRUMP: You hear all these bad things.

MATTHEWS: How do you get it done?

TRUMP: All I know is I get zoning.

MATTHEWS: How do you get it done?

TRUMP: I have all these -- I`m the king of zoning (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: But how do you do it? What`s your technique?

TRUMP: I deal with people.


TRUMP: I hire experts.

MATTHEWS: Bullying?

TRUMP: No, I hire people that are good...


MATTHEWS: Do you pay these guys?

TRUMP: They`re consultants and...

MATTHEWS: No, do you pay the...


MATTHEWS: Do you pay the -- the...

TRUMP: I don`t. No.

MATTHEWS: You never had to pay a councilman...


TRUMP: The problem is, if you do that, first of all, it`s dishonest, and I`m an honest guy. But if you do that, you know what happens? Everybody else comes along, and it never ends. If you don`t do it -- it`s like the old story, you take care of building inspectors, all the building inspectors hear about it. They all come to you. I don`t do it.

MATTHEWS: What if the wiseguys come in and say you`re not building?

TRUMP: Well, I`ve known tough cookies over the years. I`ve always gotten along.

MATTHEWS: I mean wiseguys?

TRUMP: I know what you mean by wiseguys. I`ve known very tough. I`ve known people that make the politicians that you and I deal with every day look like little babies. They`d walk across out of fear if they ever saw some of these guys.

I deal with people that are very tough people, and I get it done. I deal with people that are heads of countries, you know, because I`m all over the world. My company is all over the world. I get along great with people.

MATTHEWS: So even guys like Meat Esposito (ph) in the old days (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: He was great. Let me tell you something...

MATTHEWS: He was great!

TRUMP: Meat -- I`ll tell you something. I knew him very well.


TRUMP: Meat Esposito was...

MATTHEWS: He was the boss of Brooklyn.

TRUMP: Meat Esposito -- he was the boss. Meat Esposito in his own way was a very, very honest guy. When he gave you his word on something, it was done. I deal with politicians, they give you their word, it`s like -- it means nothing. Meat Esposito in a certain way was a very honorable guy.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the race. You`re a nationalist. Maybe you don`t know it, but you say things like either we have a country or we don`t. I get it. (INAUDIBLE) on immigration, jobs going overseas, best jobs to China, worst jobs to illegal immigrants, I get it all. Trade deals you don`t like. You don`t like the stupid wars we`ve had to fight.

So you`re the nationalist. You`re up against a socialist. Who wins?

TRUMP: Oh, I`d beat him...


TRUMP: I think I`d beat him easy, for one reason. When I start talking about tax rates, I would hit him so hard on taxes. You know, somebody`s got to pay for it. You understand.

MATTHEWS: Who would pay for the tuition for everybody?


TRUMP: You`re going to pay. I`m going to pay. We`ll all pay.

MATTHEWS: Who`s going to pay for Medicare for life?

TRUMP: 95 percent taxes. That`s what`s going to pay for it. It`s impossible. I would love to run against him. The only one I`d rather run against because a Fox poll just came out where I`m beating Hillary by 5 points -- I would love to run against Hillary just because it`s -- you know, it`s more of a name.

But there`s no way you lose to Bernie when you start going into the taxes. I`m actually surprised that Hillary isn`t playing the tax card. And I`m a little surprised that Hillary continues to run with her e-mail problems.

MATTHEWS: You`re not playing any cards yet.


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the old names. Why are the Clintons, both of them, having troubles this time, Bill on the campaign trail, where you basically pushed him out with that thing about sexist charges and all...

TRUMP: They`ve not said a bad thing...

MATTHEWS: You shut them up on that.

TRUMP: ... about me since I said it.

MATTHEWS: I know. You pushed him off the trail (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: Were you impressed? Were you impressed?

MATTHEWS: I am impressed with stuff that works in this case. Anyway, let`s go about the Clintons and the Bushes are nothing politically right -- they`re having such a hard time out on the stump. Is there -- you`re, like...

TRUMP: Well, Jeb is a guy...


MATTHEWS: Why don`t you like a nice (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: I`ll tell you why. He spent $20 million on ads against me, which he shouldn`t have done. He should have focused on people that are ahead of him, not -- but he spent $2 million. They`re false ads. And he says false things about me. I mean, he says so much -- he talks about 2nd Amendment. Nobody`s stronger in 2nd Amendment than me. He would make it (sic) believe like I`m not. He brings up taxes. I have the biggest tax decrease of anybody else, and he makes it sound like I`m going to...

MATTHEWS: What about -- what about the stadium?

TRUMP: He`s really lied. The stadium is another one, eminent domain. Thank you very much. Eminent domain -- he talks about me with eminent domain. It just came out this morning that his father, and the group, the Bushes, not him because he`s not smart enough to do it -- but his group used eminent domain to get the stadium bought, the land around the stadium bought in Texas. So he`s very embarrassed by it.

Let me tell you, he`s not going anywhere. He just announced -- he spent $120 million on the campaign. He just announced about 20 minutes ago that he`s now against super-PACs. Well, he spent most of the money in his super-PAC, and now he announces that he is against super-PACs. It`s really pretty sad.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about...

TRUMP: He`s a sad case.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) bugby (ph). You talked about torture. You didn`t use the word. You talked about, We`re going to get further than waterboarding. You`re going to be commander-in-chief if you win. You`re responsible to every enlisted person in the Army...


