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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 3/7/2016

Guests: Al Cardenas, Sherrod Brown, Tulsi Gabbard, Ann Compton, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Heidi Przybyla, Margaret Carlson

Show: HARDBALL Date: March 7, 2016 Guest: Al Cardenas, Sherrod Brown, Tulsi Gabbard, Ann Compton, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Heidi Przybyla, Margaret Carlson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The battle of Michigan.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews out in Las Vegas right now.

And tonight, power politics in Motor City, in that hard-working, cold weather, NFL-cheering Midwest world we belovedly call the Rust Belt.

Hillary Clinton showed last night she`s got a fastball, hammering Bernie for his vote against the automobile bail-out. What killed Mitt Romney, his "Let them eat cake" call to let Detroit go bankrupt, still has its firepower. You don`t vote against cars and car-making jobs in a part of the country that helped make America great.

You don`t give your political rival an issue to mow you down with. You don`t do what Mitt and Bernie did and stand still -- or stand tall -- and still stand tall in the upper American Midwest if you vote against cars. And that is precisely where the experts think Donald Trump could win if he gets the chance this coming November.

Well, today, Trump continued to hammer away at his rivals, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, Ted Cruz -- he comes in bible high -- bible high -- puts the bible down, then lies to you. He told you -- I mean, it`s unbelievable.

And Rubio`s worse. I mean, this guy is such a scoundrel. You look at his past with his credit cards. You look at the driveway that he built out of funds that don`t belong to him. This guy is a disaster, on top of which he`s a choker because when Chris Christie -- who endorsed me, by the way -- when he went after him--


TRUMP: It`s true. I thought -- I thought he was going to melt. I was all set to grab him -- by the way, with this very powerful hand.


TRUMP: I was very -- he made it up. He made that up.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, the Republican front-runner, that`s Trump, also released an ad in Florida today attacking Rubio as corrupt.

Anyway, for Republicans who hope to stop Trump -- Trump from actually getting the nomination, the next eight days leading up to the Florida primary are crucial. But there`s a huge problem in their way, and it stands now -- as it stands now, the only candidate standing between Donald Trump winning this nomination and going into Cleveland with the inevitable nomination in his hands is the roundly, and I think, well, appropriately, despised Ted Cruz, who is actually to the right of Trump politically. So it`s a battle now between Trump and Cruz.

One Republican strategist told Politico today, "It is why it has been so difficult to get an anti-Trump campaign together. If`s the ultimate beneficiary of anti-Trump efforts is Ted Cruz, the effort itself is probably not worthwhile." Not worthwhile.

I`m joined right now by NBC`s Halle Berry -- I mean, sorry, Hallie Jackson -- I always make that mistake -- Hallie Jackson--


MATTHEWS: -- "Washington Post" columnist -- it`s not a bad mistake, actually -- columnist Eugene Robinson -- thank you, sir -- also an MSNBC political analyst, and Al Cardenas, a former senior adviser to Jeb Bush and the former chair of the Republican Party of Florida.

I want to ask Al Cardenas, my friend, what is it now about your party that has shrunk now -- I know the Democrats are down to two, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. But the Republican Party started with, like, 17 people, including all kinds of people, Carly Fiorina and -- oh, my God, the former -- Gilmore, Jim Gilmore, and (INAUDIBLE) quite a list.

And now it`s down to Trump and somebody, I think he`s to his right, Ted Cruz, and less popular because people really know Cruz. They don`t really know Trump. To know Cruz is not to love him. I`m just making my editorial judgment there.

What is yours, sir? You`re a Republican. What does the party think of having a choice between those two guys?

AL CARDENAS, FORMER JEB BUSH ADVISER: Well, listen, it`s a year (ph) of fear, right? And fear incites reasonable people to do unreasonable things. But 70 percent of our voters so far have voted for either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. That`s not 51 percent, that`s 72 percent. And so obviously, it`s a strong majority.

And the only chance you`re going to have that either Ted Cruz or Donald Trump are not the nominee of the party is if you go into the convention as an open convention. But then you say to yourself, All right, well, if it`s an open convention, who`s going to negotiate what, if Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have the vast majority of the delegates? You would think they`d figure something out amongst themselves. So, listen--

MATTHEWS: You mean they might put a ticket together? Can you imagine that ticket, Trump and Cruz?

CARDENAS: Well, either one would like to put a ticket together. But my sense is I don`t see anybody else around the table being the lead in any ticket. So you`re either going to have a ticket that`s put together by Ted Cruz at the top or Donald Trump at the top, or both of them.

But the best Kasich and Marco can hope for is to get to the convention at an open convention. But I don`t see, with the number of delegates they`re likely to get, that they`ll be a driving force in making the ultimate deal. They could get on the ticket, but it`s not going to be their choice.

