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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 2/24/2016

Guests: Susan Page, Jay Newton-Small, Matt Schlapp, April Ryan

Show: HARDBALL Date: February 24, 2016 Guest: Susan Page, Jay Newton-Small, Matt Schlapp, April Ryan

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Tomorrow night with Bernie.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.

By the way, that reference I made to Bernie, that`s Bernie Sanders tomorrow night at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, the whole hour, starting at 8:00 o`clock tomorrow night. The "College Tour," which we`ve always loved has returned, and he`ll be leading the way. Anyway, with just five days before super-Tuesday, we`ll be at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics with Senator Bernie Sanders.

Meanwhile, last night in Nevada, Donald Trump scored a big win, of course, with record turnout in that state. Trump got 46 percent of the vote. That`s his biggest percentage so far. It`s close to 50 now. After losing the Iowa caucuses, he`s now carried three straight contests ahead of super- Tuesday, which is unbelievably coming Tuesday.

And this morning, he picked up two U.S. congressional endorsements, Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York. Meanwhile, he continues to dominate polls in the upcoming super-Tuesday states.

Is Donald Trump completing his hostile takeover of the Republican Party? That`s our question tonight. Is it over?

Trump celebrated his victory last night in Las Vegas and promised a lot of winning for the country if he`s elected.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We weren`t expected -- a couple of months ago, we weren`t expected to win this one. You know that, right?


TRUMP: We weren`t. Of course, if you listen to the pundits, we weren`t expected to win too much, and now we`re winning, winning, winning the country.


TRUMP: And soon the country is going to start winning, winning, winning!


TRUMP: I said Phil, I don`t want your money. I don`t want to do it. I`m self-funding. Every time I see him -- it`s a hard for me to turn down money because that`s not what I`ve done in my whole life. I grab and grab and grab. You know, I get greedy. I want money, money. Now I`m going to -- I`ll tell you what we`re going to do, right? We get greedy, right? Now we`re going to get greedy for the United States! We`re going to grab and grab and grab!



MATTHEWS: An unusual victory speech. Anyway, Susan Page is Washington bureau chief for "USA Today" and Sam Stein is senior politics editor for the HuffingtonPost. He`s also an MSNBC political analyst.

Here`s the question. Can anybody else beat him? Can anybody beat him at this point?


MATTHEWS: Are you willing to say it`s over?

PAGE: I don`t think it`s over, but it`s on a path to being over. And I think it`s hard to beat him and I think it`s hard to imagine just what it is that`s going to beat him.


MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute. I`m not interested in outside implausibilities. How about...

STEIN: No, no.

MATTHEWS: ... probabilities.

STEIN: What`s happening right now a prisoner`s dilemma, a classic prisoner`s dilemma, where Rubio and Cruz both know what`s in the rational interest of their party...


STEIN: ... but neither one is going to take the leap. And I think it`s perfectly responsible to...

MATTHEWS: It`s called the Alphonse and Gaston routine...


MATTHEWS: ... (INAUDIBLE) go to a doorway and they can`t decide who goes first, right? So nobody goes through.

STEIN: And you know, polling data is there to support the proposition that if one were against...

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s...

STEIN: ... Trump, it would work.

MATTHEWS: Well, to try to shake things up, guys, Sam, here`s (INAUDIBLE) Fox News today, Mitt Romney is back. He said there might be a bombshell -- he`s being so cautious here in Donald Trump`s tax returns. Trump said this week, he`ll release his returns at some point, probably.

But here`s what Romney did to shake things up.


MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., FMR. PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Frankly, I think we have good reason to believe that there`s a bombshell in Donald Trump`s taxes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean?

ROMNEY: Well, I think there`s something there. Either he`s not anywhere near as wealthy as he says he is, or he hasn`t been paying the kind of taxes we would expect him to pay, or perhaps he hasn`t been giving money to the vets or to the disabled, like he`s been telling us he`s been doing.

The fact that he is so aggressive in avoiding any discussion of taxes, of his taxes, and is not willing to put them out so far, suggests that there`s something in there he doesn`t want us to see.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s not very gentlemanly, is it, Mr. Romney.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, Trump responded a short time later, as you might expect, on Twitter. Quote, "Mitt Romney, who totally blew an election that should have been won and whose tax returns made him look like a fool, is now playing tough guy." And quote, "When Mitt Romney asked me for my endorsement last time around, he was so awkward and goofy that we all should have known he could not win."

So he puts in the personal punch, below the belt, and -- but why -- what`s going on here. Is this the last desperate effort of the establishment in the face -- in the person of this guy...

STEIN: Oh, yes, I think...

MATTHEWS: ... to stop Trump? They`re do anything to stop him.

STEIN: There`s an alarm in the establishment, if you want to -- let`s call it the establishment, about how timid some of these campaigns and candidates have been in going after Trump. And they`re now saying they need to essentially do it themselves.

MATTHEWS: Well, how do they go after him? I mean, this thing about...


MATTHEWS: How do you beat Trump?

STEIN: So that`s the problem here, is that Mitt Romney couldn`t be a more imperfect messenger for this type attack. He himself had to come to this when Harry Reid did it, and I can report tonight an aide to Harry Reid said the senator was tickled by the idea that Mitt Romney would launch this attack and said, quote, "Couldn`t they get someone else to do it?"...

MATTHEWS: Besides Mitt Romney?

STEIN: ... because he is not the perfect messenger here.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the question. Everybody who`s gone after the guy has been jujitsu`d, you end up on the fall on your back, you go, Oh, and you fall on your face, every one of them. I mean, let me go through the list. Rick Perry is a goof now. I mean, look at Scott Walker. He was unbeatable. He`s gone. Jindal, gone. They`re all gone! I mean, Rand Paul -- they went in with dignity, went out without dignity!

PAGE: That`s right. Possibly this is why Rubio...

