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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 2/22/2016

Guests: Tim Mak, D. Taylor, Sue Lowden, Cornell Belcher

Show: HARDBALL Date: February 22, 2016 Guest: Tim Mak, D. Taylor, Sue Lowden, Cornell Belcher

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Place your bets, Trump or the resistance!

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews out in Las Vegas again. I`ve been here a while, haven`t I.

Anyway, Republicans woke up Sunday with an undeniable reality. Donald Trump`s the clear front-runner now for their party`s nomination. Trump, celebrated, of course, his big win in South Carolina. Here he is.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We won with everything! We won with women! I love the women! We won with evangelicals. Like, unbelievable.


TRUMP: We won with the military. We won with highly educated, pretty well educated and poorly educated. But we won with everything, tall people, short people, fat people, skinny people just (ph) won (ph)

Every time they do polls -- like, CNN did a big poll -- when it comes to security, when it comes to ISIS, when it comes to the military, every single category I`m leading, like, by a lot.

The only category I do badly in is my personality. And that`s OK. Who cares? And you know what? You want to know something? I`m a better person than the people I`m running against. I see it. Let me tell you.



MATTHEWS: I`ve never heard anybody talk about the poorly educated.

Anyway, next up for the Republicans, Nevada. Trump leads big here, according to the latest poll, which has -- was taken before the South Carolina primary. The CNN/ORC poll has Trump at 45 percent here in Nevada, the Silver State. We`re going to learn those things. Marco Rubio comes in second at 19 -- that`s pretty far back -- followed closely, as often, by Ted Cruz, who`s always on his back.

Anyway, in Massachusetts -- here`s one that`ll grab you. A new poll shows an even bigger Trump lead up there in the supposedly liberal Massachusetts. Trump`s at 50 percent, 5-0, according to the latest Emerson College poll out today. Rubio is a distant second, I think well distant. Trump also leads recent polls in Michigan, Oklahoma, Georgia, Vermont and Virginia.

I`m joined right now by NBC`s Katy Tur and Hallie Jackson, also Jon Ralston back -- he`s crossed the country twice now in about three hours -- Jon Ralston, the host of "Ralston Live." He`s an MSNBC political analyst and knows everything about Vegas. Back in Washington, Robert Costa joins us. He`s national political reporter for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC analyst, as well.

Anyway, the Republican Party`s reacting now to the news of Trump`s dominance in different ways. For some, they are pushing resistance. Henry Barbour -- he`s obviously the nephew of Haley Barbour -- a member of the Republican National Committee, told "The New York Times," quote, "After Trump has won in New Hampshire and South Carolina, Republicans are crazy and are about to blow the White House if we don`t rally to stop him," close quote.

Well, today, Marco Rubio made the case for why the party needed to nominate him.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can`t win -- if we nominate someone -- if we nominate someone that half of the Republican Party hates, we`re going to be fighting against each other all the way to November. We will never win that way.

We can`t -- I don`t care how much you may think they`re funny or how interesting they may sound. If we nominate someone that 40 to 50 percent of our party doesn`t -- can`t stand, we are going to lose.


MATTHEWS: Katy Tur, that sounded -- I mean, I don`t know what he`s thinking. I never know what all of these guys are thinking, but he sounded desperate, like, We`ve got a leak in the dike, we got to stop this thing.

KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, which is the case right now. Donald Trump has more delegates than anybody. He won all 50 (ph) delegates in South Carolina. He`s got a strong lead going into super-Tuesday both in the northern liberal states and in the Southern conservative states. His support is crossing wide swaths of the party. It`s not just the evangelicals. It`s the moderates, as well. He has 100 percent name recognition...


MATTHEWS: ... as he said.

TUR: The tall, the short...

MATTHEWS: Did you hear that?

TUR: ... the fat, the skinny, he said that, as well.

MATTHEWS: The poorly educated.

TUR: Poorly educated. He said...

MATTHEWS: That was an amazing statement.

TUR: He can say whatever he wants and his supporters don`t mind.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but of course, that -- let`s get back to the fight about what that means. Is he anywhere near 50 percent, which you need to be to win the nomination?

TUR: As of now, he is near 50 percent. He`s going to needs to gain supporters...


TUR: ... not just maintain...

MATTHEWS: Will he go up to 50 percent nationally?

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Wins raise the ceiling, right?

MATTHEWS: OK. Do you think he`s headed that way?

JACKSON: I don`t know. Could be.


MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) Hallie Jackson (INAUDIBLE) Another wing of the party seems to be putting its hands up. They`re not all resisting and accepting the Trump -- the fact that he could very well win the nomination.

Here`s Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, one of the top guys in the establishment. Here he is today talking about Trump`s perhaps inevitability. Here he is.

Well, we have Kevin McCarthy. Yes, we had him a minute ago. This is live.

Anyway, Jon, Kevin McCarthy`s one who has stuck his head up and said it looks like Trump, basically.

JON RALSTON, "RALSTON LIVE," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it does look like Trump, doesn`t, unless Cruz or Rubio can draw straws or something and decide to get out. Neither of them look like that kind of guy, right, who`s going to get out. You got Kasich and Carson hanging around to take enough of the vote to make sure that Trump`s going to win all of these states. And no one can figure it out.

He is, oh, by the way -- you mentioned this -- he`s the only guy I`ve ever seen in a speech read poll crosstabs. That`s what he did -- "poorly educated." Who does that?

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) how people vote.