MATTHEWS: Hallie Jackson, it looks to me the Cruz people know they`re the only alternative now to Donald Trump. How do they play that to win? That`s what I can`t see. I look at the states that are left, Cruz has done very well in that spine down the middle we were talking the other night--


MATTHEWS: -- very well in the Bible Belt-ish part of the country. But he hasn`t done well in the Southeast, among the old Deep South states, and he may well lose tomorrow in Mississippi. I don`t know. It`s probably going to be close.

But where is his strength? Where does Cruz win this thing to beat Trump?

JACKSON: So the thinking behind the campaign`s strategic moves, Chris, goes that if they can get down to a two-man race, then all of that support that right now is behind Marco Rubio or John Kasich will come over to Ted Cruz and will give him enough to ultimately beat Trump.

They`re betting that people in the establishment will pick preserving the party over maybe personality issues, or the fact that they just don`t like Ted Cruz, that it`s sort of -- for the good of the party, you`ll see those voters and that support come behind Ted Cruz and not go behind Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at this. Gene, I want you to respond to this. For some Republicans, it comes down to the old phrase "The devil you know versus the devil you don`t." Mitt Romney and Senator Lindsey Graham both said this weekend they would back Cruz -- and that`s a stretch for both of them -- they`re not -- they`re not right-wing Republicans, generally -- over Trump.

Let`s watch them.


CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Are you comfortable supporting John Kasich, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz, any one of those three candidates, against Donald Trump?

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE: Absolutely. Any one of those three is a real Republican.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would support Cruz over Trump. I`d prefer Rubio over Kasich, Rubio and Kasich over Cruz. But if Ted`s the alternative to Trump, he`s at least a Republican conservative.

And here`s my message to the Republican Party and the conservative movement. I`d rather risk losing without Donald Trump than try to win with him because it will do more damage over time.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s becoming an incredible rubber band. I don`t know why he`s so flexible.

Anyway, Senator Graham is the same man who made this joke about Cruz, if you call it a joke, less than two weeks ago.


GRAHAM: If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate--


GRAHAM: -- and the trial was in the Senate, nobody could convict you.



MATTHEWS: Eugene, the audience began to laugh at the setup there. They didn`t wait for the punch line.



MATTHEWS: -- kill him on the floor of the Senate, they started laughing. I know that was--

ROBINSON: They knew what was coming.

MATTHEWS: I know that was, I think, a press crowd. We`ve got to put that in context. Go ahead.

ROBINSON: Yes, well, they knew what was coming. I mean, you heard the great enthusiasm in Mitt Romney and Lindsay Graham there, right? It`s, like, Oh, well, yes, we`ll support Ted Cruz, I guess.


ROBINSON: You know? So I mean, that`s the -- that seems to be the choice, as they see it. Either they get Donald Trump or they get a guy who they really don`t like, who they don`t think is going to win, but whom they will support at least nominally. You know, whether he gets actual support is another thing.

MATTHEWS: I think of the old phrase, "If you`re not with the one you love, love the one you`re with." And I`m sure this is pretty desperate territory here.

Let me go now to -- the great hope of the Republican establishment, Marco Rubio, seems to be collapsing. In the last -- or actually, the first 20 contests this year, he`s finished first in only one, Minnesota. (INAUDIBLE) also, in all fairness, he did win Puerto Rico. He`s only come in second four times. In 14 out of the 20 races held so far, he`s come in third or worse.

And a new Monmouth poll out of Florida today -- out of Florida -- shows Rubio 8 points behind Trump in his home state of Florida.

Al Cardenas, who`s going to win down there eight days from now?

CARDENAS: Yes, it`s tough for Rubio because over a million votes have already been cast in Florida--


CARDENAS: -- at a time when he was down in double digits. So that means that on election day, when you get about 50 percent of the voters counting, he`s going to have to win by 5, 6, 10 points in order to carry the day. It`s a tough hurdle. He`s trying hard. And I mean, I think most Republicans hopes he wins Florida and Kasich wins Ohio.

But listen, even -- there are 1,596 delegates to be selected. Kasich needs 75 percent of those, Rubio 68, Cruz 58 and Trump 53. It`s hard to figure that those two fellows can get to the number.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Rubio in Florida. He`s Cuban-American. He`s a smart guy. He`s young. He`s attractive. He`s a good cold warrior, I guess, still. He still has that sort of hawkish attitude about him.

Why doesn`t he win? What`s his weakness? Is it the fact that--

CARDENAS: I don`t know, Chris. I thought -- yes, I thought when Chris Christie and Jeb Bush dropped out that all that support in Florida would go to Marco and he`d leap (ph) to number one. I was hoping he would. I mean, he`s my favorite candidate of the remaining candidates.