MATTHEWS: You`re responsible to all those guys. They get captured. There`s always been the concern in our government, and the reason why we don`t torture prisoners, people in uniform, is because our guys are going to be captured. And we don`t want them tortured. Now, aren`t you worried as commander-in-chief...


MATTHEWS: ... legitimize torture?

TRUMP: Came up in the debate. They asked Ted Cruz about waterboarding. And he was very tentative with that answer. I don`t think he had a good night. He was very tentative with that answer. You saw that.

Then they looked to me. What do you think? I said, I`m all in favor. And I said the reason I`m in favor...


TRUMP: No, I said -- I prefaced it by saying the reason I`m in favor is because they`re chopping off heads. Not since the medieval times -- you know, you and I used to...

MATTHEWS: By the way, it`s not just medieval times. The French revolution, they did a lot of guillotine.

TRUMP: It`s all right. Well, I used medieval times, OK?

MATTHEWS: They didn`t...

TRUMP: But not since Ice Age...

MATTHEWS: They did drawing and quartering in England in the 19th century!

TRUMP: You`re right. But you know, it made -- medieval times made more of an impression on me, I guess. But I said not since medieval times have we talked about chopping off heads. I know the parents of James Foley. I see what...


MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about that guy because I carry his picture in my wallet. I think we share that.

TRUMP: Great guy.

MATTHEWS: To me, he was a man of noble courage.

TRUMP: Great parents, by the way, yes.

MATTHEWS: Noble courage right to the end. He saw what was happening to him. He knew he was going to reach his end on this earth...

TRUMP: I agree.

MATTHEWS: ... and he stood his ground and never buckled. What a great man.

TRUMP: A hundred percent.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you -- suppose you get a call and you`re in the Oval Office or at 3:00 o`clock in the morning, and somebody tells you they just picked up one of our uniformed guys. They were embedded in an Iraqi unit. They got picked up by damned ISIS. They say they`re going to chop his head off, cut his head off in five days. What would you do?

TRUMP: Well, I`ll tell you what...

MATTHEWS: Five days!

TRUMP: The one thing I won`t do because I think this is what you`re getting at...

MATTHEWS: No, I`m not getting at anything! I don`t know the answer.

TRUMP: You can`t -- well, it`s -- they`re tough answers. They`re always tough answers.

MATTHEWS: Well, what would your...


TRUMP: ... very tough answers. The one thing you can`t do is start taking care of people by giving money to get people out because once you do that, then everybody in the room is going to be gone. So you can`t do that. I mean, it`s horrible to tell parents that, you know, like the parents of James Foley, who I love. I know them and I love them. They`re great people.

TRUMP: Good for you.

TRUMP: And he was great.

MATTHEWS: What would you do if it was you (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: I would never negotiate...

MATTHEWS: What would you do?

TRUMP: I would -- I would -- what I`d really like to do, I`d like to find...

MATTHEWS: Would you try to stop it?

TRUMP: Yes, I would try and stop it. I would do everything I could...

MATTHEWS: Would you bomb?

TRUMP: If we could find the area, I would bomb. I would do whatever I could to stop it. But one thing I will never do is pay ransom because once you pay ransom, it`s over.

MATTHEWS: You pay tribute -- some of the Republican candidates have paid tribute to Reagan, saying the minute he came in in 1981...

TRUMP: True.

MATTHEWS: ... -they sent the hostages back. What was he threatening with implicitly? There must be something about...

TRUMP: He said they will not be there when I`m president. And he meant it.

MATTHEWS: Well, they also-...


MATTHEWS: ... did that to punish Carter anyway, but...

TRUMP: Well...

MATTHEWS: Where`s this power? How do you...


TRUMP: Yes, but I think he was a little bit scared. I watched that.


TRUMP: And Carter was a nice man, but you know, he -- they had no fear of Carter for whatever reason. OK. When Reagan...

MATTHEWS: How do you -- no, this is very important. I remember when I worked with Tip O`Neill in the old days that the reason that the Russians were impressed with Reagan is he broke the PATCO strike. There was a demonstration (INAUDIBLE) came back with that, said, Those guys...

TRUMP: Great strike to break.

MATTHEWS: ... took that threat seriously. How do you...

TRUMP: That was not an easy strike.

MATTHEWS: How do you demonstrate strength so they don`t take our hostages? How do you get the message across like Reagan did, Don`t mess with me? Because strength is a lot about the appearance of strength. How do you create that?

TRUMP: I think the strike in his case was good. But I think it`s almost an air that some people have, not a lot of people have...

MATTHEWS: Do you have it?

TRUMP: I don`t want to ever be saying that I have it. I mean, you obviously think I do because you said...

MATTHEWS: No, I`m asking. I`m wondering how you...


TRUMP: I always hate...

MATTHEWS: ... besides...

TRUMP: ... when somebody says, I have this, or I have that or -- I don`t talk about myself. People can say whatever they want.

I`ll tell you one thing. If we didn`t get our hostages back -- we paid $150 billion for hostages, but if we didn`t get them back, or the 10 sailors, the way they made us look -- that was a pretty humbling thing what they did with the 10 sailors. But if we didn`t get our hostages back, they would have had hell to pay if I were president, that I can tell you.

MATTHEWS: Have you been impressed by any opponent in this campaign, personally impressed?


TRUMP: I wouldn`t want to tell you yes. Yes, a couple of them are impressive.


