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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 2/11/2016

Guests: Gwen Moore, Nina Turner, Cornell Belcher, Anne Gearan. Montel Williams, Chip Saltsman, Bill de Blasio

Show: HARDBALL Date: February 11, 2016 Guest: Gwen Moore, Nina Turner, Cornell Belcher, Anne Gearan. Montel Williams, Chip Saltsman, Bill de Blasio

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Bernie versus Hillary, the fight`s tonight.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Are they running to honor the Obama presidency or to challenge it? That`s the question tonight as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders go at it in the PBS primetime debate. Hillary`s talking about continuing the Obama presidency, Bernie`s talking revolution. It`s fights like this, intended or not, that heats up a campaign.

NBC`s Kasie Hunt and Kristen Welker are in Milwaukee tonight, where the debate`s going to take place. Kasie, you recently interviewed Senator Sanders, and he talked about how he would get some of his grand proposals through Congress. Let`s watch.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I have said is if we rally the American people to demand that Congress do what the American people want them to do -- overwhelmingly, the American people want to raise the minimum wage. Congress does not. Then the job is to rally the American people to tell Congress to do what the American people want. Pay equity for women -- overwhelmingly. The question is, there is a huge gap right now between the Congress and American people. What presidential leadership is about is closing that gap.

KASIE HUNT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: And you don`t think President Obama has successfully closed that gap.

SANDERS: No, I don`t. I mean, I think he has made the effort, but I think what we need -- when I talk about a political revolution is bringing millions and millions of people into the political process in a way that does not exist right now.


MATTHEWS: Well, Clinton`s press secretary, Hillary Clinton`s press secretary, Brian Fallon, tweeted in response to that interview, quote, "The idea of Bernie Sanders, who has little to show for his 25 years in Congress, giving leadership lectures to President Obama is absurd." Pretty strong language there.

Let`s go to Kasie Hunt, who`s all about this thing. Kasie, does he -- did he know -- you asked him the right question, you know, did President Obama achieve the goals you`re talking about or at least begin to achieve them, and he said no rather emphatically.

HUNT: He did, Chris. And of course, this is something that Clinton supporters often raise concerns about because, you know, he is talking about waging a revolution at a time when we`ve had eight years of a Democratic presidency. And of course, there are a lot of base voters in the Democratic Party who are very defensive, very supportive of President Obama, particularly these African-American voters that are going to be so important in next up South Carolina.

And of course, Bernie Sanders has to walk a careful line because he is trying to appeal to all these progressive voters, some of who do feel as though the president has not been progressive enough in pushing some of these priorities.

But he also knows he has to broaden his appeal if he`s actually going to have a shot at winning the nomination.

MATTHEWS: You know, I just wonder -- you`ve been following him for a while now. I just wonder -- he has a great touch with his own material, I mean, when he comes out with the speech notes and he gives almost, like, a lecture notes, he knows exactly where he`s at. He`s really comfortable in the platform, really comfortable.

Is he as comfortable working with other politicians? Have you ever seen him interface, relate to, engage with the people he`s going to have to deal with if he wins, even the people he has to deal with as he travels the country now?



HUNT: I covered him a little bit in the Senate, as well, and of course, he and Hillary Clinton served very briefly together in the Senate. They only overlapped for a little while.

But he doesn`t have a ton of friends necessarily. He`s a little bit of a loner. If you talk to people in Vermont politics, a lot of them will say, Oh, they don`t necessarily know him as well as they might. You know, some of his colleagues, Pat Leahy, for example, Senator Pat Leahy, also of Vermont. He -- in fact, he`s more -- keeps to himself a little bit, doesn`t really spend a lot of time hanging out with his friends. You know, you see Senator Graham and Senator McCain, for example, buddy-buddy in the hallway all the time.


HUNT: Senator Sanders isn`t like that, and I don`t think he`s trying to necessarily pretend that he would be like that.

That said, you know, this message is resonating with thousands of regular people that show up at these rallies. So clearly, he`s connecting in that way. And you do say his material -- I mean, the way they`re presenting him in these ads -- you have this America ad, you have this new ad featuring Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner...


HUNT: ... who of course, died. And it`s just very -- the way that they are packaging him, presenting him...

MATTHEWS: Let`s watch this.

HUNT: ... is very, very powerful.

MATTHEWS: Kasie, let`s watch this ad. This is powerful stuff.


ERICA GARNER, ERIC GARNER`S DAUGHTER: (INAUDIBLE) who`s going to listen and speak up for us, and I think we need to believe in a leader like Bernie Sanders.

SANDERS: It is not acceptable to me that we have seen young black men walk down streets in this country, be beaten and be killed unjustly!

GARNER: There`s no other person that`s speaking about this. People are dying. This is real. This is not TV. We need a president that`s going to talk about it. I believe Bernie Sanders is a protester.

SANDERS: When a police officer breaks the law, that officer must be held accountable!



MATTHEWS: That`s so interesting, Kasie. Did you catch on that the -- it`s the manner of politics that the protesters in the streets, the Black Lives Matter people, the Occupy people before that, have a common way of doing their politics. Let`s get out in the streets, maybe with a bullhorn, maybe with a crowd of people, protesting. Bernie Sanders seems like one of them.