MATTHEWS: Nobody looks good!

PAGE: This is maybe why Rubio and Cruz are not eager to be the ones...

MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s what I mean! Who looks good after they get into a fight with this guy?

PAGE: But you know, here`s my question. Is there -- does Mitt Romney actually know somebody -- or know something about...

MATTHEWS: See, I think it`s groundless.


MATTHEWS: I think it`s groundless.

PAGE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: It`s trash talk.

STEIN: No, but he saw how it affected his campaign, and he was trying to do it...

MATTHEWS: Yes, but he doesn`t know anything!

STEIN: Of course, but I don`t know if Harry Reid knew anything...


MATTHEWS: Two guys didn`t know anything doesn`t make one right and the other wrong!



MATTHEWS: They`re both guys just plain trash talk, like, Hey, I`ll bet his tax returns are really bad, you know?

STEIN: I think the broader point is important, which is it`s a sign of sheer desperation at this point. They look at what`s happening. They think it`s getting out of control. The calendar is just not...

MATTHEWS: Does anybody really think that Donald Trump is not going to be the nominee because he doesn`t pay a lot of taxes? Isn`t that the name in taxes...


PAGE: He managed not to pay taxes...


MATTHEWS: He said it many times! He says, My goal is to reduce my taxation.

PAGE: Isn`t that the goal of most of us when we pay our taxes, is to pay the least legal amount of taxes...


STEIN: ... ignoble about it, but he has made the point that he went about trying to reduce as much taxes as possible because he likes winning. And that`s what you do when you`re a winner.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, "The Washington Post" editorial board today, which is not always Republican, today called out party leaders like George W. Bush and Mitt Romney. Here it is. "History will not look kindly on GOP leaders who fail to do everything in their power to prevent a bullying demagogue from becoming their standard bearer." Well, I don`t know if that`s going to goose anybody in action or not. I don`t think so.

STEIN: "The Washington Post" editorial board is a very hawkish editorial board.

MATTHEWS: It`s very hawkish and...


MATTHEWS: How about that comment the other day, I won`t take sides between Israel and the Arabs? I never heard a politician say that.


STEIN: ... he has since backtracked on that. But I...

MATTHEWS: Has he backtracked?

STEIN: He just did tonight.

MATTHEWS: What did he say.

STEIN: He`s 100 percent with Israel, of course.


STEIN: No, I think they look at this and they look at the candidates, and they actually see Marco Rubio as their ideal foreign policy candidate. And Donald Trump is an isolationist. I mean...

MATTHEWS: Rubio is the perfect choice for (INAUDIBLE)

PAGE: But here`s the thing. It`s not there`s some cabal that`s just getting Donald Trump to be the likely nominee, it`s voters, voters who are voting in Republican caucuses and primaries. Isn`t that the democratic system? And if he wins caucuses and primaries...


MATTHEWS: These guys are out to lunch. As we`ve been watching -- I said this last night. We were on all night last night. I said, you know, ever since the Tea Party thing really got going in `09 and `10 and we (ph) started showing (ph) -- the Republican leadership has been atrophied into nothing. And look what happened to Boehner. He left this town as a nothing.

Their leaders don`t mean anything. These leaders think they`re the establishment. You know who the establishment is? The guy at the Tea Party back home.

STEIN: I`ll take it a step further. The leaders...

MATTHEWS: And they have a name for their leader...


MATTHEWS: Trump`s the guy now.

STEIN: The leaders invited this in. Remember in 2012, Mitt Romney went to Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump to get his blessing.


STEIN: That was inviting it in.

MATTHEWS: How about this? How about when Boehner was asked, What about Donald Trump saying the president of the United States is basically an illegal immigrant, he snuck in from Africa somewhere, he never even was naturalized, but he wasn`t a natural-born citizen, and Trump -- and Boehner was asked about that. He said, I can`t tell my members how to think.

They opened the door!

STEIN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: I`ve called it his original sin, and the Republicans are now paying for it. They wouldn`t stop him at birtherism in the beginning, now they`re being tracked down one at a time. You got Cruz is a Canadian, you know...

STEIN: Rubio may not be actually eligible.


MATTHEWS: And now they`re going after Rubio. Where does this stop?

Anyway, Bill Kristol -- here`s another factor in this election. The neocons are now backing Rubio as their last guy standing. He`s the editor, of course -- Bill Kristol`s a smart guy and incredibly strong in leading people, in leading opinion. He`s a leading neocon, actually -- isn`t ready to concede the race to Trump. His message -- "No whining or wishing. Rubio and Cruz have to take the fight to Trump. Donors and others have to take on Trump with money and determination."

What`s that, We`re dead?


STEIN: Yes. Fatalism (INAUDIBLE) right there. Again, I go back to the point -- this should have been done five months ago, one year ago, two years ago. They just have never gotten to the point where they`re willing to pull the proverbial (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: I sat there last night with Rachel and Brian late into the night. And what always amazed me is Trump gives a victory speech when it`s appropriate, when he wins. These other guys are like the millennials. They always get trophies. I mean, no matter what he does -- he`s now 3, 5, 2 and 2, right -- Rubio always gives a victory speech.

PAGE: If -- but if Trump`s opponents...

MATTHEWS: There he is!


MATTHEWS: He smiles. Look at (INAUDIBLE) Another great night, another great night! (INAUDIBLE) And then he was asked on Fox this morning, Can you name a state you will ever get, ever, and he wouldn`t name one.


PAGE: What about Florida?

STEIN: He`s not going to -- he`s not in a position to win Florida right now.

PAGE: But if they started to air negative anti-Trump ads earlier, would that have an effect? Would that dissuade Trump`s supporters...

STEIN: It`s proving a negative because of the super-PAC money that has been spent to date -- and it`s something like $215 -- only 4 percent, about $9 million, has actually gone to being anti-Trump. I mean, think about that for a second.