TRUMP: Some of them are unimpressive. I mean, I think Jeb Bush to me is very unimpressive, very unimpressive.

MATTHEWS: I noticed. How about Kasich?

TRUMP: Yes, he`s got something that`s OK. I mean, he`s got something -- he`s done a good job. Now, he got helped by fracking, in all fairness. You know, when you`re fracking (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Do you know how many Democrats I bump into who like Kasich?

TRUMP: I like him.

MATTHEWS: Yes, as a candidate.

TRUMP: No, I like him. I like him, too. He was very nice...


TRUMP: ... then he went hostile on me.

MATTHEWS: Would you think about...


TRUMP: Kasich went hostile to me. You know, he went very hostile to me...


TRUMP: ... in the second debate.

MATTHEWS: You`re the front-runner!

TRUMP: And then what happened, he decided that wasn`t...


MATTHEWS: King of the hill. You know that, how it works. Do you think he`d be a good running mate for you?

TRUMP: I think he would. I`m not picking...


TRUMP: ... running mates now, but I think he...

MATTHEWS: Ohio. Ohio!

TRUMP: Well, I have very good poll numbers in Ohio, but...

MATTHEWS: You got to win Ohio.

TRUMP: But very -- you have to win Ohio. You have to win Florida.

MATTHEWS: How do you get Florida?

TRUMP: Well, right now, I`m at 48 percent in Florida. I`m at 48, Bush is at, like, 6, and Rubio I think is at 11. And I`m at 48 percent. And I`m saying, What do I need anybody for, right?

MATTHEWS: OK, tomorrow night, if you win, you`re the front-runner, are you going to let anybody take it away from you and say, Well, he didn`t beat the spread or...


MATTHEWS: ... a bronze winner -- I`m sorry, the silver winner tomorrow night will be the real winner.

TRUMP: Well, that happened a little bit in Iowa.

MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s why (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: I came in second. I was 2,400 votes ahead of the third place. And the third place person, who was Marco, was like a genius king. I never even did it before. This is the first time I ever ran for office.

So I came in second. Probably came in first, to be honest with you, because votes were taken away from Carson that if they weren`t taken away, I would have come in first. So let`s say I came in first or second because I don`t forget things like that. And all of a sudden, the guy that came in third`s, like, a hero, and the guy that came in second -- and I kept saying, How come he`s a hero and...


MATTHEWS: ... one big problem. Rubio proved the other night he repeats himself.

TRUMP: That`s not good.

MATTHEWS: So he will repeat himself in this regard. He will say I won again. The guy`s (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: The question is, how big an impact does it have long term? Sure (INAUDIBLE) has an impact. Will that affect him long term? You know, the famous...


MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about -- I think you and Bernie have two things in common. He`s a socialist, self-described. I`m not knocking it. That`s what he wants to be.


MATTHEWS: And you`re a nationalist. I believe that about you. You both have a focus and you both have joy in your campaign. There`s fun when people leave your things.


MATTHEWS: ... the other people, not you. I wonder. You seem to have lost some joy since Iowa.

TRUMP: Lost or gained?


TRUMP: Oh, no. I have more joy.

MATTHEWS: You don`t seem as happy as you were last week.

TRUMP: Really?


TRUMP: I think I`m happier now.


TRUMP: I just looked at those polls. You just showed me those polls.


MATTHEWS: That`s why I`m here.

TRUMP: I`ll tell you, we have another thing in common with Bernie. There`s only one difference. I can do something about it -- trade. He knows the United States is getting ripped off by China, by Japan, by Mexico, by everybody, OK? And so do I. The difference is, I`m going to do something about it. We`re going to make a fortune. Bernie can`t do anything about it. He wouldn`t know where to begin.

MATTHEWS: How do you make China change its currency policies?

TRUMP: By telling them that if you don`t change, you`re going to have a hard time trading with us.

MATTHEWS: And what do we do about our debt problem with China if we stop trading with them?

TRUMP: We work out a deal with them. Let me...

MATTHEWS: See, they`ve got -- they got...


MATTHEWS: Don`t they have us by the shorts?

TRUMP: No, we have them.

MATTHEWS: But they have our paper!

TRUMP: Excuse me. We have them. They need our money to come in. Chris, we have them. And nobody else (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Who`s carrying our debt?

TRUMP: It doesn`t make any difference, Chris.

MATTHEWS: We`re up to $20 trillion in their (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: If we played numbers with them with trade, they would have a depression the likes of which you`ve never seen before. We have China. We`re going to make a great deal with China.

Don`t forget I have the biggest bank in the world from China in my building. I sell millions -- tens of millions of dollars worth of condos. I own the Bank of America building in San Francisco because of China, along with a group.

I want to tell you something. We have all the cards. And I deal with China, and I love -- I have nothing against China. What I have...

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about the...

TRUMP: No, no. What I`m upset about is that our leaders deal so badly...

MATTHEWS: OK, late-breaking news. Last question. Calderon, the former president of Mexico, says he won`t pay for the wall.


MATTHEWS: What`s it mean to you?

TRUMP: He`ll pay. Trust me, he`ll pay. We have such a trade imbalance with Mexico. We have such a trade deficit, the wall is peanuts compared to the (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Would you get rid of NAFTA?

TRUMP: I would get rid of it or amend it greatly. NAFTA has been a disaster, especially for New Hampshire and areas like this.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Donald Trump, thanks for coming over.