I thought that was pretty powerful, the way they combined those thoughts, those manners of politics.

HUNT: Yes, and that`s what, you know, Erica Garner says in that video. He`s a protester He`s not scared to be out there with us. He is part -- the way that he does -- you know, presents himself, the way he has his whole life, is in many ways outside of the system and outside of the mainstream. And that`s resonating in so many different ways in the electorate right now, and in this particular way, of course, in the black community.

MATTHEWS: And you know -- let me go to Kristen on this because it seems to me of all the people who`ve been victims of this, you know, police actions against black people -- some of them range from the Michael Brown case to the Eric Garner -- they`re all a little different, but of all of them -- and (INAUDIBLE) a lot of sympathy for almost all of them, but -- if not all of them, but I thought there was tremendous amount of sympathy for this big guy who was just selling loosies, you know?

I mean, he wasn`t committing any violent crime. He wasn`t threatening anybody. He was being bothered by the police because he was committing a misdemeanor, and he was choked to death. I mean, I just -- that is a heartless situation, and I think everybody identifies with, or wish -- I wish they would.

Let me ask you about the establishment response to this, the Congressional Black Caucus, the CBC. Talk about that. Two different brands of politics tonight, the protests of the streets, the Occupy, the Black Lives Matter kind of politics, and then this other kind, the inside, working the system through years and years of building up seniority in Congress, the way black members of Congress have been able to do to the point where they have great seniority. And now they`ve come out for Hillary Clinton.

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me make two points, Chris. The first one is, to your point about the Black Lives Matter movement, Secretary Clinton announced earlier this week that a number of the mothers who have lost sons in gun violence, in interactions with police, are going to be campaigning with her. In fact, Eric Garner`s mother is endorsing Secretary Clinton.

So you`re seeing this generational divide, and I think that`s the big question. Are we going to see the same type of generational gap with the African-American vote that you`re seeing across other sectors?

To your point about the establishment. You`re absolutely right, very powerful optics today. Members of the CBC`s political branch came out and endorsed Secretary Clinton. And of course, Congressman John Lewis took that big blow at Senator Sanders, essentially saying, I didn`t see him during the Civil Rights movement, even though he has talked about his engagement, so essentially calling into question his level of activism during the Civil Rights movement.

But what we saw today was this generational divide on display, not just establishment versus non-establishment, but you sort of saw the old versus the new, Eric Garner`s daughter coming out for Senator Sanders. So I think that`s going to be the real question mark moving forward.

And if you look at the numbers, Chris, inside South Carolina, for example, Secretary Clinton has a huge lead, almost 50 points, among African-American voters. The question is, does she hold that, particularly after such a large loss in New Hampshire? So tonight is going to be critical for her. You`re going to hear her talk about a lot of these issues that matter to African-Americans, issues like criminal justice reform and gun violence -- Chris.

MATTHEWS: You know, I think it`s going to be something tonight. Also, two people who are white, basically, talking about the basically huge black constituency of the Democratic power, the power -- what`s called the base in a very positive way politicians. They don`t mean it negatively. When they say the base, they mean people they`d like to rely on in the clutch.

Anyway, thank you, Kasie Hunt, and thank you, Kristen Welker.

As I just mentioned, at a press conference today announcing their endorsement, members of the Congressional Black Caucus`s Political Action Committee praised Hillary Clinton. And then questioned Senator Sanders on a number of issues.

Let`s watch. This is getting interesting.


REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: When we needed someone to come to rally, Democrats, and especially African-Americans, and at the request of the CBC PAC, Hillary Clinton has been there. When the issues that are important to our constituents, Hillary Clinton has been there.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON-LEE (D), TEXAS: She spoke to the nation about the devastation of voter suppression and voter rights restoration, which is the heartbeat of the CBC.

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D), LOUISIANA: When you start saying free college, free health care, the only thing you`re leaving out is a free car and a free home. But who`s going to pay for it? How are you going to pay for it?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: Hillary Clinton has been there from the very beginning to deal with the gun violence epidemic and its impact on African-American communities across the country. And Bernie Sanders has not just simply been missing in action, he`s been on the wrong side.


MATTHEWS: Wow. At that same press conference, U.S. Congressman John Lewis, who`s a hero of the Civil Rights movement was asked by a reporter about Senator Sanders`s history in the Civil Rights movement, including causes he was involved in while he was a college student at the University of Chicago. Here`s what Congressman Lewis said.


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I never met him. I was chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years, from 1963 to 1966. I was involved in the sit-ins, the freedom rides, the march on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery and directed the voter education project for six years.

But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton.


MATTHEWS: Wow. Congresswoman Gwen Moore is a member of the CBC Political Action Committee, and Nina Turner`s a former state senator from Ohio and a Bernie Sanders supporter. Thank you very much, gentleladies, for coming on tonight.

And this is getting hot because it`s all coming down to South Carolina, eventually down there. Let me ask you about the endorsement, Congresswoman Moore. What do you mean by the endorsement? Why did you step out and say, We as a caucus, as the CBC, are backing one side over the other? They`re both running for the Democratic nomination.