STEIN: This guy`s leading the polls, and you spent 4 percent of...


MATTHEWS: All I know is that something magical happened between Saturday night, when Trump won, what, South Carolina...


MATTHEWS: ... and something happened in those hours afterwards, where it went from being, Oh, he pulled a big victory to, He`s inevitable.


MATTHEWS: What happened?

STEIN: Well, I think part of it was...

MATTHEWS: Because we`re -- everybody seemed to collapse (ph) and what you were saying, they don`t -- they don`t coalesce around one person, they all divide up again.

STEIN: I think -- I think after Iowa, people were sort of relieved that Trump hadn`t finished first, and they though, Well, OK, maybe the air has gone out of the balloon. New Hampshire, they chalked it up to, you know, just residual support in the state. And in South Carolina, he had the disastrous debate performance right beforehand, where he really -- it really did seem like he had tripped up badly. And then when he scores a big victory in that state, suddenly, it becomes really serious and you...

MATTHEWS: And the only state he`s lost now was a caucus state, where he wouldn`t do the debate.


MATTHEWS: He ducked the debate.

PAGE: That`s right, and without a great history of choosing nominees. You know how he got to be seen as the likely nominee? By winning.


MATTHEWS: All of a sudden, but everything else seemed to die.

Anyway, one thing Marco Rubio seems unwilling to do at this time is take on Trump directly. He doesn`t want to do a fistfight with the guy. Here he is.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t have any voters begging me to attack anyone. I`m not in this race to attack any Republican. I`m more than happy to show differences. No, but I`m more than happy to show differences, and we`ve been able to do it. I didn`t run for office to tear up other Republicans.


MATTHEWS: Well, Trump suggests that Rubio`s caution was due in part to fear. Let`s listen.


TRUMP: Maybe because 14 people went after me, and 14 people are now, you know, officially gone. So I don`t know. I mean, I seem to have a very good track record when they do go after me.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s it, isn`t it, Sam? I mean, this guy is just -- he`s lethal.

STEIN: It`s pretty simple. There`s not much to add to that. He`s absolutely right, too. I mean, there`s -- it`s indisputable that everyone who`s gone after him has failed at doing it. And you have to imagine that that`s what Marco Rubio is...


MATTHEWS: Remember the last days of the Saddam regime and there was the two sons, Uday and Qusay, and they would go to dinner, like, hotspots in Baghdad -- I guess they were hotspots. And the thing was, if you went there with a date or anybody, don`t make eye contact with Uday and Qusay.


MATTHEWS: That`s what Trump has become. Don`t make eye contact with the guy!

STEIN: Yes, I guess so, huh?

MATTHEWS: And so this -- so what are we doing now for a living?


MATTHEWS: Anyway, we got the -- next Tuesday, of course, I think there`s a couple of things. I noticed two spins out there. One is that -- today, I was watching one of the other networks, where they said that all Rubio has to do is win one by March 15th. That`s it, and he`s still in the game.

And the other one is that all Trump -- Cruz has to do is win Texas. And I thought Rachel was a riot last night when she said, You know you`re in trouble when you`re saying, I`m going home to my home state to try to hold it.


MATTHEWS: And that...

PAGE: So -- so super-Tuesday, just next week, what if Trump has -- the kind of night we think he`s going to have, where he wins most of...

MATTHEWS: Nine of 11.

PAGE: And at that point, 30 percent of the convention delegates on the Republican side will have been chosen, so you`re getting up to some significant numbers.

MATTHEWS: OK, you guys go out and report and you talk to -- is there going to be a point -- and maybe it`s happening in the last few hours, last few hours literally -- where the establishment and (ph) the people, they`re scared to death of putting Trump up for president because then it becomes either you vote for your party nominee, Trump, or you let Hillary or Bernie Sanders win.


MATTHEWS: And that really becomes pretty frightening to a lot of people.

STEIN: And that`s, I think...

MATTHEWS: Women especially, I would be, but I`m not sure. I think women.

STEIN: Well...

MATTHEWS: Republican women.

STEIN: I mean, this -- first of all, I think, objectively, there is a frightening element to it, right, I mean, the way he`s talked about women, Hispanics, other minority groups. It is frightening for a lot of people. I don`t think we should diminish that.

But I think for the establishment specifically, there is real political concern not just about what it means in the presidential election, but imagine every senator up for election in a tight bluish state. They are going to have to disavow their presidential nominee. They`re going to be questioned about it repeatedly during the course of the next six months.

I think the down ticket Republicans are petrified of this. And that`s in part why I think this thing doesn`t end, even if Trump has a great super- Tuesday, because there is going to be money, there is going to be interest and there`s going to be support for someone to just at least stick in, hoping against hope that something...


MATTHEWS: What happens if Trump actually wins Pennsylvania against Hillary, actually wins Ohio, Wisconsin, states like that?

STEIN: Well...

MATTHEWS: Meat and potatoes...

PAGE: You mean in head to head...

MATTHEWS: Look at the numbers today. We`re going to show them in a few minutes.


MATTHEWS: Those numbers are there.

STEIN: It`s not unreasonable...

MATTHEWS: He`s there at head to head with them.

Anyway, thank you, Susan Page, and thank you, Sam Stein.

As I mentioned, tomorrow night, the "HARDBALL College Tour" comes roaring back. We`ll be live at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics with our special guest -- there he is -- U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. That`s for the full hour. That`s tomorrow night at a special time, 8:00 PM Eastern tomorrow.

Coming up now, we return -- or turn to the Democratic race. Hillary Clinton has a big lead in South Carolina. That`s this Saturday. What does Sanders need to do on super-Tuesday to keep his hopes alive, and what`s his strategy to actually win this thing? He can still win it.

Plus -- dead before arrival, Senate Republicans say they won`t do anything -- no hearings, no meetings, no courtesy calls, nada -- if President Obama sends up a nominee for the Supreme Court. But can they win this fight by being the party of no? I don`t know. Maybe they can.