But instead of moving forward, he seems to have taken a back step in spite of the fact that both Jeb Bush and Chris Christie are out of the race. I don`t understand it.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, look at this, Ted Cruz made another one of his wild allegations the other day, in fact, against Trump over the weekend without any evidence to back it -- any evidence. He accused members of the media, and that`s us, of sitting on major exposes about Trump until after he becomes the nominee.

Let`s watch Cruz do it again.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All of the attacks on Donald that the media is not talking about now, you better believe come September, October, November, if he were the nominee, every day on the nightly news would be taking Donald apart.

I can`t tell you how many media outlets I hear, you know, have this great expose on Donald, on different aspects of his business dealings or his past. But they said, You know what? We`re going to hold it to June or July. We`re not going to run it now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you saying reporters have told you that?

CRUZ: Absolutely.


CRUZ: You know, look, I`m not going to out media outlets, but I can tell you there is so much there.


MATTHEWS: You know, Halle Berry -- Hallie -- Hallie Jackson, I would love to know why we can`t use occasionally lie detectors. Just -- there`s a fact argument, not, Are you a conservative or a liberal or this opinion or that. He is stating a statement of fact, of informed fact, he claims, that he`s talked to major media organizations who are sitting on the dirt about Donald Trump.

Now, I`m thinking what we used to call the major media, the major metropolitan newspapers, "The Times," "The Post," "The Journal" and (INAUDIBLE) the major broadcast nets. You can throw in the cables.

Who is he talking about, "Time" magazine? I mean, who is this major news organization group that`s sitting on all the dirt? What is he talking about?

JACKSON: Right. So a couple of points to make. Number one, we`ve asked the campaign what he`s referring to and haven`t heard anything back yet. Number two, you know, Ted Cruz has done things before where he`s said, for example, about Donald Trump`s tax returns, brought up questions about them. Well, we don`t know what`s in them. Maybe there`s a bombshell. We just don`t know. He`s sort of sowing the seeds--


MATTHEWS: Tony Solano (ph), the proof that he`s in with the mob is in his tax returns.


MATTHEWS: I don`t know what tax returns shows you`re in with the mob. Go ahead.

JACKSON: -- outlets -- he`s saying, I`ve spoken with them and they`re telling me that they`re -- I think if you go back and look at the headlines and you look at the news stories, there have been plenty that have been written and that have been talked about about Donald Trump. So it`s sort of a big question mark on what he`s talking about here. We`ll find out, I guess.

ROBINSON: News outlets don`t sit on -- don`t sit on bombshells!

MATTHEWS: I wonder who this person is at "The New York Times" -- Gene -- Gene, have you ever heard of a major newspaper--


MATTHEWS: -- you`ve been a big editor -- of sitting on a really good story they got because it`s not ripe enough politically? It isn`t going to have the right firepower. So let`s hold this until June or July.

ROBINSON: That has never--

MATTHEWS: Because they would like to be first, first of all.

ROBINSON: That never, ever happens because guess what? If you`ve got all this bombshell information and you`ve managed to figure it out, you better publish it because somebody else can figure it out, too. They can find it out, too, and you`ll get beaten on the story.

Therefore, we don`t hold stories. You don`t hold -- you publish stories when they`re ready.

JACKSON: And remember who Cruz is talking to here. He wants to get this message out to voters. He wants to basically put question marks in their minds about Donald Trump`s viability in an election--


JACKSON: -- as he goes on to make an electability case.

CARDENAS: Hey, look, Chris--

MATTHEWS: He`s Joe McCarthy.

CARDENAS: -- every campaign -- every campaign--

MATTHEWS: He`s channeling Joe McCarthy with these kind of charges.

CARDENAS: -- spends millions of dollars--

MATTHEWS: Pardon me, Al? Pardon me?

CARDENAS: Every campaign spends millions of dollars on opposition research. Files are this thick. There`s nothing that escapes a good opposition research.

MATTHEWS: I know. I know. That`s so true. Thank you so much, Al Cardenas. Thank you, Hallie Jackson, and thank you, Eugene McCarthy. (sic)

Coming up -- Eugene McCarthy -- Eugene Robinson -- why do I -- Eugene McCarthy, Halle Berry -- I get the first names right!

Coming up, after -- you`re not anywhere McCarthyite, and Halle Berry is not a knock, by the way, Hallie Jackson.

Anyway, coming up -- after their feisty debate last night, Hillary Clinton`s looking to put Bernie Sanders away. She`s got her tactical skills in order right now. She`s got the edge in both states tomorrow -- that`s Mississippi and Michigan -- and Sanders has to prove he can win beyond the campuses and the caucuses. Can he nab a big state like Michigan tomorrow night? Looking tough for Bernie.