MATTHEWS: My interview with Donald Trump was a couple of hours ago. And Trump will be taking the stage at a campaign rally at a big arena here in Manchester.

We`ve got plenty more on the Republican race and whether Marco Rubio can recover from his robotic debate performance.

Plus, Bill Clinton on the attack against Bernie Sanders. That`s still happening, that attack.

And this is HARDBALL, live from Manchester on the eve of the New Hampshire primary.


MATTHEWS: Well, the FBI has confirmed its investigation of Hillary Clinton`s private e-mail server. NBC`s Pete Williams reports the FBI filed in court that it, quote, "is working on matters related to former secretary Clinton`s use of her private e-mail server." But the filing says it cannot provide details on the investigation, quote, "without adversely affecting ongoing law enforcement efforts." The news came as a result of a Freedom of Information filing by the group Judicial Watch.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL, live from New Hampshire ahead of tomorrow`s primary. On the Republican side, a wild sprint to the finish here. We just showed you my interview with Donald Trump, who is sort of the king of the hill here in new Hampshire voting-wise, polling-wise. And there`s new drama in the battle for second place, following Marco Rubio`s strange moment in this weekend`s debate.

I`m joined right now by the co-hosts of "With All Due Respect," John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, who are both at Donald Trump`s New Hampshire rally tonight.

And here with me is "The Washington Post"`s Robert Costa, who is an MSNBC political analyst.

And let me go to John. And just pass it over to Mark when you`re done.

Tell me about you guys and how you see the whole race, with Trump sort of - - I think he`s pretty much happy right now, based upon our interview.

John, then Mark, how does the race look?

JOHN HEILEMANN, CO-HOST, "WITH ALL DUE RESPECT": Chris, I think that there`s a rough consensus now, if you take what the rival campaigns are saying, and you look at the public polling, that Donald Trump is really likely to win the New Hampshire primary tomorrow. He`s likely to win it by a healthy margin.

Whether that means he`s over 30 or under 30, unclear. And everything besides that is totally unknown. The polling is really tough to read. And there`s at least four or five candidates who are in contention to finish second.


MARK HALPERIN, CO-HOST, "WITH ALL DUE RESPECT": Chris, unless one of the - - unless Trump really surges above where he is, or Cruz surges above where he is, I think, mathematically, it`s very likely that one of the four establishment candidates will get into the 20s.

You just do the math, it seems likely they will get there. And if one of them gets mid-20s, I think they leave here with a leg up. It doesn`t mean the field will winnow, but it does mean one of them will leave here with a leg up.

MATTHEWS: Well, guys, they`re all within about two or three points. How many votes are there out right now that haven`t been decided as of yet in the polling?

HEILEMANN: I think there`s a sense, Chris -- look, first of all, the polling is all a little bit suspect. That`s one thing all the campaigns are saying, which is that a lot of the polling and the tracking polls took place before that debate on Saturday still.

And the rest of the polling that took place on Sunday took place during the Super Bowl, which is a notoriously difficult thing to be trying to poll during. No one actually knows whether the polling we have is accurate.

But I think the campaigns all agree that maybe on the Republican side, there`s 10 percent or 15 percent still undecided. And then there`s that huge independent vote which we don`t know whether they will flock to the Republican primary or whether they will flock to the Democratic primary tomorrow. That`s totally up for grabs.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the impact of the debate.

Obviously, we don`t have a lot of poll data on it. What`s your anecdotal on that, Mark, the impact of the debate, especially to Marco Rubio, what I would call a strange performance? But you do the talking.

HALPERIN: Anecdotally, I have not heard anybody what supported Rubio brush it off, beyond the campaign itself, and Senator Rubio, as he did with Lester Holt.

I hear fewer and fewer people say they`re deciding between Rubio and some of the others. I think that Rubio`s lane, though, is somewhat distinct. If you`re for one of the governors, I have heard it for the whole week have been here., people choosing between Christie, Bush and Kasich, or some combination of the two of them.

I still think Rubio can finish second, but I don`t think he can finish a super strong second in a way that would have made him the de facto establishment candidate.

HEILEMANN: Chris, I think one of the big questions here is, how far will Rubio fall? And the other question is, how much could Christie rise? Those are like the two biggest questions outstanding in terms of what`s going to happen tomorrow night.


Thank you, John Heilemann. And thank you, Mark Halperin.

Robert, do you buy that, that it hasn`t -- that bizarre performance of repeating himself five or six times verbatim hasn`t hurt Rubio?

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It hasn`t hurt him with his base. His crowds are big in New Hampshire right now. He still has a core of conservatives that are with him and some of the establishment.

It didn`t help him grow. His coalition is pretty much the same as it was coming out of Iowa. That hurts him. And he was trying to move up in New Hampshire, and not just stay steady.

MATTHEWS: What about Christie, the prosecutor on Saturday night?

COSTA: It`s going to be very difficult for him to see a path forward. Talking to my sources close to his campaign, doesn`t have a lot of money left. How does he pay his staff for another month or two? He is going to need a real second-place finish or a strong third to get the money to stay in the race.

MATTHEWS: The up here Bushes have a great history up here of doing well. Bush Sr. beat Reagan. Of course, W. didn`t do so well, but what do you make of it? What do you make of Bush? Is he just gone?

COSTA: I don`t think so.

I think if he can finish above Rubio, above a Kasich, he has a case to make. The thing about Bush is he`s more of a national candidate than Kasich or Christie at this point. He has an organization in South Carolina, he has a well-funded super PAC. He doesn`t need to win here. But he needs to do well enough to reassure his people.