And is there a push by the hawks to get Marco Rubio on the Republican as a VP so they can grab those jobs at the NSC and the Defense Department? They love to get in there, like they did with Cheney and with Dan Quayle. They love to get in the back door. They can still be hawkish even when they get the number two guy.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the big HARDBALL event coming tomorrow night out in Chicago.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`ve got new numbers on Ohio on a potential election matchup right now. Let`s take a look at some of these in the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

If Donald Trump -- if the GOP nomination, faces Hillary Clinton, Trump would win Ohio by 2. I said a minute ago he could. He`s got 44 percent to Hillary Clinton`s 42. This is something to think about.

Should Ted Cruz face Hillary Clinton in November, he`d also beat Clinton. This is really hard to believe. The Texas senator would win Ohio 46 to 43. I`m amazed at this. Florida senator Marco Rubio fares even better against her. It`s a 5-point margin in the race in Ohio, Rubio 47 in Ohio, Hillary Clinton 42. But not surprisingly, home state governor John Kasich fares the best out in Ohio against Clinton. He`s a 17-point favorite out there, according to Quinnipiac. Kasich has 54 percent to Clinton 37. That might get him a seat on the ticket.

We`ll be right back.



SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that on super-Tuesday, we have got an excellent chance to win many of those states!


SANDERS: I believe that when Democrats assemble in Philadelphia in July at that convention, we are going to see the results of one of the great political upsets in the history of the United States!


MATTHEWS: Well, you know you`re in trouble when you start talking about upset.

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. In his concession speech on Saturday, Senator Sanders predicted he`d pull out an upset victory at the Philadelphia convention this summer, but as observers have noted -- or pointed out, his path to the nomination has, in fact, narrowed a bit.

David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report told "The New York Times" today, quote, "Clinton could effectively end the race in less than two weeks` time on Super Tuesday."

Well, Super Tuesday is next week, so do it even faster than that.


MATTHEWS: A national NBC News poll this week shows Clinton, Hillary Clinton, with a double-digit lead over Sanders. Look at these, 51-40. That`s fairly healthy. But it`s down from what it was.

And that bodes well for the Clinton campaign as it heads into Tuesday. Let`s stop calling it Super Tuesday. It`s next Tuesday, when voters in 11 states will cast their ballots on March 1.

As Patrick Healy of "The New York Times" reports, Sanders` campaign is now spending heavily to win four of the Super Tuesday states, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, while taking victory for granted in a fifth, his home state of Vermont, of course.

Anyway Sanders has refused to predict the outcome of Super Tuesday, but here is what he said to reporters today about his long-term prospects.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She is not the inevitable candidate now. I think we have got a real shot to win it. And what I would ask of the media is not to look at it state by state. You know, we`re going to win some states, we`re going to lose some states.

There are -- it is necessary to get 2,400 delegates. We`re going to have good days. We`re going to have bad days. Secretary Clinton will have good days and bad days. But let`s kind of look at the long-term thing.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Jay Newton-Small of "TIME" magazine, as well as MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman of The Huffington Post.

Howard, I want to start with you.

We have been through these, but I`ll tell you, they never look alike, they never look alike.



MATTHEWS: I remember coming out of Nevada four years -- eight years ago, thinking Hillary had it in the bag. She beaten him out there after winning in New Hampshire, she is on the road to win. It didn`t work.

This time around, Bernie has a point, Bernie Sanders, that these patterns do shift.

FINEMAN: The patterns do shift.

And the good news for Bernie Sanders is proportional representation, in other words, the way they decide the primaries and caucuses, the way they count will keep him in the ball game, because in every state, he is going to pick up delegates. That`s the good side of...

MATTHEWS: That`s like, you get 45 percent, you get 45 percent.

FINEMAN: Now, that`s the good side of the arithmetic. The bad side of the arithmetic for him is, he needs some really big victories to put her on the defensive again. He has got to win overwhelmingly. And it`s difficult in this kind of mathematics to win overwhelmingly.

The other thing is psychological, Chris. Politics is psychological as well as math. And I think when he didn`t win that thing he needed to win out there in Nevada, when he didn`t win that, that broke the spell. What he needed to do with Hillary is create panic in the traditional Democratic ranks, right?

He needed to create panic. And if he had beaten her there, he would have. But he didn`t, and he won`t.

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "TIME": And it`s -- like you saw today, with Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader, endorsing Hillary Clinton, she`s got the superdelegates in her bag. She`s got all the endorsements.

MATTHEWS: Well, he really endorsed her over the weekend.


FINEMAN: When it counted. When it counted. When he counted.


NEWTON-SMALL: I mean, it matters, though, because all this piles onto the momentum, it piles onto the message that she`s inevitable, that she`s going to be the nominee.

And so, therefore, he cannot regain the lead. Even if he regains the lead, she will argue I have all the superdelegates, so I`m still going to keep an artificial lead.

MATTHEWS: The only danger for Hillary Clinton is when she -- as I think Churchill said that about people, they have a problem when they`re winning. They`re better when they`re losing.

FINEMAN: Exactly.


MATTHEWS: She gets complacent.

FINEMAN: Let`s face it. She is not overwhelmingly popular, even among her own base for the most part.

People appreciate her work. There is some grudging respect. A lot of women really admire her. People -- she has some admiration, but not the love.

MATTHEWS: What are they afraid of? Everybody knows what we`re afraid of with Trump.


FINEMAN: That`s why she has always got a chance to fall.

MATTHEWS: OK. We all know why we`re afraid of Trump. Because he says terrible things. A lot of us look at it and say, he doesn`t mean that. The wall, he doesn`t mean that wall. He is not going to throw 11 million people out of the country. He`s not going to keep Muslims from coming. He`s not really going to do that.