Plus, on the eve of Michigan and this (ph) with eight days left until the make-or-break contest in Florida, Ohio and Illinois, the HARDBALL roundtable will be here to tell me something I don`t know.

Also tonight, remembering Nancy Reagan. She fiercely protected her husband during his -- her -- his presidency and kept the Reagan torch burning brightly ever since. There she is -- my friend.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the end of "Downton Abbey" tonight. It went away last night. What a loss.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, we`ve got new numbers on the primary race coming up in New York state, where voters head of the polls April 19th. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

On the Republican side, Donald Trump is on top with 45 percent, Marco Rubio and John Kasich are tied for second with just 18 points apiece. Ted Cruz comes in way back at 4.

On the Democratic side -- this`ll be great -- Hillary Clinton is leading with 55 percent, Bernie Sanders trails with just 34. I thought that would be closer. Doesn`t look close at all.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. In a move that clears the field for the eventual Democratic candidate in the general election, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg today announced -- there`s the big news tonight -- he will not seek the presidency as a third party candidate. Bloomberg will not run.

He writes, "As the race stands now, there`s a good chance that my candidacy would lead to the election of Donald Trump or Senator Ted Cruz. That is not a risk I can take in good conscience."

Bloomberg`s decision is also a sign of Hillary Clinton`s current strength. She`s getting stronger after she turned on a solid performance at the debate last night in Flint, Michigan. While Bernie Sanders hammered Clinton for her past support of trade agreements, like NAFTA, Clinton unveiled a new line of attack on Sanders on the auto bailout. Catch this as a tactical shot.

Here she goes.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Secretary Clinton supported virtually every one of these disastrous trade agreements!

HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I`ll tell you something else that Senator Sanders was against. He was against the auto bail-out. We just had the best year that the auto industry has had in a long time. I voted to save the auto industry.


CLINTON: He voted against the money that ended up saving the auto industry!


CLINTON: I think that is a pretty big difference.

SANDERS: Well, I -- if you are talking about the Wall Street bail-out, where some of your friends destroyed this economy--

CLINTON: You know--

SANDERS: Excuse me! I`m talking!


CLINTON: If you`re going to talk, tell the whole story, Senator Sanders!

SANDERS: Let me tell my story, you tell yours.

CLINTON: I will.


MATTHEWS: Wow. There she--


MATTHEWS: Anyway, some noted that Sanders appeared to be dismissive of Clinton, not a good sign when male goes against female, often cutting her off. Here`s what Senator Sanders had to say when he was asked about his tone. That was the big word coming out of last night, his tone. What he said today about it.


SANDERS: When I was speaking, she interrupted me. I did not interrupt her. Despite the fact that she spoke longer than -- you know, red lights went on, she kept talking. I didn`t interrupt her. But I think in the middle of a debate, if somebody is trying to make a point and somebody else interrupts you, I think that`s rude.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Ohio senator, Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown who supports Hillary Clinton. Senator, what did you make of last night`s debate on that part of tone, first of all?


MATTHEWS: Do you think that he was -- that he was a little pushy, a little bit difficult, chauvinistic, whatever term we`re using?

BROWN: As you said, I support Hillary Clinton. I know both of them well.

I think passions run high in these debates. But I can`t help, when I hear the criticism and the parsing of who interrupted whom there, is to make the contrast with the Republican debates.

And the Republican debates are -- they look like children. They`re cafeteria food fights. They interrupt. They call each other names. Hillary and Bernie have been on the stage day after day, week after week. They`re going to lose their tempers a little. They`re going to be sort of hot under the collar sometimes.

I don`t put a lot of stock into those criticisms, when I contrast how substantive and dignified and how few personal attacks there are one against another on the Democratic side, because they`re both ready to lead. On the Republican side, they`re just ready to fight. And that`s tragic for our system.

MATTHEWS: What do you make about Hillary hitting him hard, hitting Bernie? We`re using first names this year, for some reason, but Hillary hitting Bernie on the question of his support, his opposition to the auto bailout?

BROWN: Yes. Well, I think that`s a big, big issue in Michigan. It`s a big, big issue in Ohio.

And when we did the auto rescue in 2009, once the auto rescue sort of went into effect, we have seen a turnaround in the economy. We have seen 71, 72 consecutive months of job growth all over the country, and led by Ohio and Michigan in many ways, because the auto industry, particularly GM and Chrysler, have gone into bankruptcy and were in such trouble.

And we know, as they began to turn around and that job growth happened month after month, we saw more manufacturing jobs. And I`m particularly pleased with what Hillary is doing, what Secretary Clinton`s doing on her manufacturing plans.

And, you know, you don`t -- what pulls an economy is housing and manufacturing. And I think she`s doing the right thing on both. But I think what she`s saying on manufacturing is really important to create a middle class. And some say that, you know, the middle class started in Flint. I like to say it started in Cleveland with unions, and the auto industry, and the steel industry, and what they have done to bring hundreds of thousands, millions of families into the middle class.