REP. GWEN MOORE (D), WISCONSIN: Hi, Chris. Well, let`s be clear. It was the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee, not the CBC that endorsed Secretary Clinton. I had endorsed Secretary Clinton, as you know, on your show a long time ago. And the CBC PAC, which consists of 19 members -- some members that are involved in labor, some members who are members of the CBC voted, and my recollection is that there were two abstentions, I think one no vote, and others voted.

Their -- they concluded that they should endorse her because, literally, 33 members of the 42-member Congressional Black Caucus had individually endorsed Hillary Clinton, and they thought that that was a preponderance of evidence that there was solid support for Senator -- for Secretary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: Let me go -- let me go to Senator -- Senator Turner, who`s joining us right now on behalf of Senator Sanders. What do you think is that situation? What does that -- what -- how does that put you in a certain position when the CBC PAC comes out and say that they`re for Hillary against Bernie?

NINA TURNER, FMR. OHIO STATE SEN.: I mean, Chris, I mean, certainly, I respect my colleagues on the federal level. They have every right to endorse. But ultimately, the people will have the final say. And Senator Sanders`s record speaks for itself. I mean, we know that there`s documentation out there about how he was arrested, he was a member of CORE, he has been fighting these issues as a very young man. So you know, the CBC PAC can endorse. They did endorse, and that`s OK. But ultimately, the voters will have the final say.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he has the same rapport with the African-American community that the Clinton family does?

TURNER: Well, Chris, again, you know, Senator Sanders is from Vermont and I know that the congresswoman would agree with me that he has been serving his constituency honorably, starting as a mayor, then a member of the House of Representative and now a senator.

He cannot control the demographics of his state. His state is 95 percent white. But he has been serving them. So now he`s on the national scene, and he is working and he`s running for the presidency of the United States of America. America is diverse, and he has been hitting the different states from -- he`s been in Baltimore, Chicago, all across this country talking to young African-American activists, like the Black Lives Matters, talking to African-American ministers about not just Black Lives Matter, but black money matters, black education.

So for somebody to say that there`s some big gulf between the African- American community and Senator Sanders is just not true. The only thing that he does not have is that national profile for decades after decades. But he is in the fight. He has...

MATTHEWS: Why hasn`t he...


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you -- I just want to argue with you and I am going to argue with you because the greatest leader for Civil Rights, white leader, back in the `40s who said the Democratic Party, don`t go the way of Dixiecrats and states` rights, was Hubert Humphrey from Minnesota, which was almost all white back then. So you don`t have to be from a mixed area, a diverse area, to have the right soul.

Are you saying that you`re free from moral judgment and moral concerns because you`re from a largely white area? A lot of good liberals...

TURNER: No, Chris...

MATTHEWS: ... on Civil Rights have come from such areas, like Hubert Humphrey, people like that, the Kennedys.

TURNER: No, Chris, I`m not -- I`m not -- I`m glad you pushed back. I`m not saying that at all. What I am saying is that Senator Sanders has not had up until this point a national profile. But if you look at his record, he has fought against violence. He has fought for universal health care. Some of the things that he`s talking about in his platform, increasing the minimum wage -- African-American community -- 54 percent of the African- American community would automatically get a raise if that $15 an hour wage was there.

So he has been fighting, Chris. My only point is this. He`s not from Ohio, he`s not from New York, he`s not from Illinois. He is from Vermont. But when you talk about heart-soul agreement, he has it. And Chris, we all know that he has been fighting these battles for over 30 years. You check his record, you check his speeches. He has not changed. He does not waiver. He is a drum major for justice. Bottom line! And there`s another...


MATTHEWS: When did you first become aware of him?

TURNER: Well, I had heard of...

MATTHEWS: You personally -- no, I mean...


MATTHEWS: No, get excited about him in the way you are? When did that happen?

TURNER: Well, I got excited about him, you know, just listening to his story...


TURNER: ... just peeling back the layers...


TURNER: And that was in the latter part of 2014.

MATTHEWS: Yes. So he has -- he`s sort of come onto the national scene just recently, really.

TURNER: But Chris, he`s...

MATTHEWS: As a Civil Rights champion.

TURNER: ... running for the presidency of the United States.


TURNER: But he`s been there. I mean, his record speaks for itself, Chris...


TURNER: ... and I just think it is wrong for anybody...

MATTHEWS: Well, Senator...

TURNER: ... to try to challenge what he`s doing.

MATTHEWS: Well, they`ll be challenged on both sides.

TURNER: He`s been there.

MATTHEWS: Let me tell you what a campaign is. It`s called challenging each other.

Congressman Gwen Moore, thank you for joining us. We`ll have more time with you next time you come back on. I`d love to have you back again and again. Former state senator Nina Turner, you are a great spokesman. We`ll continue to discuss these issues in the same mood.

Anyway, a reminder, I`ll be back at...

TURNER: Looking forward to it.

MATTHEWS: ... 11:00 Eastern tonight after tonight`s Democratic debate with all the highlights and analysis. That`s me. I tend to come in around 11:00 for these things.