MATTHEWS: What about Kasich?

COSTA: I think, when I`m on the campaign trail, you sense a Kasich moment. You sense Trump`s winning big, but Kasich, because he`s positive in this sea of negativity, he`s emotional and human.

MATTHEWS: OK. I will stick to my prediction. I think Kasich comes in second tomorrow night. We will see. I like the guy too. Maybe that`s prejudicing my thinking here. And it wouldn`t be the first time.

Thank you so much, Robert Costa.

Up next, Bill Clinton on the attack. The former president`s toughening his attacks at Bernie Sanders. But will it turn around the momentum towards Hillary Clinton? Will attacks like his matter? There he is.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.



BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have been told that Planned Parenthood, the Human Rights Campaign Fund is part of the establishment. It`s a hermetically sealed deal.

Hillary`s opponent has a different view. He said, look, it`s in a -- it`s a hermetically sealed box. It`s very effective. The national paper, they endorse her too. But Bernie took what they said good about him and put it in under all these endorsements, except they didn`t endorse.

When you`re making a revolution, you can`t be too careful about the facts. You`re just for them or you`re against them.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL live from Manchester, New Hampshire.

Of course, that was Bill Clinton, the former president, pouncing in a way, not with much gusto, but he was doing it verbally, against Bernie Sanders over the weekend. That was yesterday, with some of the most pointed knocks yet in the campaign. Call them attacks, if you will.

Responding to the Clinton campaign attacks, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver wrote in a statement today -- how dignified -- quote -- "It`s very disturbing that, as the Clinton campaign struggles through Iowa and New Hampshire, they have become increasingly negative and dishonest."

Well, on the eve of the nation`s first primary, the stakes could not be greater, as Hillary Clinton tries to mount a comeback from behind against a big victory expected for Sanders. The RealClearPolitics average shows Sanders leads Clinton up here in New Hampshire 53 percent to 41 percent. And that is not as big as it is in some polls.

Today, Chelsea Clinton joined her parents here in New Hampshire, as the Clinton campaign looks for an upset tomorrow night.

Joining me right now is MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman with The Huffington Post and Heidi Przybyla of "USA Today."

I want to start with you, Heidi.

This attempt by the Clintons to soften it up, bring their daughter here, their only daughter, bring Bill in, the supportive spouse, I don`t know. This seems like more of a cutting, gritty campaign than that. It doesn`t seem about family home values or anything.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, "USA TODAY": It`s a specific. What are the two demographics that she needs, Chris? Younger women, AKA Chelsea, and older white working-class people who overwhelmingly support -- well, who supported Bill Clinton and have fond memories of him.

I was at the first rally that he did yesterday in Keene, and you could definitely see how he came in there with kind of a different approach than Hillary and spoke right to some of these working men and shared anecdotes from his campaign in 1992, and kind of made a more personal appeal to them that maybe she can`t. So, it`s strategic.

MATTHEWS: Does it hurt him that he seems to out of breath, that he seems to have lost his gusto?

PRZYBYLA: OK. I covered the end of his administration.

And, absolutely, he seemed like a different person to me. Granted, it`s been 16 years since I have seen the man in person, but he just seemed -- I guess maybe it`s the diet he`s...


MATTHEWS: No, I think he doesn`t have the big hall volume he used to have. He used to be a big hall speaker like Ted Kennedy. I don`t think he`s got that now.

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it`s the fact -- the passage of time for the Clintons both helps and hurts. It helps in that they have a long history here. They have a lot of friends here.

But a lot of time has passed. I think more important in a way than Bill Clinton up here, and Chelsea up here, is the fact that Hillary`s Brooklyn, New York, headquarters has basically emptied out to come up here to do as much door-knocking and person-to-person campaigning as possible, because that`s what you have to do here. And that`s what Bernie is doing.

I was just talking to a prominent Republican who lives up a long driveway, you know, in an ex-urban part of Manchester. She said the Bernie people came and knocked on her door. And what`s happening is those volunteers are really crucial to what`s happening in this state.

MATTHEWS: But let me ask you about message. Can you capsulize Hillary Clinton`s reason to become president? Can you tell me what it is? Bernie is...


MATTHEWS: ... left, progressive socialist, Democratic socialist, the whole thing he`s selling. What`s Hillary selling?

PRZYBYLA: She`s selling something that I think she -- a word she would never use, but it`s incrementalism.

She`s saying, we`re going to take Obamacare and build on it. Bernie is selling revolution, big change. And I think that`s why she`s had the struggle that she`s had, because we`re talking about the very liberal core of the party. And for them, the dissatisfaction and the anxiety right now is so high, that they want something very different.

And she`s selling, you know, let`s make incremental changes.

MATTHEWS: That has never worked. That has never worked. That sounds like Nixon me-too-ing Kennedy `60. He said, I agree with the senator`s goals. I`m want to get there more slowly or something.

Who wants to hear that?

FINEMAN: That`s a good point.

I can tell you today from the people I talk to at the Bernie rally that I went to, some of whom had been Clinton supporters in the past and had been Obama supporters in the past. These struggling people in the middle class are not...

MATTHEWS: Yes. By middle, you mean making about $40,000 a year or $70,000 a year?

FINEMAN: No, $40,000 a year, $50,000 a year, which would now -- used to be middle class. Now it`s sort of lower middle class.