It doesn`t matter where it started. But we`re seeing those kinds of gains. We`re not close to where we need to be yet, of course.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a regular family out there. They root for the Lions. They`re used to the cold weather. They have had hardworking jobs where you work with your hands, semi-skilled jobs, if they`re lucky.

How do they -- I see that some of those people may be breaking for Trump and some breaking for Bernie. What would make a person have a -- make a decision in that to go left or -- I don`t know what Trump is, right, sometimes right -- but both against trade agreements. How do you see that dividing among the people you know out there?

BROWN: Well, let me answer it a slightly different way, Chris.

The top four candidates for president this year, it`s unprecedented in a whole host of ways. One of them is -- the top two Republicans, Trump and Cruz, the top two Democrats, Clinton and Sanders, all four of them are against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I have never seen a race when the agreement across party lines of the candidates that have the most chance for the nomination are against these trade agreements, because they`re finally listening to the public on these trade agreements clearly have cost millions of jobs in places like Parma, Ohio, and Hamtramck, Michigan, and Macomb County and Toledo.

And I think we`re going to see a different kind of trade policy come out of a Clinton administration that deals with manufacturing, and deals with raising standards, and undoes some of this investor state shift to corporate power from democratically elected governments, all those that should be part of our trade agreements.

MATTHEWS: OK. it`s great to have you on, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.


BROWN: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: By the way, the most important state in the union come November. It always is.


MATTHEWS: And another moment right now that has received a lot of attention, another moment last night, the candidates were asked if they had any blind spots when it comes to the issue of race in this country. Senator Sanders offered up this response.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you`re white, you don`t know what it`s like to be living in a ghetto. You don`t know what it`s like to be poor. You don`t know what it`s like to be hassled when you walk down the street.


MATTHEWS: Well, to many, it appeared that Sanders was reinforcing the stereotypes that only African-Americans live in impoverished neighborhoods.

That`s not exactly what he said, but it came across that way. Here`s how he clarified the remark today.


SANDERS: What I meant to say is, when you talk about ghetto, traditionally, what you`re talking about is African-American communities. So, I think many white people are not aware of the kinds of pressures and the kind of police pressure that sometimes takes place within the African- American community.


MATTHEWS: Well, I`m joined right now by Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of from Hawaii, who supports Bernie Sanders.

Is this about nomenclature, vocabulary? Most of my friends, people I work with, African-Americans, I think you can say the hood, the neighborhood. You can make references like -- ghetto is an archaic term. But is that something that`s politically lethal? I don`t know. What do you make of that? He`s getting hit with this thing.

REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: Aloha. Aloha, Chris. It`s good to join you.

I think what Bernie said speaks for himself, although I think it`s important for us, as I recognize the high stakes of this election, this is not games. This is not about political gamesmanship.


MATTHEWS: Could you put the mike close, Congresswoman? Can you put the mike close?

GABBARD: Can you hear me here?

MATTHEWS: Yes. Now I can. OK, please.

GABBARD: There are very high stakes in this election. And that`s where you see this huge turnout here tonight in Michigan.

I know, for myself, as a veteran, someone who deployed to Iraq, who served in a medical unit, who saw every day the very high cost of war, how much is at stake in this election as we select who our next commander in chief will be.

I supported Bernie Sanders, and will work very hard to get him through this Democratic nomination, and to get him to be our president, because it`s important that we have a commander in chief who exercises good judgment, who has foresight, who has the intelligence to be able to make the right decisions about where and when we use our American military power, and where and when we don`t, just as importantly.

And this is what`s at stake. War is real. It affects our lives, not only for those who serve overseas, but lives here at home, because of the trillions of dollars that we have wasted in these interventionist regime change wars that Hillary Clinton has supported and championed in many different ways in Iraq and Libya, now in Syria.

Now we`re faced with situations like we have seen in Flint, the heartbreaking crumbling infrastructure that`s ruining so many people`s lives with the water crisis that they`re facing, and similar challenges across the country.

We need to keep those resources here at home, so that we can nation-build and strengthen our own country.

MATTHEWS: Why did Hillary Clinton vote for the Iraq War?

GABBARD: That`s a good question. And I think people should ask her, again, to tell why she voted for that Iraq War. She`s said that she`s regretted it.

But time and time again, whether it`s her really championing the military overthrow of Gadhafi in Libya, pushing the Obama administration to conduct that, resulting in a totally failed state, thousands of lives lost, and now ISIS and al Qaeda having a stronghold there, and, present day, the war in Syria, she is pushing for that war and promises to escalate it if she is elected as president, which deeply, deeply concerns me, as it should all of us.