MATTHEWS: Let`s go look at this speech or statement by Kevin McCarthy, the number two guy in the House.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I think there`s more a 50 percent chance he`s the nominee. And I think that`s what`s setting in for a lot of people. Could they get their heads around Trump if he were the nominee?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Trump were the nominee, do you think you can work with Donald Trump?

MCCARTHY: Oh, yes, I think I can work with Donald Trump.


MATTHEWS: Wow. You just heard -- let me go to Robert Costa at "The Washington Post." How do you see this now? Is the resistance growing to Trump that it could actually overpower him still?

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the establishment here in Washington is warming to the idea of a Trump nomination. It`s something they don`t necessarily welcome, but this is a transactional business and they also realize that they have to get ready for it.

And so you see on Capitol Hill few endorsements for Trump from senators or congressmen, very few, none from the Senate. But at the same time, there`s communication between the Trump campaign and Capitol Hill aides. There`s a growing rapport across the elite of the party as they look to Trump as someone who just could do it.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about the establishment of the Republican Party, which I`ve been watching all my life. They always seem to win. I mean, there was the exception, of course, with Goldwater back in `64, which turned out to be a catastrophe. But it always seems that the Mitt Romneys and the East Coast types always end up winning the fights. Whether the Bushes, or whoever they are, they always end up in the end with the money and the ability to really blow away anybody who dares challenge them.

You think this time, you can see it now, that Trump can beat what`s left of that establishment, having knocked off Bush, knocked off, well, a whole bunch of these guys now at this point? We thought Walker could be a nominee. He`s gone. Rick Perry`s gone. Jindal`s gone. Kasich`s still there. You know, Carson`s not really a factor anymore. I hate to say that of anybody, but he isn`t a factor anymore.

So is there an establishment that it will go to Rubio? Is that happening or not?

COSTA: Historically, I think your narrative works well if you`re thinking about the establishment versus an ideological conservative. Usually, the establishment favorite has won those battles in past nomination fights.

But with Trump, you`re not really having a traditional conservative ideologue like you had with Senator Cruz right now in this race or you`ve had with conservatives in the past. So the establishment sees Trump as someone who`s more moderate on social issues who they could work with privately and publicly on politics, on legislation.

And so they don`t necessarily see him as a total outsider who wants to change the way the party thinks and move it far to the right.

MATTHEWS: If you had to call it right now, Robert, would you say that the establishment has begun to crumble?

CRUZ: I think the establishment donor class has begun to crumble. They`re searching for Rubio, trying to get some momentum there. But the establishment in terms of the official elected leadership of the Republican Party, when you look at McCarthy, they`re starting to wrap theirselves around the idea of Trump, holding back on an endorsement.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at the other people in the party right now. Ted Cruz, who in many ways has been the runner-up all along, today asked for the resignation of his own communications director, Rick Tyler, who`s been on HARDBALL many times. It came after Tyler posted a link to a story that said Rubio, Marco Rubio, joked about the Bible with a Cruz staffer.

This is video of the incident itself. The Rubio camp says the Web site misquoted the candidate. Anyway, Senator Rubio reacted strongly this morning, saying the episode fit a pattern to the Cruz campaign.


RUBIO: Every single day, something comes out of the Cruz campaign that`s deceptive and untrue, and in this case, goes after my faith. This is a pattern now, and I think we`re now at a point where we start asking about accountability. You talk about the VA, where people who aren`t doing their job need to be fire? Well, who`s going to be fired when Ted Cruz is president? Because this campaign now has repeatedly done things that they have to apologize for and no one`s ever held accountable.

QUESTION: Are you actually saying someone should be fired (INAUDIBLE)

RUBIO: I`m saying someone -- at some point, there has to be some level of accountability.


MATTHEWS: Well, after Cruz announced he had asked for Tyler`s resignation, Donald Trump jumped in with a storm of tweets. First he posted, "Wow. Ted Cruz falsely suggested Marco Rubio mocked the bible and was just forced to fire his communications director. More dirty tricks."

Trump added in a separate tweet, "Ted Cruz has been playing an ad about me that is so ridiculously false, no basis in fact. Take ad down, Ted. Biggest liar in politics." That`s Trump on Cruz.

In another Trump tweet, Trump wrote, quote, "Just saw the phony ad by Cruz. Totally false. More dirty tricks. He got caught in so many lies. Is this man crazy?

Hallie Jackson, you cover Cruz.


MATTHEWS: What about the -- what about we`re on the Strip here. What about this recurrent notion -- I share it, the belief in this notion -- that Cruz has this tendency to throw in some dirty stuff?

JACKSON: So I think that what you saw with Cruz today, when it came to asking for the resignation of Rick Tyler, was a way to not just be able to have Ted Cruz stand up and say, Look, I`m a man of integrity, I`m running a campaign of integrity, but a way to try to close the book on this line of attack that not just Donald Trump is pushing, but that Marco Rubio, as well, has been constantly talking about.

MATTHEWS: Well, is Cruz going to stop the tricks?

JACKSON: Well, I think that he wants to run a campaign...


JACKSON: ... above that. And I think that`s why you saw him ask for essentially a little bit of a sacrificial lamb in the resignation of Tyler.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but this is such a pattern of this, of just a pattern. You know, all of a sudden, you know, Carson`s out of the race, they say. The put out the word Carson`s out of the race. They did this little number where they sent out some official-looking document (INAUDIBLE) get people that aren`t so sophisticated to go out to the caucuses who normally wouldn`t go.