Coming up, the main event in South Carolina is between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. It`s also the last, best chance for the Republican establishment, such as it is, to try to stump Trump. Stump Trump -- that`s a good line, and Cruz -- and bruise Cruz.

Anyway, can Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and John Kasich rise to that challenge? Can they still defend the establishment?

Plus, as Bernie Sanders rails against Wall Street, what`s Hillary Clinton`s counter-message? New York mayor Bill de Blasio, a top Clinton supporter in the Big Apple is with us tonight.

And much more on that complicated relationship between Bernie Sanders and President Obama. How could a Democratic presidential candidate call for political revolution when the current president is a fellow Democrat? Well, a Democrat at least.

And how will Hillary Clinton exploit that tonight? That`s the wave (ph) she`s working. She`s been working that one, separating the president from the guy who wants to be president.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight as we enter the political valley of death otherwise known as the Republican South Carolina primary. Boy, is it dirty. It`s going to get dirty I think.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Fresh off his New Hampshire victory, Bernie Sanders stopped by "The Late Show" last night for an interview with Stephen Colbert, where we learned a little more about the senator and his campaign.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST: Why do you think the younglings like you?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think for two reasons. By definition, young people are idealistic. And they look at a world with so many problems and they say, Why not -- why can`t all people in this country have health care? Why can`t we make public colleges and universities tuition-free? Why not?

COLBERT: You travel coach yourself and you always travel in the middle seat. Why is that?


COLBERT: Is that penance for something?


COLBERT: Why travel in the middle seat, sir?

SANDERS: Because we couldn`t get the aisle or the damn window! That`s why.



MATTHEWS: That`s the most honest thing I`ve heard a politician say in a while. We`ll be right back. Who wants the middle seat? That`s the last one to go.



SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The only candidate that can beat Donald Trump is me. The other candidates are unable to do so. The only way to beat Donald Trump is to highlight the simple truth of his record. It is not conservative.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Ted Cruz, of course, and is Ted Cruz, trying to frame the contest in South Carolina as a two-man race, saying no other candidate -- you just heard him -- can beat Donald Trump and also saying he is the most conservative candidate on the planet, which is a very consistent theme of Cruz.

While there hasn`t been polling in the state since January -- so ignore the numbers you have seen -- participants in a focus group told Bloomberg they think Trump will inevitably win down there, but most would prefer Cruz.

Here`s some dichotomy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you think is going to win the South Carolina primary?








UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unfortunately, it will be Trump.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If your only two choices in this race were Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who would you vote for?












MATTHEWS: Well, I`m always wondering about those, because that`s the kind of behavior that people exhibit when they go to a caucus when everybody else hears how you`re voting and pays attention while you vote. They watch you vote. They hear you vote.

In New Hampshire, you get to vote in a booth, like America is supposed to. You get to walk in a room privately by yourself, not in a big horde, and vote, and then walk out and go home to your life.

I think that`s a little bit deceiving. By the way, when people tell you who they think are going to win, that`s usually a way of saying who is going to win, because that`s the way people pick up on things and also exhibit their own thinking.

Anyway, the Palmetto State, that`s South Carolina, might be fertile ground for Cruz, however. According to a Pew Research, 65 percent of Republican voters in 2012 described themselves as evangelicals. There we go again, like in Iowa, and that`s more than in Iowa, where Cruz prevailed against Trump last week.

So, lot of -- if two-thirds of the people are very evangelical, Baptists normally, they tend to like a guy like Cruz, who is very, very fundamentalist in his conservatism.

Anyway, a showdown between Cruz and Trump right now threatens to overshadow the other three candidates who are still in the race from the establishment part of the party. Among them, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are attacking Trump directly, while John Kasich doesn`t attack generally. Take a look at what he is doing. He is backing off.


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He has not been tested. He is a talented guy. And he is an entertaining person, unless you are a woman. Unless you are Hispanic. Unless you`re a POW. Unless you`re a disabled person. It`s really entertaining. But if you`re not, it`s downright divisive.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump has zero foreign policy experience. Negotiating a hotel deal in another country is not foreign policy experience.


GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t think I would call him any names.

QUESTION: You called him a bully.

KASICH: Well, I don`t -- if I did that, I don`t remember it, because I usually try to -- I always try to stay on the issues. He has calmed down actually.


MATTHEWS: That`s Jamie Gangel there.

Anyway, NBC News also confirmed today that former President George W. Bush will be hitting the campaign trail for his broadcast Jeb on Monday night. That`s this Monday night.

I`m joined right now by NBC`s Hallie Jackson, as well as television host and former Naval intelligence officer Montel Williams -- thank you, sir -- who has endorsed John Kasich, and Republican strategist Chip Saltsman, who was formally with the Huckabee, Mike Huckabee campaign, but is now neutral in this, I believe. We will find out more as he speaks to us.

Hallie, this campaign of Cruz, now, of course, we saw a couple of things attributed to the Cruz campaign out in Iowa, the rather official looking letter telling people they better vote in the caucuses, the rumor that was spread inaccurately and backed up actually by the Cruz campaign about Dr. Carson leaving the race.