MATTHEWS: I agree with every single word you just spoke. And I hope you have an influence in this next administration, no matter who wins.

GABBARD: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Tulsi Gabbard of the state of Ohio.

Up next, remembering first lady Nancy -- state of Hawaii. Why? What did I say? Ohio. State of Hawaii, of course.

First lady Nancy Reagan, whose 94 years spanned from Chicago to Hollywood to Pennsylvania Avenue.

And we will be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Tonight, the nation mourns, as we remember the life of former first lady Nancy Reagan, who died yesterday at the age of 94. Not a bad run for anybody.

President Obama ordered the flag at the White House lowered to half-staff in respect for her early today, and who offered some reflections of his own on Mrs. Reagan. Here he is.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As somebody who has been lucky enough to have an extraordinary partner in my life as well, I know how much she meant, not just to President Reagan, but to the country as a whole. He was lucky to have her. And I`m sure he`d be the first to acknowledge that. So, she will be missed.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what truth looks like from a politician. There`s no way he was not telling the truth there.

Anyway, Mrs. Reagan will lay in repose Wednesday and Thursday at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. Her funeral will be held on Friday. First lady Michelle Obama will attend that service.

In the 1980s, Nancy Reagan was known for bringing style and Hollywood glamour to the White House. As first lady, she was the face of the Just Say No campaign, the effort to try to dissuade kids from using drugs. She was truly one of her husband`s closest advisers, I think clearly the closest, if not that.

Anyway, earlier today, her son Ron, I heard him on NBC this morning on "The Today Show," gave a more personal side about his parents and how they loved each other, the great love affair he said they had that lasted over 50 years. Here`s our friend Ron.


RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Once they had bonded together, they really were inseparable. I mean, it sounds cliche. I don`t think that they ever spent a day apart where they didn`t call, speak on the phone. He wrote her letters, you know, all her life, all his life. They were in love.



I`m joined by Ann Compton, former White House correspondent who covered the Reagans and six other presidents as well.

Ann, you have done it all.

And Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian.

We have needed you a lot lately, Michael.

And Doris Kearns Goodwin is for the same reason. We like to get these things in perspective.

And when somebody dies, that seems to be the time we do realize who they were and what they were.

Let me ask you, Ann, about the assassination, because of all the things that happened in the Reagan administration, good, bad, whatever, evil was the one we saw on television, the assassination almost of a president. How did that affect Nancy Reagan? ANN COMPTON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There`s no question that the protectiveness that she felt for Ronald Reagan 62 days after he took the oath of office, suddenly, her beloved Ronnie was lying in a hospital seven blocks away, near death.

And all the rest of her career in the White House, it was protecting that. She particularly protected him when it came to White House staff, finding the best press secretary, somebody young and handsome, she said, finding somebody getting rid of a White House chief of staff like Donald Regan that she didn`t trust.

And more than anything else, I think Nancy Reagan preserved what she could of a husband. He was the oldest president, I think, Michael would know better than I, but oldest president we had had. And she was the sustaining, guiding light.

MATTHEWS: So true.

Michael, your thoughts?


And I think she really made it possible for him to be president. Ronald Reagan was a great man in all sorts of ways, you know, famously optimistic and almost a romantic. Nancy Reagan complemented him almost perfectly, because she was not optimistic, as was her, in her general -- you knew her very well, Chris. I don`t think you would disagree with that.

When she saw that full room of people, she had that enormous X-ray vision. She could see who might have the possibility to either do harm to her husband politically, or someone who might have a potential that other people had not seen.

She was a wonderful judge of people in a way that he was not. So this was not only a great marriage. It was an amazing political partnership.

MATTHEWS: And I love the way she saw through Don Regan.

Doris, thank you for joining us.

Your views about Nancy Reagan as the big half of a power couple.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, the interesting thing is, when you look at the arc of her first ladyship, when she came in first, there was all that glamour. There were the expensive clothes. There was the china.

And it seemed like she was getting criticized from all sides. And then even after Ronald Reagan`s assassination attempt, when she had the astrologer come in, that became a problem later on. But then, over time, I think that extraordinary protection that she gave to him translated itself into real power, so that she really was in a way the power behind the throne.

Who was the person but she who helped him in the preparation for that second debate with Walter Mondale. Even earlier, she was the one who helped him on the microphone, "This is my microphone" in New Hampshire. And then, of course, releasing the hard-liners and becoming more of a rapprochement with the Soviet Union, changing Donald Regan and getting the White House staff changed, and yet never taking credit for that, so by the end of his presidency, she was so popular.

And it just shows the media goes from one extreme to the other, and then there was some criticism she`s too powerful. But I think underneath it all is exactly what Ann said, that the main thing she gave him was relaxation, replenishment, and love. And that`s what any person needs, much less a president, in the middle of difficult times.