They`re putting out -- it just seems there`s always this thing of -- they`ve always got something out there that people go, Wait a minute, that smells.

JACKSON: And Trump sort of touched on it today (INAUDIBLE) he talked about, you know, Cruz knocking (ph) -- or offering an apology to Marco Rubio, offering apology also to Ben Carson a couple of weeks ago that there has been this pattern. And as we all know, Trump has this way of kind of getting to the heart of some of the vulnerabilities of these campaigns.

MATTHEWS: I think (INAUDIBLE) let`s not miss the chance here to talk about dirty tricks. This guy Sanford, who`s got all kinds of problems -- we`ve been putting him on. I don`t know why. We`ve been putting him on, let`s put it that way.

He comes out and accuses Trump of being a truther -- in other words, one of the rely wacky people out there that believes that George W. Bush had a plunger and blew up the World Trade Center. That`s crazy talk. Trump, as wild as he`s been, has never been a truther.

And then they get -- they get Sanford out there to do the dirty work for them.


MATTHEWS: I`m not giving a free pass, have I?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s not the victim in this -- in this...


MATTHEWS: Is he a truther?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don`t think he`s a truther but...

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s stick to one point at a time here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... Ted Cruz is the only one with...


MATTHEWS: I`m not giving a pass.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... is not necessarily...

MATTHEWS: I`m not giving a pass. I`m saying that Cruz is engaging in dirty tricks, when you put out the word that a guy`s a truther when it`s so ridiculously untrue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here`s -- here`s one thing that I would point out is that often, when we`re talking about these things, it`s not the Cruz campaign directly. And I think you made this point. It`s Mark Sanford...

MATTHEWS: Fish rots from the top.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know. It`s a surrogate. But it`s the super-PAC, right, it`s the...


MATTHEWS: ... you`re laughing -- non-coordination. That`ll be a first.

RALSTON: Can I catch up real quickly?


RALSTON: About someone that Robert was referring to (INAUDIBLE) breakdown (ph) there probably not watching MSNBC, Sheldon Adelson, the establishment. He has not weighed in. He`s a Rubio guy. He could have...

MATTHEWS: Why hasn`t Rubio been able to woo him yet?

RALSTON: Yes, but I don`t think -- I don`t think he thinks Rubio is strong enough. I think he thinks Rubio`s...


MATTHEWS: Who`s he got if he doesn`t have Rubio?

RALSTON: His wife likes Cruz, supposedly. I think they`re torn in the family. His wife has a lot of influence on...


MATTHEWS: That`s been going on for weeks.

RALSTON: Yes, exactly. He could put...


MATTHEWS: ... something about Trump not being -- we agree he`s not a truther. Go on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I agree he`s not a truther. But what I`m saying is that -- Ted Cruz has certainly been the focus, the laser focus (INAUDIBLE) of a lot of this dirty tricks stuff over the past few weeks, especially after Iowa. And certainly, there has been some shady stuff going on in the campaign about what sort of ads are getting put out and what sort of robocalls are out there and whatnot. But Donald Trump has not run a clean campaign.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) I know he says stuff...


MATTHEWS: Does he ever do it -- go ahead, Robert.

COSTA: There`s another angle...

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) there`s one guy deals below the surface. The other guy does it on television.

COSTA: The angle is Carson. The biggest burden on Cruz`s campaign going into super-Tuesday are those 10 percent of voters, the Carson voters, who are still unhappy with the Cruz campaign. And if Carson drops out after Nevada, Cruz has to find a way to get those 10 percent over. And so this move today with Tyler is a signal of reassurance to them.

MATTHEWS: Are they trying to get Carson to drop out?

COSTA: They`re not trying to get Carson to drop out, but they want Carson out of the race, or if not out of the race, they need to bleed his support or else he doesn`t consolidate conservatives on the right.

MATTHEWS: Something`s going on. Look, Trump is riding high right now. Rubio seems to declare victory, no matter what place he finishes. He`s gone what, 3, 5, 2, and somehow, that becomes 3, 2, 1. I don`t know how he translates that.

But Cruz is a hard guy to read right now. What is his future right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So the path to victory for him -- when you talk about his strategy -- and his campaign has come out from his top strategist with a memo kind of outlining all this. They believe that they can hammer the argument that Ted Cruz is the only person who has actually beaten Donald Trump, who`s gotten a number up on Trump on the scoreboard.

They have to do well. I think it`s hard to oversell how important super- Tuesday is to Ted Cruz`s campaign. He has...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... well in the primary states.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He certainly hopes so, is what he told Chuck Todd on "MEET THE PRESS"...


MATTHEWS: ... win your own state.

RALSTON: ... he`s done, right, he can`t lose to Trump in Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s hard to see a path. If he...


MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about today. Let`s talk about -- oh, I`m sorry - - tomorrow.


MATTHEWS: Let`s assume Trump wins tomorrow night here, all right? What`s that do for his campaign?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it -- it`s a caucus, so it doesn`t matter as much when it comes to delegates as the other primary states.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But -- go ahead, Jon.

RALSTON: No, you hurt me with the caucus...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m sorry! I`m sorry! No, but...


MATTHEWS: Have democracy (INAUDIBLE) Spend some money and have a primary!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It adds to the sense of inevitability, and it sort of gives him more momentum. It shows that he`s not only won New Hampshire and South Carolina, but he also has won Nevada. He is doing well in the polling in the Southern states, well in the polling in the Northern states right now. He does well with the evangelicals, the group that Ted Cruz was supposed to sweep in South Carolina.