But if he does, he will be able to say I told you I was going to do it. What are they afraid of with Hillary, though? They say authentic. And I say, well, a lot of people are authentic. Why is that a problem?

NEWTON-SMALL: But she is like uninspiring.

MATTHEWS: But why is that dangerous?

NEWTON-SMALL: Because it`s like she gives speeches, and it`s like you go to the speeches, and she`s like save for retirement, and save for college. And it`s very practical advice. It`s very like, OK, I should do these things if I were -- it`s like eating your broccoli kind of stuff, right?

MATTHEWS: Bernie Sanders is trying to get back in the game.

Here he was calling on Clinton, that`s Hillary Clinton, to release transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street banks. Here`s what he said about that at a Democratic town hall just last night, so he is trying to tag her on this. Here he goes.


SANDERS: What Secretary Clinton said, I will do it if other people do it. Well, I am very happy to release all of my paid speeches to Wall Street. Here it is, Chris. There ain`t none.




MATTHEWS: That was Chris Cuomo.

Anyway, Clinton said she would only release them if the Republican candidates did the same. Now, this is really interesting. Here is Secretary Clinton.


QUESTION: Will you agree to release these transcripts? They have become an issue.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sure, if everybody does it, and that includes the Republicans, because we know they have made a lot of speeches.

QUESTION: You know everybody is not going to bring up their transcripts. There will be 100 reasons why.

CLINTON: Well, why is there one standard for me and not for everybody else, Chris?


CLINTON: I mean, you know what? If people are going to ask for things, everybody should be on a level playing field, and I`m happy if that were the case.



MATTHEWS: Well, first of all, the United States senators who are running can`t give speeches for money. So, there`s no such category right now.

Ever since they have been in the Senate, they can`t do it, like we can`t do it here. Asking the other guys, you know, to do it, I don`t think -- Rubio can`t give money speeches, and Cruz can`t give money -- so who is she talking about, Trump?

NEWTON-SMALL: Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: Does he go around with a tin cup doing money speeches? I would be surprised.

FINEMAN: My sense is, having covered events out on the campaign trail, Bernie Sanders and others out there, there are two or three things that are her weak points.

There is the whole question of being in government too long, there`s the question of being part of the establishment. But this thing about Wall Street really cuts.

MATTHEWS: What part of it, taking the speech money?

FINEMAN: Just the proximity to, the closeness to, the whole thing of the Clintons and the Clinton Foundation and their chumminess with the sort of business approach of the Democratic Leadership Council going back to the early days of Bill Clinton.

Clintonism is what is -- her weak spot with the base.

MATTHEWS: It has always been her strength too.


FINEMAN: Yes. That is her strength, as Jay was pointing out, with the establishment.

But if Bernie is going to pull the upset of the century, as he says he`s going to do, he has got to go stronger and harder at that, because that`s her big weakness with the base.

MATTHEWS: Is he going to start naming names? We all know a lot -- we all know these people. You cover them. We know them socially.

A lot of these people that are hanging out with the Clintons are liberal Democrats. And they go to all the fund-raisers. They were always there for the -- they get a lot of ambassadorships when the time comes, right? And it`s as a fact.

NEWTON-SMALL: But that`s always been a thing. And she has always said -- she has always challenged him to say, prove that I`m corrupt. Find a vote where I took money and I got...


NEWTON-SMALL: And is he really going to start saying here is a vote that she was corrupt on?

MATTHEWS: Can I explain corruption?

You`re chairing a big committee on finance or banking and you don`t do the regulation, you don`t be aggressive. It`s not that you get caught stealing the typewriter out, taking it home with you at night, or the computer. It`s not like you`re a thief or you do something evil. It`s that you don`t do it. And that would be Bernie`s best argument. They don`t police Wall Street. They`re not aggressive at doing that.

FINEMAN: The other thing is that he has got to go after the e-mails. He has got to go after that stuff.

MATTHEWS: Doesn`t he have to wait on the FBI?

FINEMAN: He has got to raise the question about it. He`s got...

NEWTON-SMALL: But doing that now would be -- he has already said 1,000 times.


NEWTON-SMALL: He can`t do it.

FINEMAN: When he said that, I think you and I had the same...


MATTHEWS: I agree. That was throwing in the towel.

FINEMAN: That was the same -- we had the same reaction when he did that. Hey, this is rMDNM_not beanbag here.

MATTHEWS: What does he do now, prior to getting the FBI report? Either...


FINEMAN: Raise the possibility. If he really wants to pull the upset, he has got to tear down what`s left of the Democratic Party establishment, which is embodied by Hillary Clinton. And he has got to do it.

MATTHEWS: Is he that ruthless?

FINEMAN: I don`t think so.

NEWTON-SMALL: I don`t think he`s that ruthless.

FINEMAN: I don`t think so.

I think he prefers the intellectual exercise. You will see at the University of Chicago tomorrow night.


NEWTON-SMALL: He wants to be positive. He wants to be -- run the positive campaign and say here are the merits.

MATTHEWS: The Cruz team would probably do it.

NEWTON-SMALL: The Trump team would definitely do it.

FINEMAN: The Cruz team would do it badly and they would get caught at it.


NEWTON-SMALL: But Trump would just names on the stump.


MATTHEWS: I think Bernie does have this soul about things, not doing that stuff. He didn`t come into politics to do that.

FINEMAN: And as Jay was pointing out, I think Jay was implying, that`s one of the reasons people like Bernie Sanders, and that`s the guy you will see on display tomorrow night at his alma mater, the University of Chicago, be pretty high-minded.

MATTHEWS: But I probably should ask him about the e-mails. But he may just throw it right back in my face, enough about the e-mails.


FINEMAN: But just imagine what Donald Trump will be doing if it turns into a Trump vs. Hillary general election.

Take a 10th of that and give it to Bernie Sanders, if Bernie Sanders is serious about pulling this upset.