MATTHEWS: And just to recall everybody, and Ann especially, how times were different back in the `80s, before I got to know Nancy Reagan as a human being and got to really like her as a friend, she was just a political figure to me.

And we were writing up some jokes for Tip O`Neill about the china. And Tip said: "Don`t tell jokes about people`s family members. They will never forget it. It`s a one-shot wonder. It`s a disaster. Don`t do it."

It was a scolding we got from him. And that is one way things were different back then, before this playpen of politics we`re watching today. It was so different. You didn`t take shots at a member -- and then you have what`s going on today, with your hands are small, and therefore -- and all this stupid stuff. And your ears are too big.

And, I mean, give me a break. Anyway, and Donald Trump wants to go after the family of terrorists.


COMPTON: Remember that Nancy Reagan, of the first ladies I covered over an arc of 40 years, she got as bad press as anybody, just short of Hillary Clinton.


COMPTON: But what does she do? She went to the Gridiron Dinner dressed in feather boas and rubber boots and said secondhand clothes. And she, every step of the way, tried to make up for and blunt that.

And who were her best friends in Washington? When Frank Reynolds, the anchor of ABC`s evening news died, the presidential limousine led a state funeral to Arlington National Cemetery. Nancy Reagan`s friends were always at the very top.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Wow. What a story you got there.

Thank you so much, Ann Compton. You know your stuff.

And thank you, Michael Beschloss and Doris. And more next time you`re on. I`m sorry. You guys are too great for these small shots, but that`s the way TV works.

We will be right back.



MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL,

Tomorrow`s another big day in the primary season. The night`s main event is, of course, the state of Michigan. If the polls are any indication out there so far, both Trump and Hillary Clinton will glide to victory.

A new Monmouth poll finds Trump ahead by 13 points at 36 percent. He`s followed by Cruz at 23 percent, John Kasich at 21 percent. Cruz does have some power in that Midwest area. Kasich down to 21 percent. John has got to do better than that. Rubio trails it fourth which is becoming a familiar pattern.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders 55 to 42. By the way, that`s a majority. Did you notice?

What makes Michigan particularly interesting is the state Trump hopes to pick off from the Democrats this fall. He`s going for the win out there.

According to "The Associated Press", Donald Trump`s most plausible path to victory in the general election would be a GOP map unlike any in years. He would be relying on white working class, largely white voters in states that have long been Democratic bastions in presidential contests from Maine to Pennsylvania to Michigan. By the way, George Wallace carried Michigan.

I`m joined right now by tonight`s round table, Heidi Przybyla, she`s a senior political reporter for "USA Today," David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC political analyst, and Margaret Carlson is a columnist with "Bloomberg News."

I know your -- that baited breath, David, but I want to start with Heidi.

It is interesting. If you look back in history, George Wallace did carry the Democratic primary in Michigan, back in `72. So, there`s a -- it`s not all racial, but there`s a lot of class added to there among white working people. Talk about it.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, USA TODAY: Well, particularly, Chris, down in the southeastern portion of Michigan, where I happen to come from, and the reason why this is so critical in Michigan is because this resentment over trade, the big argument that Sanders and Trump are making, has been festering over 20 years with the North American Free Trade Agreement.

You`re talking about these white working class, German, Polish, Irish heritage immigrants who`ve seen a lot of the closure of plants, and who really witnessed the devastation of the automotive industry. And what was so devastating, Chris, is the expectations, because I grew up with a lot of these kids who are now adults. And we grew up solidly middle class.

But, you know, Bernie Sanders talks about kids in this country not having as good of a future as their parents. Well, it`s already happened in Michigan. So, it`s a perfect kind of incubator for what you mentioned the Trump-Sanders voter. And the nexus there really is the trade issue.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I look at places in Indiana, which are very nearby, right below Lake Michigan there, where they have like nothing left in town, but it used to be a blockbuster. And I think those are gone now. There`s nothing but the diner left. There`s nothing like it.


MATTHEWS: David, talk about that history, because some of it`s racial. It`s certainly white people not very happy about immigration. But it`s also some other kind of attitude.

Remember we used to talk about the people George Wallace or Bobby Kennedy, the same voter? You know what I`m talking about.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, exactly. In Macomb County, the Reagan Democrats, there`s a long history there of Michigan. We also had the militia movement in the 1990s. It was very strong militia.

A lot of, you know, white working class guys who cared about guns. The NRA and the Republicans have made great inroads against Michigan Democrats there in the last couple of decades on the gun issue.

And so, what`s interesting on the Democratic side, if we don`t look ahead to the general election quite yet, on the Democratic side, Hillary in the past has done very well with sort of working class men who are Democrats.

MATTHEWS: Oh, come on. When she was running against an African-American guy.