Do we -- can we expect more along the lines of that kind of stuff?

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You know, Ted Cruz was asked about this.

He says he is going to run basically a campaign on the up-and-up here in South Carolina. Chris, his campaign is insisting that they are not behind these sort of reports of new robo-calls that are out in South Carolina. What Cruz is doing is focusing -- you mentioned it -- that evangelical vote.

It`s different than what we saw in New Hampshire. It`s more similar to what we saw in Iowa. He is trying to coalesce a lot of those Christian conservatives around him. And he is doing that by doing what he did in Iowa, which is get those pastors involved. He`s got a coalition of about 170 of them, and then try to get the congregants to do what their pastors are doing, which is vote for Ted Cruz.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I get that. That`s clean as hell. That`s what we do in politics. You go to leaders.

Let me ask you, Chip Saltsman. I`m going to talk about it later in the show, because I was distressed by it. In the year 2000, John McCain came off a big victory, an upset victory in New Hampshire, and he was beating W., beating his pants off. And he goes down to South Carolina.

And thanks to some real dirty tricks down there, rumors about his wife, Mrs. McCain, and his daughter and how his daughter came to be. And you know the stories. There were all dirt ball stories.

Why is it that South Carolina puts up with that stuff and rewards the ones who do the dirty stuff? Why do they accept that as the normal politics of our country?

CHIP SALTSMAN, FORMER MIKE HUCKABEE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, you know, I`m not sure why they do, but they obviously enjoy it. I have heard a lot of people in South Carolina say, well, there`s two things we want to see. Can they throw a punch, but, more importantly, can they take a punch?

And negative campaigning is just part of the game in South Carolina. And, obviously, it`s effective. We have seen it over and over again.


MATTHEWS: No, negative campaigning is when you put an ad on and trash the other guy. But when you spread rumors about him on robo-calls, when you spread rumors about his wife, you spread rumors about where his kid came from, and basically about his sexual behavior, and you`re not willing to put your face on it, you`re not willing to put your name on it, I don`t like that kind of politics.

Put your name and face on anything you say, and, to me, that`s part of the business.

SALTSMAN: I absolutely agree. I think if you`re going to say something, you put your name on it. If you`re going to say something, say it to their face.

I always hated in these debates, where they say, you said this and they back off of it. Go straight to them and tell them exactly how you feel. I think voters reward that.

MATTHEWS: Let me go now to Montel and to your candidate, who did very well up in New Hampshire.

And you know what? I have known him a long time. So, I root for -- I don`t take sides that directly, but I do like the guy. And if he became president, it wouldn`t distress me. I think there is a lot of heart with that guy.

But what about him saying I`m not going to play it dirty down there with the rest of these characters? What do you make of that? In a street fight, do you go in there and say my hands are up? Or what do you do?

MONTEL WILLIAMS, FORMER TALK SHOW HOST: I think that`s really what we need to have somebody saying, because America doesn`t have to be all about a divisive battle where lines are drawn in the sand.

And I`m glad that we have an adult in this race right now that`s trying to remind everybody that once we hit November, the people right now who are in the lead, whether it be Trump or Cruz, they only represent -- let`s get this straight -- Trump right now got 33 percent of the vote in New Hampshire for the Republicans.

They only represent 25 percent of the masses in America. If he is getting only 33 percent of that, that`s about, let`s say somewhere around 30 -- 21 million people. There is another 300 million people that are Americans that have to be led.

So, I don`t think by John Kasich doing what he is going to do in South Carolina, by not throwing punches, I don`t think it is going to hurt him, because whether he wins South Carolina or he comes in second or third, we have got Virginia, Massachusetts, Vermont right behind it.

Right behind that, you have Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama. We start getting into the Midwest and that`s where John`s message resonates. And you know that very well. It`s going to resonate big time.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think it would among working people especially.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about -- let me get back to Hallie Jackson and what looks to be a resurgence on the part of Jeb.

And Jeb will be going after the same votes basically that John Kasich is after. He seems to be looking like a candidate. Not only -- I sort of like the guy. I have known him a few years covering him as governor down there in Florida. He looks like he is actually in fighting shape now. It`s a little late, though. What do you think? Is he somebody to be dealt with down there?

JACKSON: And it`s interesting, because we have been out with these Republicans for months now. And there was a period maybe in November where it was looking very dire for Jeb Bush.

There was talk about will he get out of the race even before Thanksgiving or even before Christmas over and over again? And his campaign kind of kept saying, hey, wait, everybody, chill out. Bush is coming back. He is going to have a resurgence.

And it feels like this is his moment. And I think you talked about it. His brother coming out on the campaign trail with him for first time next week could be significant, particularly in this state, where Republicans in South Carolina like the Bushes.

You saw Barbara Bush up with Governor Bush last week up in New Hampshire. So there is some ways for him to potentially pick up some momentum, but you have got Marco Rubio trying to blunt that momentum. You have even got Donald Trump really hammering him last night in Pendleton trying to stop any momentum too.


WILLIAMS: Chris, let`s remember, just real quick, Bush spent close to $20 million, $30 million in New Hampshire, and barely squeaked out an extra seven points.