NEWTON-SMALL: But can you go that negative and win still? I mean, that`s negative.

MATTHEWS: Trump has been doing it.

Anyway, thank you, Jay Newton-Small of "TIME" magazine. Who in your magazine did the article that Trump loved?

NEWTON-SMALL: Oh, it was David Von Drehle, the cover story.

MATTHEWS: Was it any good?

NEWTON-SMALL: Yes, it was a great story.

MATTHEWS: Was it positive?

NEWTON-SMALL: It was a story more about like...

MATTHEWS: Von Drehle is a great writer. Was it a positive -- Trump liked it.


MATTHEWS: He hates the media, but he loved that article.

NEWTON-SMALL: It is more about the voters than it is about Trump. It`s more about the electorate, about who...


FINEMAN: And, Jay, a compliment to you guys. It`s also about "TIME" magazine. Trump wants to be on the cover of "TIME" magazine every week. He has got that complex. He`s got to have it.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, you know who had more coverage than anybody in history on "TIME" magazine?


FINEMAN: Probably Richard Nixon.

MATTHEWS: Richard Nixon, 55 of them.


MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Jay Newton-Small.

Howard, you know your stuff, as always.


MATTHEWS: Up next: dead before arrival. Senate Republicans vow to block any hearings, any conversations, any courtesy call, nada. Nobody is going to get anywhere. All they`re going to do is get vetted in the public, which could be rough on any nominee. Before there`s even a nominee, they`re going to -- they`re not going to do anything. By just saying no, can they win?

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: This nomination will be determined by whoever wins the presidency in the fall. I agree with the Judiciary Committee`s recommendation that we not have hearings. In short, there will not be action taken.


MATTHEWS: Well, that was the Republican leadership surrounding McConnell there.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in that mix there, saying it would be a waste of time for President Obama to put forward a Supreme Court nominee following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Anyway, the Senate Republican leadership says any nomination from the president will be dead on arrival, actually dead before arrival, because it`s too close to the 2016 election, they say.

And now the GOP leaders say they won`t even give an Obama nominee the opportunity to make courtesy calls to them. Listen to this.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I don`t see the point of going through the motions if we know what the outcome is going to be and we are united on that. I don`t see the point of going through the motions.

MCCONNELL: This decision ought to be made by the next president, whoever is elected. I don`t know the purpose of such a visit. I would not be inclined to take one myself.



President Obama today said it`s time to put partisanship aside. That will be the day. And that both sides should fulfill their constitutional mandates.

Here is the president.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m going to do my job. We are going to go through a process, as we have done in two Supreme Court vacancies, to identify an outstanding candidate that has impeccable legal credentials.

I recognize the politics are hard for them, because the easier thing to do is to give into the most extreme voices within their party, and stand pat and do nothing. But that`s not our job. Our job is to fulfill our constitutional duties.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now with the HARDBALL roundtable tonight.

Matt Schlapp is a Republican strategist and the head of the American Conservative Union. April Ryan is a reporter for the American Urban Radio -- a lot of Americans around here -- Network. And MSNBC political analyst David Corn is Washington bureau chief of the American-based "Mother Jones."


MATTHEWS: Let me just ask you about it.

I think I`m going to ask the senator, Senator Sanders tomorrow night, when I get a chance. What would you do if you`re in the president`s shoes right now, April, right now, and you have vacancy in the Supreme Court, a big vacancy, and a big ideological opportunity to shift the court to your are direction philosophically? Do you push ahead? Do you name a person that you like, that you really think is the kind of court associate justice you want, and fight like hell for that, him or her, right through to January 20, or do you punt?

APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: He is president of the United States today, and until January 20, 2017, at noon.

So this president has to look at the issue of legacy and the fact that he is still presidential. If he doesn`t do it, there is a sign of weakness that he is showing. He has to operate from...


MATTHEWS: So, precedent is important.

RYAN: Precedent is important.

And not only that. You have to look at the politics from it. From day one, Mitch McConnell said what about Barack Obama? This is all politics.

MATTHEWS: His number one goal was to destroy his presidency.

RYAN: Exactly. You got it.

MATTHEWS: David Corn, this question, if I go back to strategy, is there any way he can win this, the president? Is there any way he can push the Republicans by putting up a sterling nominee, maybe a person of ethnic -- a certain ethnic background he doesn`t want to -- Republicans don`t want to mess with, or a gender, some combination of sterlingness politically that, if they screw this person, don`t even give them a hello handshake, don`t let them into the door, when they come for a meeting, they won`t let them in the door?

Will that hurt the Republicans enough to say, OK, we will consider the nomination?

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Like if he nominated Oprah, say. But...

MATTHEWS: Well, she doesn`t have a law degree. Maybe she does. I don`t think so.


CORN: You don`t have to have one.

MATTHEWS: Well, yes, you do.

CORN: But I think they have made it very clear -- and I think this is a mistake to say at the start, we won`t consider anybody. We`re not going to listen to you. We`re not going to see...

MATTHEWS: No courtesy calls.

CORN: No calls, nothing.

The smarter play for them was, well, it`s an election year, we don`t know, let`s see what...


MATTHEWS: Why don`t they just -- Matt, you`re the support sort here. In fact, you are the Republican here.


MATTHEWS: Let`s accept our responsibilities here.

Why don`t just they have the hearing, have the courtesy calls, treat this person, black or white, male or female, whatever, stray or gay, whatever this person s, South Asian ancestry, perhaps, Srinivasan, I don`t know -- these people could be great. Do nice things about them, talk to them, vote -- talk about them, vet them, and them vote them down. He doesn`t get the 60 votes. What`s wrong with that?

SCHLAPP: Because, the way these things work, it has to work for both sides.

And the way the politics get tough for the Republicans is if they pick someone who it is hard for their more moderate members who come from purple states to fight. And that`s where the strategy, you could actually get someone through, if it is Sandoval is the rumor.