They`re tired of waiting around. They`re disappointed with Obama. So when she wraps herself in the mantle of Barack Obama up here, which she`s been doing, that doesn`t necessarily work that well.

MATTHEWS: No. Isn`t that her firewall with African-Americans?

FINEMAN: Well, it might be with African-Americans, but it`s not the case up here.

I do think, though, that the New Hampshirites, even most Democrats, are not big spenders, OK? The people of New Hampshire are flinty.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Why doesn`t she go after taxes?

FINEMAN: She has not gone after him on taxes, which is his most vulnerable thing up here. And the reason not is, she doesn`t want to get too far to - - seem to get too far to the right of him for what she`s got to try to do down the road.


MATTHEWS: Wait a minute, government-paid health care for life, government- paid huge increases in Social Security benefits, government-paid tuition. That`s a lot of money for a country with 330 million people.

PRZYBYLA: Right. And they have been trying to get this message out there, I know, as a member of the media, to work on these, to get these stories out there. But -- and Bill started to hit on it, but it`s a little late to do that.

FINEMAN: Because they dance around it. They dance around it. They dance around it, because they think they`re playing the long game. If they lose here by 15 points, there is no long game.

PRZYBYLA: They will spin it as 1992, though. They`re already doing that. Bill Clinton said yesterday this is `92 on steroids.

(CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Playing this holding action. It`s a holding game. They`re going to lose in Nevada, I will bet.

Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman.

You can`t win a battle totally on defense. You have to get the ball once in a while and go for a touchdown, to use a Super Bowl reference.

Heidi, it is out of date, by the way. The football ended yesterday.

Heidi Przybyla, thank you, dear.

Thank you.

I`m sorry to call you dear, but thank you. Thank you, Heidi.

FINEMAN: You can call me dear, too. That`s fine. That makes it even.

MATTHEWS: Not here.



MATTHEWS: Anyway, up next, with Donald Trump holding a big lead on the Republican side, the race is on for second place here. It`s all about the silver medal here. Let`s see who`s got the mo` to win that one.

And you`re watching HARDBALL, live from Manchester, on the eve of the New Hampshire primary.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, it`s getting close right now.

Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Manchester, on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, which is starting at midnight in some places, three places. They are going to start voting here.

With Donald Trump out front right now, in the polls at least, four candidates competing for second place, the silver medal, if you will. And they`re all pretty much within a margin of error.

Among them is John Kasich, who many say is gaining momentum after Rubio`s debate performance last weekend. And I`m one of them saying that, while the polling -- because I`m rooting for him, I guess.

Anyway, while the polling varies, Monmouth, the pollster, puts Kasich in second place, just 1 percentage point ahead of Marco Rubio. As Howard Fineman notes in The Huffington Post -- quote -- "Conversations on the ground with campaign insiders in New Hampshire have revealed that Kasich has done the most to separate himself from the pack in the wake of Saturday night`s debate."

Well, I`m joined right now by Annie Linskey, reporter with the great "Boston Globe," of "Spotlight" fame, Joseph McQuaid, publisher of the great "New Hampshire Union-Leader," and Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney is an Irishman.

And for that reason, we start with you.

No, we start with you.


MATTHEWS: Annie, let me ask you this. Who is moving up and may break from the pack and win a clear second?

ANNIE LINSKEY, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": Yes, I think you`re absolutely right about Kasich.

There certainly seems to be a lot of buzz about him. There`s a lot of momentum there. But I want to add an extra person in here that I don`t think we should forget about, which is Cruz. You think about, in `12, those -- with Rand Paul out, where are those libertarian voters going to go?

MATTHEWS: Remember -- OK, where about the 20 percent of the state that are Baptists, who are fundamentalists? Will they go with rim?

LINSKEY: I think there`s a chance there.

I mean, don`t forget, this is a state that embraced Buchanan. There is a real conservative strain here. And it`s not impossible.


MATTHEWS: I see the appeal of Pat Buchanan. He`s pro-life, Catholic, Irish, the whole thing. I get it.

LINSKEY: Yes. Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: I get it.

But I do not understand the appeal of a Ted Cruz

Who do you think looks good for second up here?


MATTHEWS: Well, what about your guy, the big guy from New Jersey?

MCQUAID: I think he`s got a shot at it. But the idea that Marco --

MATTHEWS: That`s a vote of confidence -- I think he`s got a shot at. Ha!

MCQUAID: Forty-eight hours ago, it was all Marco. Nice reporting, you`ve got Kasich now. You`ve got a fair hand -- I said flavor --

MATTHEWS: Don`t put me in the category of liking Marco Rubio. That is a misstatement.

MCQUAID: No, I will give you that.

MATTHEWS: I`ve been calling a robot for weeks, and he finally got caught Saturday night.

MCQUAID: There`s a new shampoo, Marco robo, brainwash, rinse, repeat.

LINSKEY: Yes, I mean --

MATTHEWS: Congressman, what do you see on the Republican side? You`re a Democrat.

REP. SEAN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: Look, I`m a Democrat, but I think you`re right. I think the kids I grew up with here in New Hampshire, look, they can spoke a phony a mile away. I think Kasich, son of a mailman, I think that`s the real thing up here. I think they think he`s real. I think and that matters.

MATTHEWS: What do you think of the blade runner seen here Saturday night where the guy repeated himself six times?

MALONEY: I think that guy has been overrated all year along. I think you saw the real Marco Rubio there. He`s not ready for time. But the truth is, none of those guys in the other are. There`s a president among them.