So Donald Trump is the nominee -- how do I put it? Give me the right words, I`m blanking...

MATTHEWS: The guy -- the guy...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... almost the inevitable nominee.


MATTHEWS: By the way, no matter what happens tomorrow night, after midnight, I predict that Marco Rubio will declare victory.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you very much, Katy Tur. Thank you, Hallie Jackson. Thank you, Ron Ralston -- Ron -- Jon Ralston. And Robert Costa who`s back in Washington.

Coming up -- fresh off her win here Saturday, Hillary Clinton is looking for a decisive victory over Bernie Sanders down in South Carolina. She looks very good down there. Can Clinton forge a message to get people excited, however, about her campaign? She`s got great organization, great name ID. She needs, I think, a message.

By the way, can she learn the Bern? Can she put Sanders`s policies to work for her to put him away? That would be great politics.

And a reminder, we will have complete coverage of tomorrow night`s Republican caucuses out here in Nevada. Tomorrow night, join me at 7:00 Eastern for a special edition of HARDBALL out here. And then at 10:00 Eastern, I`ll join Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow, of course, with full results and analysis late into the night out here.

And this is HARDBALL live from Las Vegas -- well, this week, at least, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We reported earlier the outlook for the Republican primary in Massachusetts. But now we`ve got a look at the Democratic race. This will surprise you. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

Voters go to the polls there a week from tomorrow up in Massachusetts. Look at this. It`s a tie between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders up there, 46 points all. But Hillary Clinton could handily -- actually, she beat Barack Obama back there in 2008. This is going to be fascinating to watch in the Bay State.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Las Vegas, on the eve of Nevada`s Republican caucuses tomorrow.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton bounced back, of course, with a much-needed victory right here on Saturday, blunting the momentum of Bernie Sanders as the race turns to South Carolina, and, of course, Super Tuesday, eight days from now, believe it or not. We have 11 contests.

Clinton was able to assemble a winning Democratic coalition out here, beating Sanders among African-Americans, women, among women, and voters from union households, so, unions, women, African-Americans. When it comes to the issues that only lag behind Sanders among Democrats who said income inequality was their top concern. So, Sanders almost doubled Clinton`s share of the vote among young people, 65 percent to 33 percent.

That`s a bad sign for Clinton and a good one for Bernie. Income inequality, of course, has been the centerpiece of the Sanders phenomenon, but Clinton has tried to adapt and refine elements of the message within her own campaign.

She`s borrowed from Bernie. In her victory speech, she spoke about the numerous economic barriers she intends to tear down if she`s elected.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is a campaign to break down every barrier that holds you back. We need more than a plan for the big banks. The middle class needs a raise. And we need more jobs.


CLINTON: We also have to do more to make it easier for parents to balance work and family. If you left college with a ton of loans, it`s not enough just to make college more affordable. You need help right now with the debt you already have.

America can only live up to its potential when each and every American has the chance to live up to your potential, too.


MATTHEWS: That was a pretty good speech.

In a news conference today, Bernie Sanders says that Clinton has been inching closer to his platform -- I believe that completely -- ever since the race began. Here he is.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have to say, that I am delighted that Secretary Clinton month after month after month seems to be adopting more and more of the positions that we have advocated.

That`s good -- and, in fact, is beginning to use a lot of the language and phraseology that we have used. In fact, I think I saw her TV ad, and I thought it was me.


SANDERS: But it turned out it was Secretary Clinton`s picture in the ad.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki, as well as Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher.

Thank you, gentlemen, for joining us.

I got to start with Steve here, because I have been chatting with him. And I have to tell you, I think Bernie Sanders is dead right. Hillary Clinton is trying to learn the Bern.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and the numbers we`re seeing in these first three contests also point to something that`s happened over the last eight years during the Obama presidency, and that is the Democratic electorate over the last eight years has gotten a lot more liberal.

MATTHEWS: Yes. And the word socialist is fine with most people.


KORNACKI: That`s right. We have seen this in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada. You ask people now vs. eight years ago, you`re seeing double-digit increases.

MATTHEWS: But is Hillary sitting there thinking, you know what, this is working? First of all, student loans, it`s a reality. It`s not a philosophy issue. If you get burnt by student loans, you have to pay six figures, $200,000, all through your 20s, into your 30s. You have an attitude about capitalism. You`re a debtor.

KORNACKI: But you`re seeing, of course...

MATTHEWS: She has to address that issue.

KORNACKI: Well, and her weakest group, though, right now is people under 30, the young.

MATTHEWS: Well, she hasn`t figured out the message. He says free tuition at the great universities, great state...

KORNACKI: And she`s not talking about that.

MATTHEWS: And she`s offering lower interest rates.

KORNACKI: But I think she has -- I think three weaknesses have emerged for Hillary Clinton in these early states.

One is young voters. Another is political independents. He`s winning with independents who show up. But the other one -- this is the inverse of what we saw in `08 -- working-class white voters. In 2008, they stuck with her all the way.

MATTHEWS: Well, because she was running against an African-American.


KORNACKI: She`s putting together...

MATTHEWS: That aspect of things was a factor.


KORNACKI: In a lot of ways, she`s putting together the Obama coalition.

MATTHEWS: I`m sorry to blow your mind and kill your naivete. I`m just kidding here.

But, obviously, among working-class whites, these issues matter. They matter.