MATTHEWS: But they will be a liberal. It`s will be a liberal.

Well, it will be somebody who is definitely pro-choice, and definitely -- they`re not going to have somebody who is going to reverse. And it may be a person who wants to take another look at Citizens United. So, all the Republicans have to say...

RYAN: African-American, voting rights are all up as well.


SCHLAPP: ... is that Democratic presidents actually are good at picking liberals, whereas Republicans bat 500 on picking strong conservatives. And my guess is, if Obama wants to pick a liberal, it will be 100 percent...


MATTHEWS: I hate to educate you.


MATTHEWS: Let me give you some names. Let me give you some -- Felix Frankfurter, who was picked by Franklin Roosevelt, he ended up being a very conservative guy. Whizzer White, picked by Jack Kennedy, turned out to be a very conservative guy.


SCHLAPP: But that was on purpose.


SCHLAPP: Yes. Jack Kennedy knew what he was picking. He wasn`t an anti- business Democratic.


I have to be reeducated by a Republican on who Jack Kennedy was. Go ahead.


CORN: But it would be good to have a fight over the substance.

MATTHEWS: Souter was a mistake by you guys.

SCHLAPP: Yes, another one, yes.

CORN: It would be good to have a fight over the substance, over what type of justice. And the president would get a chance to decide whether he`s going to do a liberal or do some...


MATTHEWS: Who wins the stalemate where the door is slammed before the nominee is made? Who wins that?

SCHLAPP: We`re going to win that, because that`s exactly what the base of our party needs.


RYAN: I don`t know. The American people will win. They`re going to show their hand. The American people are going to be the ones that are going to decide what is going to happen.


Well, David, I will ask you the big question. Will the president make a nomination?

CORN: Oh, of course, without a doubt.

MATTHEWS: Of course.

CORN: As long as he can find someone willing to go through this...

MATTHEWS: Knowing they will never be on the court.

CORN: .... crappy process that the Republicans are waging.

RYAN: I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: So, you get vetted without the -- you get all the risks of being vetted and somebody finds out something bad about you, but you don`t get to be on the Supreme Court. That`s a rough deal.

RYAN: But a lot of these people are already on a list from the two prior, so they`re already kind of vetted somewhat to a certain extent.

MATTHEWS: Oh, OK. Wise words.

RYAN: Thank you.

CORN: Perhaps.

MATTHEWS: Matt Schlapp, you have played your part well.


MATTHEWS: The roundtable is staying with us.

And up next, a look at last night`s second-place finisher, Marco Rubio. Could he be the candidate of the establishment for V.P.? We`re figuring out what that -- they`re also the same crowd that brought us the war in Iraq. The neocons, the hawks, if you will, are out there buzzing around, pushing Rubio again.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.




SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The vast and overwhelming majority of Republicans do not want Donald Trump to be our nominee. And that`s evidenced by the fact that your own poll last week showed that if it came down to me and Donald Trump, I`d beat him by 16 points. So, what we have now is a dynamic where as long as there are four people running dividing up the non-Trump votes, you`re going to get results like what you saw last night.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Well, that`s defining your own failure.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

There he is explaining why he is not going to win. But new endorsements from members of the Republican establishment this week, Marco Rubio is hoping to emerge as the only alternative to Donald Trump. But he hasn`t been able to do it because there`s three other guys out there.

But before long, he sought the establishment`s backing, Rubio had already gained the support of several neoconservatives who played big roles in the push for the Iraq war. We all know their names, led by Bill Kristol of "The Weekly Standard", Robert Kagan, another Bush national security advisor, and of course, Stephen Hadley, they`re all pushing for Rubio.

As "Politico" has also noted, Rubio has sought the endorsement of Sheldon Adelson out in Vegas, more than any other candidate, but he still hasn`t gotten them. He`s prompted anyway, Donald Trump a tweet this last October, quote, "Sheldon Adelson is looking to give big dollars to Rubio because he feels he can mold him into his perfect little puppet." I agree. Is that personal?

Trump isn`t doing himself any favors with this crowd. Last week, he said he is not going to take sides. I`ve never heard an American politician say this. He is not going to take any sides any conflict between Israel and Palestinians. Well, that`s not smart.

We`re back with the roundtable, Matt, April and David.

Let`s go along the line here.

Is the neo crowd, who loves, I`m not knocking their ideology, I disagree with them completely, I think they`re very hawkish, but they do like jobs. It isn`t about money. They kind of jobs -- they wants jobs in the National Security Council, they want jobs in the Defense Department, they want to be able to get in there and get their policies across like they did with the help of Dick Cheney in the last Bush administration. They love those jobs.


MATTHEWS: And they seem to see Rubio getting the vice presidency at least and they all get those jobs back and take us to another war.

SCHLAPP: Well, they haven`t given up the fact that he might just be the top guy of that ticket. He could be the president.

Eventually, if things keep going the way they`re going, I think this is the backup plan, get him on the ticket, he`s a great candidate in all kinds of way to do that.

And you`re exactly right. It`s also what they said about the Reagan people versus the Bush people, the Bush people got all the jobs. And knowing how to burrow and get these jobs is the oldest art form in D.C.

MATTHEWS: The old liberal party in New York, all they wanted was jobs.

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Well, it`s also like the old Stalinists, and the old communists, come to the meetings, you stay late, you sign up for every committee you can get, because those are people who are going to work. And the people who have been advising him on foreign policy, are the fellows who are in favor of the Iraq war, want to start a war with --

MATTHEWS: And you`re sitting over the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation waiting to come into the government again.

CORN: And they have no other horse. A lot of them were with Jeb Bush. Paul Wolfowitz was an adviser to Jeb Bush. But there is nobody out there.

Trump wants to impeach George W. Bush over the Iraq war, Ted Cruz has a very muddy position on foreign policy.