MATTHEWS: There`s a not a president among them?

MALONEY: No, sir.

MATTHEWS: That is an objective statement.


MATTHEWS: I`ll come back to you.

It seems like you have a lot to choose from in terms of personality. You`ve got the bully from Jersey. If he`s on your side, you like a bully. If you`re a bully and he`s on your side, great.

LINSKEY: But if you are away from Jersey.

MATTHEWS: What do you think about Jeb Bush? Is there an old Yankee flavor to any of the voters left anymore? The Yankee`s gone?

LINSKEY: Yes, no. I think Jeb certainly could have an opening. His people are sounding really good.


MATTHEWS: The personality of the Yankee --


MATTHEWS: Barbara Bush.

LINSKEY: Barbara Bush. There`s a chance for him here. I would not like - - it is amazing to me how clustered everything is at this point. And like, this is just the joy of New Hampshire. We`re going to find out.

MATTHEWS: What percentage of the Republican electorate up here is old Yankee, been here a few generations?

MCQUAID: One-third of the electorate changes every four years.

MATTHEWS: How many from Massachusetts?

MCQUAID: I would say 40 percent.

MATTHEWS: Wow. Do they read Howie Carr?

MCQUAID: Howie`s down in Florida.

MATTHEWS: Is he really?

MCQUAID: He scammed out of here.

MATTHEWS: I`m talking about "The Boston Herald", which is the conservative paper, putting it lightly.

LINSKEY: The what? I`m sorry?

MATTHEWS: How about right wing.

LINSKEY: Not familiar with that.

MATTHEWS: They had no movie made about "The Herald".

LINSKEY: Not at all.

MATTHEWS: There`s nothing like "Spotlight", which is one heck of a movie. By the way, if you didn`t like spotlight, you did want to be a reporter after that, you`ll never be a reporter.

Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us.

And up next, Bernie Sanders and Larry David unite. Look at the Vermont senator`s debut on "SNL."

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Tune in tomorrow night starting at 6:00 p.m., I`ll be joining Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow for MSNBC`s coverage of the New Hampshire primary. What a long night it`s going to be.

We`ll bring you the results, of course. That`s what we`re there for, of the Democratic and Republican races. Plus, analysis and interviews with the campaigns and top reporters. That`s 6:00 p.m. tomorrow here on MSNBC.

We`ll be right back now.



LARRY DAVID, COMEDIAN: She gave me a call and shake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you sure it was a call and a wipe and a shake?

DAVID: No, no, there was no wipe. Definitely no wipe.

Bernie, how`s things going up in New Hampshire?



SANDERS: Well, it`s pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.



MATTHEWS: That was Bobby Moynihan and those guys, and now, it`s Bernie Sanders, of course, on "SNL" over the weekend, and joining forces with his doppelganger, comedian Larry David.

By the way, Larry once said to me when I met him, the biggest thing that ever happened to him in his life was doing Bernie. It`s an amazing thing.

There`s plenty of enthusiasm for Sanders on the ground in New Hampshire, the state known for both Bill and Hillary Clinton`s political comebacks. But with Hillary trailing big with less than 24 hours before the actual voting, is there any hope left for a Clinton upset?

We`re back now with the roundtable, Annie, Joe and Congressman Maloney.

Annie first. Can Hillary beat Bernie?

LINSKEY: I mean, there`s always hope for an upset. There`s always hope.

MATTHEWS: You`re like Larry David here.

LINSKEY: I know.

MATTHEWS: We don`t know what we`re doing. There`s hope, but there`s not much.

MCQUAID: I think Hillary`s going to be within a few percentage points of Bernie, because of the woman factor in New Hampshire, Democratic politics. In 2008, I think it still holds.

MATTHEWS: Patrick Maloney? Your guy, Hillary.

MCQUAID: Look, I was here in `92 working for him then. I`m back now. I`ll tell you what, I was out talking to a guy with Jim Walsh knocking on doors, he said something I think makes a lot of sense. He said, you know, Bernie`s a great cheerleader. Hillary`s the quarterback.

And I think that`s the image that I have in my head. She`s taken hits, she`s on the field but she`s scoring points. People in New Hampshire like that. People I grew up with know she`s a fighter, her husband was a fighter, and they`re going to deliver. That`s going to matter tomorrow.

MATTHEW: Doesn`t Hillary have to act like a conservative and simply put the arithmetic up on the wall and say, look, free health care for life, you don`t pay in for 50 years, you just get it for 65 years, your whole life, and free tuition at major state universities. That`s $50,000 per head. Free. Then you`ve got the higher Social Security benefits. You don`t have to pay higher taxes on.

So, everybody`s getting all this new money for 330 million people. Where is it coming from? Just answer the question.

LINSKEY: You go to these rallies, and people want to hear the message of, like, it can happen. He is so tapped into that. When you`re up there explaining why it can`t happen, you`re losing.

MATTHEWS: People don`t believe they`ll give them free new snow tires. They`re smart. Most people who go to any store think it`s joke. But this guy promises everything, and they go, OK. I buy that. It`s all free.

MCQUAID: That`s the problem with the economic understanding of this country, among other things these days.

MATTHEWS: Spoken like a great leader of "The Union Leader".

Thank you, Annie Linskey. Thank you, Joe McQuaid, and Congressman Sean Maloney.