Go ahead, your thoughts, Cornell. Hillary Clinton did better among working-class whites when she`s running against Barack Hussein Obama. How is she doing now against an older, a professor type, who seems very unthreatening, very likable, if you will, and who seems to have the message directed at them? we`re going to make sure you don`t have that big load of debt on you.



In `08, there was a lot of talk about working-class Democrats sticking with Hillary Clinton, white Democrats sticking with Hillary Clinton and whether it was going to be a problem for Barack Obama to win them back. In 2008, it wasn`t a problem.

He in fact won, galvanized the Democratic base. But what Hillary Clinton`s campaign is doing right now is really smart. They`re not letting an inch of difference in between her and Bernie on central -- progressive or liberal issues, which is smart, so he can`t draw a contrast. So she will stick close to him.


MATTHEWS: I disagree with you. No, no, that`s totally defense, Cornell.

Look, he`s out there selling public option now. Medicare for life. And she`s saying, no, we can`t do that. We can`t do it now.

BELCHER: But the contrast is, she`s not letting him draw a hard contrast on whether or not she`s going to be fighting for the middle class, and whether or not she`s going to be fighting for college affordability.

They may have different ways of getting there. And then she could make the argument that, quite frankly, her way of getting there is more realistic. But she`s certainly not going to allow him to have that space where he`s the one fighting for the middle class, he`s the one fighting for equality. Her message...


BELCHER: ... about tearing down the walls, barrier for middle-class people, I think, it`s pretty good.

MATTHEWS: Cornell, if Bernie Sanders hasn`t been able to draw a contrast with Hillary Clinton, why is he doing so well, a guy -- most people never heard of this fellow before this year.

BELCHER: Well, she has won two of the states.

But there is this. Bernie Sanders is a vehicle for an anti-establishment, a want for change that is on the left. In fact, I would argue, Chris, that it started on the left before it was on the right by a guy, the rise of Howard Dean. And Obama took advantage of that as well.

There`s also anti-establishment on the left that is also very powerful.

MATTHEWS: What did you make of his appearance in that black supper the other night, where people seemed to be more interested in just having their meal and ignoring him?

BELCHER: It`s a real problem, Chris. I tell you this. If you cannot compete for the African-American vote -- and I`m going to be a little different than a lot of my colleagues on the campaign have been about this.

MATTHEWS: Yes, we`re watching it now.

BELCHER: Barack Obama sealed the deal in South Carolina.

When he won and African-American voters broke heavily for him in South Carolina, the die was cast. She was not going to be the nominee. If you look at the states and look at just, disproportionately, African-Americans make up the primary electorate in these states, if she cannot compete with her among African-Americans, he`s not going to be the Democratic nominee.

The African-Americans will, for better or worse, have a big say in who`s going to be the Democratic nominee from this day forward.

MATTHEWS: You know, let me go back to Steve.

He even reminded me of the way I felt at parties over the years. You go to a party, you don`t know anybody, you sort of wander around. You hold a drink in your hand, you don`t know what to do. This poor guy Bernie, he was at a loss with this group of people he didn`t know.

KORNACKI: Well, that`s never been his style of campaigning either, walking into the room, hugging, shaking hands.

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t do the tables.

KORNACKI: No, he`s not a glad-handler.

He gets in front of the room, he has his speech that he`s been giving for 40 years. He`s usually speaking to the converted. He fires them up. It`s a completely different style of campaigning that he`s allergic to.

MATTHEWS: Yes. But most politicians have to find a way past that allergy. They have to find a way to go door to door, person to person, or else they don`t win.

KORNACKI: He does. No, he does. And he clearly has a lot more work to do there, although I will say, if you look at the Bernie Sanders of today and you look at the Bernie Sanders of a year ago, when this started, he`s come a long way in terms of...

This was a guy at the start of the campaign who had contempt for any personal questions.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go back.

Let`s go to Cornell first and then I will go back to Steve.

Come the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this coming summer -- believe it or not, it`s coming -- will you hear a lot of Bernie, even if he`s not -- if he`s not the nominee or is the nominee, will you hear a lot of Bernie discussed in the platform on the speeches starting the four days of that convention? Will he be there evident in flesh, as well as in spirit?

BELCHER: I think if you see continue to have success in some of these states or at least run close in some of these states, you have got to give him a voice during that convention, because he does bring in youth, he does bring in some energy that she will absolutely need.

MATTHEWS: And, Steve, on the particulars, on what to do with student loans, what to do with health care, how advanced we get with the terms going into a public option, how we deal with the problem of Social Security retirement benefits being just too low for people to live on?

KORNACKI: Yes, I`m surprised we haven`t seen the public option one yet.

The specifics of the platform, I don`t think, are necessarily going to be written by Bernie Sanders, but the themes of the platform are going to be written by Bernie Sanders.

MATTHEWS: The directions. I`m with you. I think the directions.

Cornell, I think Bernie`s setting a direction in the way that Goldwater when he lost -- I`m not saying he`s going to lose. We don`t know what is going to happen. It`s early. But I think he`s already set a lot of themes.

Anyway, Steve Kornacki, Cornell Belcher, sir, thank you both, gentlemen.

Coming up, the 106-year-old, this woman, 106 years old, is so delighted to visit the White House. She actually breaks into a dance there. We`re going to meet Virginia McLaurin up next with the first couple.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, February, of course, is National Black History Month. And President Obama received a very special guest at the White House today, 106-year-old Virginia McLaurin. Let`s watch.