WILLIAMS: John Kasich only spent probably a tenth of that, and literally came in second. So, I think Bush has a really serious issue of trying to not only overcome Donald Trump, but he has got Kasich that he has got to nip at the heels of.

MATTHEWS: You got to help Kasich out, because he has got to a hundred meetings down in South Carolina. like he did in New Hampshire. That`s the hard part. Can he do it in this time?


MATTHEWS: Thank you, guys. Thank you so much, Hallie Jackson, as always. Thank you, Montel Williams. And thank you, Chip. Please come back, Chip.

Up next, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is coming here ahead of tonight`s Democratic debate. He`s for Hillary Clinton. He will make that clear without my help.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

A key supporter of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, one of the great names ever, by the way, Bill de Blasio.

Mayor de Blasio hit the road earlier this month and canvassed for her, the secretary, out in Iowa, arguing that Clinton is the Democrat who can turn Democratic goals into accomplishments. Clinton won Iowa by a razor-thin margin, but went on to lose big in New Hampshire to Bernie Sanders. Is it time to retool her campaign and her message?

Joining me right now is the man himself, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Mr. Mayor, I don`t know about you, but I`m sure I know about you this one thing. You must wish like in "Rocky" the movie, all those movies, you were the guy in the corner with the towel. And when she comes back from a round, you want to be able to say good punch there, protect your left, protect your this, but get him again in the chin.

Don`t you wish you were actually with her every time and could say this is what you got to do and this is what you better be careful of?

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Well, Chris, I like your Philadelphia references there, truly your homeland.


MATTHEWS: That`s true.


Let me tell you, I think, whenever you`re part of a campaign -- I had the honor of being her campaign manager in her 2000 Senate race -- you feel a real affinity for that candidate for years to come. I feel a real connection to her.

And I saw it Tuesday night in New Hampshire. I saw a fire and passion about making real change in America. So, my point is this. We have a candidate here who wants to raise taxes on the wealthy, wants to put real controls on Wall Street, raise wages and benefits and do things like pre-K and paid sick leave and paid family leave.

This is exactly what the doctor ordered for the United States of America. And she has proven that she can do what has to be done on the national stage, even the international stage. That`s a great hand to play.

And Tuesday night, I saw that passion and that sharpness that I think you`re going to see more and more of as we go forward in the campaign. My answer is the vision is there. Say it loud. Say it proud. And I think it`s going to break through to people.

MATTHEWS: It`s hard to compete with Senator Sanders, because if you`re 20 years old and your only experience with capitalism is the big debt you owe, that`s the only thing you know about capitalism: I owe a lot of money because I went to school. I went to Michigan State. I went to Michigan. I went to Madison, Berkeley, wherever. I went to New York State University, and I have -- or the state schools -- and I owe a ton of money.

One of the -- the way that Bernie Sanders, Senator Sanders, says he will pay for free state tuition at all state universities and colleges is with a 50-cent tax on every $100 of stock purchases. What will that do?

You`re the New York mayor. You have got those as your tax base. What would be the impact in the city of that tax?

DE BLASIO: Well, look, I think the bottom line here is the college affordability issue just has to be addressed. I think Hillary has a very coherent plan for to get at it starting right away, not necessarily trying to reach a tax that might be very, very difficult to achieve, but right now, things we can do that would help make college more affordable and reduce some of the burden that people are facing.

Look, I think the bottom line on all taxation issues, we have to change the national discussion to recognize it`s time to tax the wealthy more.


MATTHEWS: OK, but what do you do? You got to answer this question. He wants 50 cents on every $100 of stock purchased.

I`m not defending the super rich, but if you retire on a 401(k) or you have got a mutual fund and you have to go out and buy stock, that`s the only to really save your money in an inflationary period, is the market.

So if you go out and buy anything in equity, this is going to be a tax on you, the retiree at 65. I`m just wondering how is that is a redistributed thing. It does redistribute money from the retiring age group, perhaps, down to the people in college. Maybe that`s a good thing in itself, but it does tax people who invest in the stock market.

Is that a good thing for New York City, where the stock market is?


DE BLASIO: It`s obviously a mixed bag, but I think the fact -- the question is, which taxes on the wealthy are most likely to get moved right away? It`s closing the carried interest loophole on the hedge funds.


DE BLASIO: It`s the Buffett rule.


MATTHEWS: By the way, why can`t they get that passed, getting rid of carried interest? Why...


DE BLASIO: Oh, I think it could get passed.

This is -- Chris, this is exactly the point. I actually think that`s the kind of thing that could get passed in 2017 in the United States of America, because I think people are so fed up. And notion that the hedge funders set a set of tax rules for themselves different from everyone else, that`s not going to fly.

Even Trump is saying it. And I think the Buffett rule, especially because it`s called the Buffett rule, says a wealthy person should not pay a lower tax rate than their secretary or the clerk in their office. That actually could have legs. These are two pillars of Hillary`s platform.

But the kind of anger and frustration you see on both sides of the aisle today could actually lead to real change on income inequality. And this campaign, the whole thing, the whole national debate, I actually think is moving us in that direction.