When we return, a look at New Hampshire primary -- there`s a great history I put together, Will Robbie (ph), our producer, did. It`s great. It`s all about the history of primaries up here, how they made presidents, how they`ve broken presidents, all here in New Hampshire primary.

You`re watching HARDBALL -- you got to stick around for the mystery here -- the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me close here on this eve of the New Hampshire primary to view its compelling and colorful history. This is where presidencies are born and where they sometimes die. If you`re not interested this New Hampshire primaries, you`re not interested in the history of this country.


MATTHEWS (voice-over): Looking back at history, the New Hampshire primary has been the key state in picking presidents.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: New Hampshire speaks first to the nation.

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT: I`ve been to New Hampshire a lot. I`ve been to the small towns. I think I`ll be a better president because of this intimate and constant relationship with the people of this country.

MATTHEWS: It`s important because it comes first. The results if New Hampshire set the trajectory of the presidential race to come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for this victory in New Hampshire.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: I think the New Hampshire`s always important.


MATTHEWS: Come backs, upsets and meltdowns are all part of the its record of making and breaking presidential campaigns.

NIXON: And what you do in New Hampshire is going to be interpreted across the nation. As a matter of fact, it will be interpreted around the world.

MATTHEWS: While the primary has been first in the country since 1920, its unique national influence became apparent in 1952 when Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower beat the Republican favorite without ever setting foot in the state. In the same year, Senator Estes Kefauver won an upset victory over incumbent President Harry Truman in the Democratic primary. Three weeks later, Truman surprised the country with his announcement he would not run for re-election.

HARRY TRUMAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: I shall not be a candidate for re- election.

MATTHEWS: Forty-two-year-old John F. Kennedy kicked off his 1960 campaign from Nassau, New Hampshire. To overcome concerns about his age, Kennedy used state as a proving ground. His victory set him on his path to become the youngest elected president.

In 1964, the winner in New Hampshire wasn`t even a declared candidate. Henry Cabot Lodge triumphed with an unprecedented write-in vote, foreshadowing the chaos that would beset the Republican Party later that year

In 1968, a strong showing in New Hampshire by anti-Vietnam War candidate Eugene McCarthy squelched President Johnson`s hopes for renomination.

EUGENE MCCARTHY, FORMER SENATOR: The change is a fixture in America from 1968.

MATTHEWS: Soon after that, Johnson bowed out of race.

1968, also marked the comeback of Richard Nixon whose victory after New Hampshire validated his viability after vowing to retire from politics six years earlier.

In 1972, Democratic front runner Ed Musky was considered the overwhelming favorite. But when the state`s largest newspaper run an editorial personal critical of his wife, the candidate got emotional and appeared to tear up during a speech.

While Musky blamed the snow, which he said melt on his face, he never recovered. Anti-war candidate Senator George McGovern was seen as the victor, despite coming in a distance second.

In 1976, Ronald Reagan challenged and nearly defeated nearly sitting President Gerald Ford in the closest primary in the state`s history.

REAGAN: I`m not a part of the Washington establishment and maybe that is the reason I have for asking your support.

MATTHEWS: On the Democratic side, Jimmy Carter`s victory that year capitalized on his momentum from Iowa, hoping to propel a little known former Georgia governor from obscurity to the White House.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan stage add comeback in the state after losing Iowa to the senior George Bush. Having paid for a one-on-one debate, Reagan changed the rules to include the other Republican candidates. Bush refused as did the moderator and the scene which followed help propel Reagan to victory just three days later.

REAGAN: I am paying for this microphone.

MATTHEWS: In 1984, insurgent candidate Gary Hart threatened Walter Mondale`s path to the nomination with a surprised win in New Hampshire.

GARY HART, FORMER SENATOR: Tonight, in New Hampshire, we buried the label dark horse.

MATTHEWS: Needing a comeback in 1988, Vice President George Bush waged an aggressive campaign against frontrunner Bob Dole that left its share of bad blood.

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: Senator Doyle, is there anything you would like to say to the vice president?

BOB DOLE, FORMER SENATOR: Yes, stop lying about my record.

MATTHEWS: Bill Clinton`s campaign was on the ropes in New Hampshire in 1992. Amid charges of infidelity and draft dodging, Clinton`s better than expected finish was enough to reenergize his campaign even with a lagging second place.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: New Hampshire, tonight, as made Bill Clinton the comeback kid.

MATTHEWS: In 1996, Republican favorite Bob Dole was upstaged by Pat Buchanan whose populist pitch fork rhetoric captivated the electorate of the Granite State.

Al Gore`s narrow win in the Democratic primary primed him to win a 50-state shut out in 2000.

And John McCain`s 19-point victory over George W. Bush in 2000 almost derailed Bush`s campaign.

In 2004, John Kerry`s victory in New Hampshire sealed his nomination.

Four years later, New Hampshire set the stage for a Hillary Clinton`s upset over Barack Obama. Clinton`s win there foretold the long battle to follow.


MATTHEWS: In 2012, Mitt Romney won New Hampshire handily, submitting his status as the Republican candidate to beat.

All told, the results of New Hampshire have shown that historically speaking, any primary candidate of either party must win or at least finish in a strong second to have a chance at the nomination.

Performing well in the Live Free or Die State has proven to be a big leg up for any presidential campaign.


MATTHEWS: Wow, that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

Join Brian Williams, Rachel Maddow and myself tomorrow night for live coverage of the New Hampshire, the new one tomorrow, starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.