B. OBAMA: How are you?

MCLAURIN: I`m fine.

B. OBAMA: Oh, it`s so nice to see you.

MCLAURIN: It`s an honor. It`s an honor.

B. OBAMA: You want to say hi to Michelle?


B. OBAMA: Slow down now. Don`t go too quick. She`s 106!

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: No, you are not. You are not 106.

B. OBAMA: Well, you got to -- you, slow down.

M. OBAMA: Oh, my goodness.

MCLAURIN: Thank you.

M. OBAMA: You are not -- I want to be like you when I grow up.

MCLAURIN: You can.


B. OBAMA: She`s dancing. Come on.

So, what`s the secret to still dancing at 106?

M. OBAMA: Just keep moving.

MCLAURIN: I am so happy.

M. OBAMA: We are happy to have you here. And look at those nails. Whew, those nails.

MCLAURIN: Yes, sir. I thought I would never live to get in the White House.

B. OBAMA: Well, you are right here.

MCLAURIN: And I tell you, I am so happy.

M. OBAMA: We are happy to have you.

MCLAURIN: A black president.

M. OBAMA: Look at him, right there.

MCLAURIN: A black wife.

M. OBAMA: That`s me.



MCLAURIN: And I`m here to celebrate black history.

B. OBAMA: That`s exactly right.

MCLAURIN: Yes. That`s what I`m here for.

B. OBAMA: Well, we`re glad to have you here.

M. OBAMA: You have just made our day. You know that? That energy, man.

MCLAURIN: You made my day.

M. OBAMA: OK. There you go.


MATTHEWS: A wonderful scene of living history, or actually maybe outliving history; 106 is pretty good.

Up next: Fresh off their weekend victories, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton look ahead to their next contests. Republicans in Nevada are voting here tomorrow, and Democrats in South Carolina this weekend. Can these two front-runners pull off a one-two punch?

Wow. You`re watching HARDBALL, live from Las Vegas, the place for politics now.


PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. Here`s what`s happening.

The Uber driver accused of fatally shooting six people over the weekend in Kalamazoo, Michigan, appeared in court earlier. Jason Brian Dalton is charged with six counts of murder. He has been ordered held without bail.

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill has announced she has breast cancer. She says her prognosis is good and she will undergo treatment in Saint Louis for the next three weeks.

And a small plane crashed on a roadway in Pacoima, California, swiping at least two nearby vehicles on the ground. The pilot was uninjured, and no one on the ground was hurt -- and now we`re going to take you back to HARDBALL.


CLINTON: Thank you, Nevada. Thank you so much.


CLINTON: You know, I am so, so thrilled and so grateful to all of my supporters out there. Some may have doubted us, but we never doubted each other.


CLINTON: And this one`s for you.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Hillary Clinton, of course. Why do I have to keep identifying her? Reveling in her victory here Saturday night over Bernie Sanders. Clinton won 53 percent of the vote out here in Nevada to 47 percent for Sanders. But that 6 percent, of course, makes all the difference.

Observers have noted that a phone call from Nevada Senator Harry Reid may have helped tip the balance for Clinton by getting out the important union vote here on the Strip, right as we`re sitting right here, where all the votes are, on caucus day itself.

Anyway, on the Republican side, the five remaining Republicans face off tomorrow night. After Donald Trump scored a resounding win in South Carolina, Trump offered an ominous prediction that, with every GOP dropout, he will be the one to pick up the votes.

Here he is.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A number of the pundits said well, if a couple of the other candidates drop out, if you add their scores together --


They don`t understand that as they drop out, we`ll get the votes.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by the HARDBALL round table. What a mixed bag it is. Sue Lowden is the former Nevada GOP chairwoman, D. Taylor is the president of Unite Here, that`s a very aggressive union, the union represents many hotel, food, service, laundry and casino workers. And Tim Mak is the senior correspondent at "The Daily Beast", he scares me a little bit.

Sue Lowden, is Trump it? Is he the one? Is this already over?

SUE LOWDEN, FORMER NEVADA GOP CHAIRWOMAN: He`s the one in Nevada for sure. I can`t imagine him being defeated.

MATTHEWS: OK. Project beyond these streets.

LOWDEN: Well, I think there`s a very good chance that he`s our nominee.

MATTHEWS: Who could beat him at this point?

LOWDEN: I think Cruz could beat him or Rubio could beat him. It`s possible in the South. We have to watch what the South does.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to Tim Mak on that for an objective view from both sides.

Look at this Trump thing right now. Trump faces the perhaps accumulation of all the wealth in the world on the head of Rubio, because Rubio`s the last gasp of hawks and establishment Republicans. Both groups, the hawks, they always have one in mind, and the establishment. They both need to beat this guy. He`s neither establishment or hawkish.

TIM MAK, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I`m not sure he needs to attack downwards that much. I mean, right now, he`s leading in Nevada. He`s leading in a bunch of other states --

MATTHEWS: Can somebody beat him?

MAK: Of course. He`s most likely to win the nomination by far right now. It`s very difficult to chart out a path for Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz had the unfortunate incident today, his spokesperson resigned, his national spokesperson resigned right before the Nevada caucuses. That`s going to hurt him.

MATTHEWS: Yes, the dirty trick, that phrase was all over the place.

D., let`s talk Democrats. Hillary Clinton?