But my strong belief is, Hillary is the person who can take that anger and frustration and put into action most effectively.

MATTHEWS: You know what I think is the hardest thing in the world? To catch hold of that really big, exponential wealth you and I know about, where people make billions and billions of dollars through moving money around. They don`t build things. They move money around.

They`re not guys -- they`re Henry Ford. You know, they`re not Edison. They`re just making money off money by the zillions. How do you tax that? That`s what I don`t know how to do yet.

Anyway, thank you.

DE BLASIO: Well, by starting with closing the carried interest loophole on the hedge funders would be a great start. I think there would be incredible support across the spectrum for that one.

MATTHEWS: Please come back tonight after the debate. I want to hear your call on the debate tonight.

And I know you`re for Hillary, but I`m sure you will be incisive in judging who won.

Thank you, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City.

DE BLASIO: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: We`re going to talk again with him, the mayor, after the debate tonight.

Up next, Bernie Sanders is calling for a revolution. That`s his word, political revolution. Can he do a better job than President Obama bringing Americans and their government actually together, meaning, will government work for the people? Can he, this guy, make Congress do what he wants them to? They have tried before.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.




SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The question is, there is a huge gap right now between Congress and the American people. The presidential leadership is about is closing that gap.

KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And you don`t think President Obama has successfully closed that gap?

SANDERS: No, I don`t. I mean, I think he has made the effort, but I think what we need, when I talk about a political revolution, is bringing millions and millions of people into the political process, in a way that does not exist right now.



That was Bernie Sanders, of course. We`re going to know these people in a couple of weeks. Today with MSNBC`s Kasie Hunt, questioning President Obama`s leadership -- that`s tricky business -- and suggesting he would be more effective at bringing people together.

Hillary Clinton`s campaign aides pounced on Sanders` comments. No surprise there. As I mentioned earlier, Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon tweeted the idea of Bernie Sanders who has little to show for his 25 years in Congress giving leadership lectures to President Obama is absurd.

Another Clinton aide, Josh Schwerin, tweeted, "Personally I`m proud of my president, thinking he doesn`t get the credit he deserves."

Is this the line of attack we will see from Hillary Clinton tonight when she faces Bernie Sanders in their fifth debate?

Joining me now at the HARDBALL roundtable, Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, Anne Gearan, correspondent for "The Washington Post", Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer with "The Washington Post."

You know, when I was with Jimmy Carter, writing speeches for him when I was in politics, as we traveled around the country on our last legs, we would go to black churches. And it was almost like the only audience we could find Cornell that were still with Carter.

When you say the Democratic base is African-American, you`re not kidding. It`s the heart of the Democrats. It started probably with FDR, was built up by Kennedy and Johnson after the civil rights fights and when the blacks, your parents all gave up on the Republican Party of Lincoln, because they weren`t as good on the issues that matter most.

So, when the Democrats fight over, two white people basically here, Hillary and Sanders, who gets the black vote. It`s all about Carter now. It`s all about Obama now.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right, it is. That`s why you`ve seen in all of the debates, Hillary Clinton has clung to the president like a life preserver. I wrote a one piece. If she held him any closer, they`d have to share a cigarette. And she`s doing it for --

MATTHEWS: Good thinking.

CAPEHART: I`m not telling you. But they are, but she wants to make it clear to the Democratic Party, to the Democratic Party base and to African- Americans in particular that he is our president, I work for him and I am going to protect the legacy.

And that clip that you just played of Bernie Sanders saying what he said.

MATTHEWS: Anne, why would he walk right into that --

CAPEHART: That`s terrible.

MATTHEWS: -- what do you call it, the wedge?

ANNE GEARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it does look like he sort of walked into it.

MATTHEWS: He may want to. He is a revolution guy.

GEARAN: Well, right, and actually, to continue your point, the very thing that Hillary Clinton says is, Bernie Sanders would blow up the things that Barack Obama has done for you, has done for all Americans.

MATTHEWS: Is that fair?

GEARAN: In some cases, she is actually technically right. He would stop the Affordable Care Act and start over, for example.

MATTHEWS: Would there be a pause, would there be any heath care for those 19 people that haven`t gotten it?

GEARAN: You would think he would have to come up with a proposal, right? But his proposal calls for stopping one thing and starting another. So, she is technically right on a couple of points like that.

But her larger message and point there is, you know, this is never going to happen. This is silly. Why would you risk blowing up stopping the progress that President Obama has given you?

CAPEHART: Republican Congress that he would --


MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about Hillary Clinton. There is not much time.

Pretend you`re Mickey in the corner with Rocky, OK? Remember the guy with the towel over his shoulder? He`s got to tell Hillary how to put her dukes up. She did well in the last debate, but she didn`t win. She was good as she`s been, as good as she`s been, maybe at her best. She`s got to be a little more a lyrical, a little more inspiriting.

CAPEHART: Inspiring.

MATTHEWS: Inspiring, I`m working for that word. Inspiring.

CAPEHART: Authentic.