MATTHEWS: I agree he is muddy.

CORN: And Marco Rubio is the only horse they can ride.

MATTHEWS: He sings the song of the hawks, every time he gets in front of a microphone.

APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORK: He may sing the song of the hawks, but I`m going to tell you something, for all intents and purposes, a lot of people are saying, Marco Rubio is not even a factor. I talked to David Pasidos (ph), Democratic scholar, he is like, you know, it`s Hillary and Trump.

Rubio may as well -- I wouldn`t even see him as a vice-presidential nod, if Trump is the nominee. Donald Trump is showing, in the Republican Party is trying to pull together all this, minority luster. They`ve got it for Donald Trump, which we can`t believe, because Donald Trump has Rudy Giuliani behind him who is pro-gay. He`s also pro-abortion, and so --

MATTHEWS: Abortion rights.

SCHLAPP: I like the way she said it.

MATHTEWS: I don`t like it that way.

RYAN: Well, I`m sorry. He got the Hispanic vote. What`s going to happen to Rubio?

MATTHEWS: You`re talking about Trump here for a minute. I`m out in Vegas, the great thing about being in Vegas, the whole week I was out there, I`m waking around the strip, and people come up to you. They`re unabashed. They`re all regular people.

CORN: With little cards.

MATTHEWS: The American cross-section, regular people, middle class, regular people, and very un-intimidated when they see somebody like me. They come right -- they want the selfie, they want -- and I`m fine with that, I think it`s great.

But one African-American guy came up to me and a nice chat together, but I didn`t have a camera with me, which was pretty good. He says, just tell me something, he said, just make American great again, what do you mean by again?

RYAN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: What is your message here, back before we had any rights, back in the `50s, back when we didn`t have anything, is that what you want to go back to?

Is that resounding around that thought, that this guy is a perfect message of go back to when the country was white dominated?

RYAN: Yes, that`s what the sentiment is within the broad African-American community thought mind meld. When they say that, you know, we are hearing already that you`re saying take it back and then you talk about a post- racial society, which there is not a post-racial society in this nation.

What we`re looking at, going back to January 20th, 2017, we will have a post-Obama era, and what does it look like. It looks like a nation that is flawed, still has issues -- yes, racial issues.


RYAN: Why are they getting worst?

CORN: Policies are wrong.

RYAN: Is it policies or is it people running off the mouth causing --

SCHLAPP: Come on.

RYAN: What do you mean come on? I am an African-American woman --

SCHLAPP: I know that.

RYAN: OK, then, some of the stuff that is said out there in public by some of these candidates is offensive and divisive.

SCHLAPP: I`m not defending everything that candidates saying. When he says, make America great again, is there just a chance that there are Americans of all stripes who are worried about America`s role in the world, worried about our economy, worried about wages, worried about jobs --

RYAN: African-Americans are very concerned --

SCHLAPP: Come on.

RYAN: What do you mean come on? African-Americans are very conservative people, but because of the issues of race, they will not go to the conservatives, they will not go to the Republican Party. Your head leaders --

SCHLAPP: How is it working for them? How is it working for them?

RYAN: How is it working for them. OK, Democrats --

MATTHEWS: By the way, you`re right about rights. I agree with you on one point. A lot of what she says.

But when Reince Priebus go, he`s number one goal is to keep blacks from voting. Anyway --

SCHLAPP: No, no.

RYAN: No, no, no, no, he`s talking about getting the black vote. I don`t know how he`s going to do.

MATTHEWS: All we hear is voter suppression. It`s all they do.

RYAN: I know. But he said -- let me tell you what Reince Priebus feels. He feels this is a primary all the candidates can be selective in what they do but when it comes to the general election, you got --


MATTHEWS: Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us.

And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: The HARDBALL college tour is back tomorrow night. Tune in tomorrow, I`ll be live from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. Our special guest, himself, Vermont senator and presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. It`s at a special time tomorrow night, 8:00 Eastern, live here on MSNBC.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: That`s election music, and we`re back.

Matt, tell me something I don`t know.

SCHLAPP: Lots of movement at the Republican National Committee. People looking at the numbers. Looking at all the polls. Look for big movement, endorsements from the committee to Donald Trump which helps him if we have a contested --

MATTHEWS: They`re getting aboard that ship, eh?

SCHLAPP: They`re getting aboard that ship.


RYAN: Speaking of the inner sanctum of the RNC, I`ve got some numbers for you. They`re expecting Hillary Clinton to have the white vote 41 percent and non-white vote 30 percent.

CORN: Yesterday, big news, Marc Short, who runs the Koch political outfit, went to work for Rubio. People said that`s great, he`s going to bring the Koch brother donors to the Rubio --

MATTHEWS: Yes. True or false?

CORN: But what people didn`t talk about was that outfit has a gigantic data bank for millions of voter files. That`s going to be a good --

MATTHEWS: Koch brothers for Rubio.

Thank you so much to the roundtable, Matt Schlapp, April Ryan, and David Corn.

When we return, let me finish with tomorrow night`s college tour at the University of Chicago`s Institute of Politics with Bernie Sanders.

I`ll tell you about it when we get back.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with what`s coming tomorrow night. We`re bringing back the HARDBALL college tour. We`ll be at the University of Chicago with its celebrated alumnus United States Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

We`ll have an hour to cover range of topics, Citizens United, his plan for government-funded tuition at public universities and colleges, his early opposition to the Iraq war, his even earlier opposition to Vietnam. His student activism at the University of Chicago on behalf of civil rights. His response to the Black Lives Matter movement. And all the questions he will get from the university of Chicago students, themselves.

It promises to be a great night of political and I think philosophical discussion. Bernie Sanders leads the HARDBALL college tour tomorrow night at the University of Chicago`s Institute of Politics, 8:00 p.m. Eastern here. That`s 8:00 p.m. tomorrow night on MSNBC.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.