D. TAYLOR, PRESIDENT, UNITED HERE: She`s in good shape. But don`t underestimate Bernie Sanders. He`s been underestimated the entire time.

MATTHEWS: Who are you for?

TAYLOR: We`re neutral.

MATTHEWS: But you want to make sure you stay neutral, right?

TAYLOR: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: How long are you going to stay neutral?

TAYLOR: We`re staying neutral probably until whoever wins the nomination.

MATTHEWS: Tell me about this ideological thing that kind of amazed me. There`s a new poll out taken by a Republican group that shows most Democrats prefer socialism to capitalism. Those terms don`t mean what they did maybe 40, 50 years ago. Are you surprised that the word" socialism" is favored as strongly as it is among Democrats?

TAYLOR: Yes, I am. I think they`re equating that to income inequality and what`s going on in the country for the last 30 years.

MATTHEWS: I`m surprised people are that hopeful about what government can do, because if you believe in socialism, society can run a pretty decent government, it can provide services, it can regulate the economy effectively. They can do all the jobs they`re supposed to do. And now, we talk about how bad the V.A. is. Something it clearly does run. Yes?

MAK: Yes, I mean, people are just so disillusioned with the current process that they`re willing to hang on to new ideas and new terms. I mean --

MATTHEWS: Socialism being a new idea? Ha!

MAK: Well, the new concept of what socialism --

MATTHEWS: What is it?

MAK: It would look a like the V.A., I think.

TAYLOR: No, I disagree. I think what they`re looking at is how government used a function with their ideal, a New Deal or a Great Society when government actually cared about folks, and people felt like they had a fair shake.

I think the media has been completely wrong about Trump and Sanders. They don`t understand the anger out there. They don`t understand --

MATTHEWS: The media is wrong about not seeing --


TAYLOR: Oh, no, they`ve written off Trump so many --

MATTHEWS: I never wrote off Trump. You`ve never watched me.

TAYLOR: Oh, no --

MATTHEWS: I figured it was coming.


TAYLOR: No, no, overall, the media --


MATTHEWS: Not only do you make up your mind between Sanders and Hillary, you don`t watch HARDBALL.

TAYLOR: Oh, no, we`re watching.

MATTHEWS: You don`t make up your mind.

LOWDEN: Talking about jobs, and people -- I don`t care if you`re a Democrat or Republican, they want jobs. And Sanders is talking about it and Trump is talking about it and bringing jobs back and making our country great again.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK, Madam Republican, what`s the mystery to how Trump will create jobs, real jobs and how Sanders would?

LOWDEN: Well, you know, if you listen to Trump, he`s going to make sure we get our jobs back from Mexico, and jobs back from China. Now, he`s mentioned Vietnam, we`re going to get the jobs back from Vietnam.

MATTHEWS: We`re going to slam the door on trade.

LOWDEN: Right.

MATTHEWS: And that`s going to do the job?

LOWDEN: Right.

MATTHEWS: What would Sanders do to create jobs, good jobs?

LOWDEN: I don`t know, I`m not sure. That`s not my --


TAYLOR: I think this is all the latest incarnation of this, is the TPP. If you notice --

MATTHEWS: That`s the trade bill.

TAYLOR: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: You guys are against the trade bill?

TAYLOR: No, not all trade bills. But that trade bill --

MATTHEWS: What are you for?

TAYLOR: Quite a long time.


TAYLOR: That`s before my time. That`s your time, not my time.

MATTHEWS: Ooh. I studied history.

TAYLOR: That`s good.

MATTHEWS: That`s an advantage.

The Democrats are against trade. At least the progressives are right now.

MAK: I think my point earlier is there are very few differences on trade, on the economy between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. They`re both protectionists.

MATTHEWS: I`m sure. Who signed the NAFTA? Which president? A Democrat.

MAK: Yes, but --


MATTHEWS: Donald Trump is very much (INAUDIBLE)

They all pushed it. Yeah?

MAK: I mean, Donald Trump is a Republican in a mold that we have just not seen. The Republican coalition is utterly falling apart in this cycle. We`re seeing a Republican in Donald Trump who has nice things to say about Planned Parenthood.

MATTHEWS: What do you think of the face that he`s chemo for politics? He`s instructive but he`ll destroy all the bad stuff and doing the most ruthless way, but that people want that done. They want the system --

LOWDEN: They do.

MAK: If they want misogynist, if they want racist politics -- I don`t -- I`m not sure how that`s created a distraction. I don`t think that`s a positive chemo-type thing. I mean, it may be cathartic, but it`s not helpful.

LOWDEN: I have friends --

MATTHEWS: What do you think of Trump? Do you like those words he used?

TAYLOR: Absolutely. I think he`s misogynist. I think he`s a racist, he`s anti-immigrant.

Listen, who in their right mind would criticize the pope and get away with it? There`s 35 percent of the Republican Party that will be for Donald Trump no matter what. That`s clear. But the question is, are the American public going to want somebody who just attacks as compared to give real solutions?

MATTHEWS: So, you don`t buy the fact that he`ll do well among Hispanics or African-American voters?

TAYLOR: I do not believe that at all.

LOWDEN: And yet, I have Hispanic friends who are all for Trump because they feel they`re getting a bad rap on the illegal people who are here. As opposed to those who came the right way, built up their businesses, have, you know, everything going for them in our country. The country isn`t going with them the way they thought it was going to go.

MAK: This is why -- this is why Donald Trump is so much more of a threat to Hillary Clinton if she`s the nominee, is that he cuts across existing coalitions.