MATTHEWS: Well, OK, go ahead.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: But here`s part of the issue. Bernie Sanders gave the Clintons an opening today which he should not have given them, because folks back in 2010 going into the election cycle, the number one criticism of Democrats by African-Americans was is they didn`t have the president`s back. I think you`re going to hear her talk tonight about how she has had the president`s back and that`s going to resonates with the African-American voters.

But let`s also understand, she does need to reboot her messaging, she does need to reboot her campaign, because when she is talking about how, you know, her primary message is that she is pragmatic, she is the one who can get in there and take on the issues and leadership from day one, that`s deja vu, Chris, all over again. We heard that in 2008.

MATTHEWS: Yes, every time I think she doesn`t have the skills to win a presidential election. I look at, she does have some certain, really good skills. As a courtroom lawyer, top of her class, I`m sure.

When she was in the debate, the first, the debate when she loaded for bear. In that 11 hours before the committee was out to get her, in the house side, she was loaded for bear. She was fabulous. I don`t know whether she is a good tub-thumper, you know, the kind of Ted Kennedy of tub-thumping. I`m here to get you riled up. I`m here to get you excited.

I`m not sure that`s her forte, but there is another way around that. Jimmy Carter, who won the presidency out of nowhere, instead of going to those rallies after he won the primary, would sit down with the anchors and have a calm conversation, introduce himself. That`s a better format.

But then again, I`m not Mickey in the corner here. I`m thinking what might work.

Roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these people are going to tell me something I don`t know. By the way, this tell me something, they should write them down. They have been so good here. And tonight is going to be better.

CAPEHART: Yes, wait until you hear mine.

MATTHEWS: When you hear this stuff, you just never heard it before, it`s always news.

Back with the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, join me at 11:00 tonight Eastern Time, when I`ll be back with a special edition of HARDBALL, right after the Democratic debate. I think it`s going to get hot tonight. We`re going to have the night`s key moments, plus top reporting and analysis on the Clinton and Sanders campaigns, how they did tonight. We`ll know by 11:00. And that`s 11:00 here on the place for politics, MSNBC. And I`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Anne, tell me something I don`t know.

GEARAN: Well, all the focus is on South Carolina, but Nevada votes first for the Democrats. It`s a really pitch battle and Hillary Clinton`s forces are worried about it. They`re sending some reinforcements this weekend. House caucus chair Xavier Becerra is going to be out there doing caucus training, phone banks.

MATTHEWS: Twenty-some percent is the Hispanic voters are out there. Big vote.

GEARAN: Yes, the Hispanic vote and union workers, caucus state --

MATTHEWS: Talk diversity. That`s a diverse state.


MATTHEWS: Jonathan?

CAPEHART: OK, do we have the picture?

There`s a picture that Bernie Sanders supporters are sending around. This picture right here that they`re sending around trying to say that he`s been in the trenches fighting for us, fighting for civil rights -- that`s not Bernie Sanders. That`s Bruce Rappaport, a fellow student activist at University of --


MATTHEWS: Are they saying this is Bernie?

CAPEHART: His supporters are saying it. The Bernie Sanders campaign, Tumblr feed has that picture. His introductory video has that picture. When I reached out to Tad Devine to ask, you know, OK, what`s up with this? He gave me this long statement but the key point was, to be honest, we`re not 100 percent sure.

MATTHEWS: They are billing it. They`re captioning it him. Yes.


BELCHER: How can I follow that?


BELCHER: So, Rick Wade (ph) was one of the masterminds of Obama South Carolina strategy to help with African-Americans. He put together the beauty shop and barbershop salon strategy. He`s now on the ground unofficially for Hillary Clinton. OK, it`s more of the Obama --

MATTHEWS: She`s going to do barbershops?


MATTHEWS: OK, great, thank you very much. That`s news. It`s fine. That`s the latest.

Thank you, Cornell Belcher, Anne and Jonathan.

When we return let me finish tonight as we enter the political valley of death, otherwise known as the Republican South Carolina primary. It`s going to be onerous.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight as we enter the political valley of death otherwise known as the Republican South Carolina primary.

I cannot forget the experience of following John McCain into that state 16 years ago. He had just upset George W. Bush in New Hampshire showing a tremendous amount of character. One of the highlights heading into South Carolina was our own big college tour at Clemson University hosting McCain there in the big student assembly hall.

It`s like being in a rock concert. The young people were thrilled to be in same room with the young man who served and sacrificed so deeply for his country. It was a rollicking night filled with optimism about McCain`s chances.

Then, it came. The dirty campaign tactics to destroy all the hopes of a positive competition for the voters` loyalty. There were rumors put out about Mrs. McCain, rumors about their adopted daughter, all but pure dirt, the kind that should leave a permanent mark on those who threw it.

Unfortunately, there are situations where dirt sells. Voters have gotten so used it that they consider it part of the jumble of politics. So, here it comes. A season of dirt ball in South Carolina follows a couple of examples of it out there in Iowa where people received official-looking documents warning them to attend the caucuses and bad stories that Dr. Ben Carson was getting out of the race.

I sadly predict we`ll see more of these sewer tactics and hope only that amid the outcry that voters punish not the target of dirt, but the hand they spot throwing it.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.