LOWDEN: He does.

MAK: He slashes. He brings in enormous share of the African-American vote, for example.

TAYLOR: I disagree with that. There is no way a lot of African-Americans go for Donald Trump. By the way, every time I hear, oh, Latinos for Donald Trump, I would like to get real data on that because I know in our membership, that is not the case.

That`s the reason why the Trump Hotel workers really organized right when he was running for president. Eighty percent of them are immigrant workers. They got offended about what Trump said about Mexicans, for example. So, I don`t believe that for a second.

MATTHEWS: Normal reaction by any groups.

Anyway, the round table is sticking with us. And up next, I`m going to ask this rambunctious group to tell me something I don`t know. I`m sure we`ll all be very disparate among them.

This is HARDBALL, live from Las Vegas.


MATTHEWS: We`re here in Las Vegas again for our coverage of the Nevada Republican caucuses tomorrow. Tune in to HARDBALL at 7:00 Eastern, and 10:00 Eastern. Of course, I`ll be joining Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow as always for complete coverage of the results here as the GOP candidates compete in their fourth contest of 2016 to determine who leaves Las Vegas a winner.

And what happens here will travel on. Don`t miss it. We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.

Tell me something I don`t know, Sue Lowden.

LOWDEN: Well, our caucus starts at 5:00 right after work. We`re going to have a record number of people show up. You can vote and leave. You do not have to caucus.

MATTHEWS: Oh, I love it.

LOWDEN: You can fill out your ballot.

MATTHEWS: Just like a primary.

LOWDEN: Secret ballot, put it in the box and get out of there.

MATTHEWS: Nobody knows how you vote.

LOWDEN: Nobody knows how you vote.

MATTHEWS: That`s so American.

LOWDEN: Isn`t that nice?

MATTHEWS: I think we should have secret elections.

MAK: You remember that fund-raiser that Donald Trump had for the veterans charities. I started looking into that and turns out that some of these charities are beginning to get money, but it`s not from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.

MATTHEWS: Are you saying they didn`t get the money --

MAK: Some of them started getting the money, but it`s just not coming from his charity.

MATTHEWS: What happened to the money he raised that night?

MAK: We`re not sure yet. It hasn`t been accountable -- accounted for.

MATTHEWS: You`re making accusation?

MAK: I`m not. What I`m saying is it hasn`t been accounted for.

MATTHEWS: Tim Mak, is it, "Daily Beast"?

MAK: Yes.

MATTHEWS: He can reach you. Just kidding.


TAYLOR: Donald Trump workers here organize the union, got it. He won`t negotiate a contract, but in Canada, for Canadian workers, he negotiated a contract in one week. So, why are Canadian workers better than American workers?

MATTHEWS: Are they making more than us?

TAYLOR: Nope. They are now after the contract.

MATTHEWS: So, they get a better deal, in U.S. dollars or Canadian dollars?

TAYLOR: It`s in Toronto.

MATTHEWS: I`m just asking. Are you telling me that a Canadian guy makes more than the American guy working for Trump?

TAYLOR: Yes, right now.

MATTHEWS: More money, per hour?


MATTHEWS: Why is that?

TAYLOR: Let him answer that. He wants to make America great. We say, start right here in his hotel.

MATTHEWS: So, you`re saying, D, he`s not really nationalist even though he says he is?

TAYLOR: The proof is in the pudding.

MATTHEWS: When are you going to decide between Hillary and Bernie, by the way?

TAYLOR: Like I said, after convention.

MATTHEWS: All the side together.

Anyway, Sue Lowden, how do you do? Are you going to run for president again or anything like that?

LOWDEN: No, I`m not going to run for anything. I like being here.

MATTHEWS: Why didn`t they make you the United States senator from out here when they had a chance?

LOWDEN: I have no idea.

MATTHEWS: I would have voted for you.

Anyway, Sue Lowden -- I don`t want to hurt you. Thank you, Sue Lowden.

Thank you, D. Taylor.

TAYLOR: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And Tim Mak. What a rambunctious group of three.

We return, let me finish with question for Democratic primary and caucus voters. You`re watching HARDBALL. This is a question coming up. The place for politics is right here.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a question for Democratic primary and caucus voters. Actually, two questions.

First, are you 45 or under and second, do you prefer socialism to capitalism?

A new survey conducted by a Republican firm shows a close correspondence in your answers. If you`re 45 or under, you`re likely to prefer socialism. Forty-six percent of people in that younger age group put themselves on the socialist side. Just 19 percent preferred capitalism.

Among Democratic primary voters of all ages, the ratio is 43 percent favoring socialism, 30 percent favoring capitalism. And while I have questions about the language used in describing the two economic systems, I think people have fairly good gut sense of the difference between socialism and capitalism.

The fact that younger people are more inclined to socialism may well come with the fact that so many young people`s first experience with capitalism is as a debtor. They picked up so much debt from college, pay such as huge amount in interests, have that principle hanging on them for decades that they simply can`t see the positive side of an economic system that allows people to make money off of investments, allows people to make money by borrowing money for new enterprises and few who are involved in start up businesses today I bet have a very different view of the word "capitalism" are much less excited about an economy heavy with government involvement.

But those bearing up under the burdens of big student loans see their own predicaments and read everyday a hugely affluent capitalists who seem to have made an awful lot of money not by building anything but simply off their ability to manipulate money itself. In other words, those two bad words for capitalism, Wall Street.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.