CORN: Yes, exactly.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s put that in perspective.

CORN: Exactly. The thing is, she`s running against Bernie. And Bernie is speaking to them on the trade issues that Heidi talked about. But if Hillary still wins the state, even if she wins it without the bloc of voters, it`s really a pretty big loss for Bernie if he can`t sell the essence of his argument to this audience and win a major state that`s diverse, that has a lot going on within it.

MATTHEWS: Margaret, you grew up in western Pennsylvania. What, Camp Hill, where was it? I mean, I`m mistaking -- do you know what they`re talking about on the front page of the major papers today? All the same day, that Trump can win in November beating Hillary Clinton presumably, in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and western Pennsylvania. Those areas are the ones most likely to go to him with his appeal.

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, Chris, I`m actually from central Pennsylvania, Harrisburg. But, you know, that`s what -- in between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, they call Alabama.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

CARLSON: It`s very conservative. And the steel plants were in that area. And they`re all closed down. Those people ended up flipping hamburgers.

You know, Trump`s appeal -- you know, I have this theory if Bernie Sanders had made his way to Flint, Michigan, and done what Hillary did, he`d be doing better in Michigan. But that time has passed.

You know, Trump got 20,000 Democrats in Massachusetts, the people`s republic. He`s going to get the Reagan Democrats who were born in Macomb County, Michigan.


CARLSON: And, you know, winning Massachusetts with 59 percent seems to me, with that -- the white non-college educated male is what`s going to see him through in Michigan. I don`t see anybody beating him.

But I will say, notice that John Kasich, Governor Kasich has had a surge there. He`s up nine points, and Trump is down seven. So, it could be -- he could move into second place.

MATTHEWS: Heidi, I`m still concerned that Kasich hasn`t been able to get that high, though. He`s still down about fourth. What is going on? He has got to do well in Michigan I think if he`s going to win the nomination, which is an outside opportunity. He has to win Michigan. He`s not going to do it.

PRZYBYLA: Yes, well, he`s not going to win Michigan. What he`s hoping is to work those more affluent suburbs of Detroit as well as some of the more moderate areas. He got about 500 people to turn out in Gross Point Woods the other day.

So, he`s hoping to have a better than expected showing in Michigan, and then to win Ohio. But that does not a path to the nomination make. What that makes is potentially a contested convention.

So, he himself, Chris, is saying that he doesn`t think that he`s going to be able to pull it off. But for sure, what Ted Cruz is doing in Florida, may also undermine him, because he`s trying to take Rubio down. If Donald Trump takes both Michigan and Florida, and comes close in Ohio, I think it`s game over.

MATTHEWS: Yes, who says the media is all in New York? You know, we`ve got somebody here from Grand Rapids, right down in the bottom of Michigan. Margaret is from near Harrisburg. These are not considered the tonier parts of town.

Anyway, thank you.


But the roundtable is sticking with us.


MATTHEWS: The state -- the next time we`re going to come back, tell me something we don`t know will be led by Mr. David Corn. He will lead that, because he always has something fascinating.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: I`m headed right now to Detroit, for tomorrow`s primary there starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. I`ll join Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow for complete coverage of the primaries tomorrow night. We`ll bring you top analysts and all kinds of analysis and results for both parties in Michigan, and Mississippi. And for Republicans, couple more, Idaho and Hawaii tomorrow night. That`s 6:00 p.m. tomorrow night here on MSNBC.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with our roundtable.

David, tell me something I don`t know.

CORN: Well, as you do know, Mitt Romney has been going after Donald Trump really hard. One of the things he keeps citing is Mitt Romney`s 47 percent comment from 2012, a story that I know a little bit about.

Well, I went back and looked up some of Donald Trump`s comments --

MATTHEWS: You broke that story.

CORN: Yes, I did. Thank you, Chris.

I found that just a few months ago, Donald Trump said something very close to the 47 percent remarks. He said, "We have a society that sits back and says, we don`t have to do anything. And the 50 percent carry the other 50 percent."


CORN: So, instead of 47 percent, he`s calling 50 percent of Americans free loaders.

PRZYBYLA: That`s because he`s bigger about everything.

MATTHEWS: Margaret, you`re up.

CARLSON: Chris, it`s hard to believe but there seems to be some confusion among some people in Michigan about how to vote. For the first time, they have to -- they don`t have to register but have to choose a ballot. And in the absentee ballot, there`s been a 5 percent error rate because of this new requirement. It doesn`t sound like you should be confused over it, but then, remember there were butterfly ballots.

MATTHEWS: So, you mean they vote the wrong way like in Palm Beach.


MATTHEWS: They get it wrong. Oh God, I hate this stuff.

CARLSON: In anyway, this 5 percent error rate if it translates into the wider group voting --

MATTHEWS: Anyway, we got to go to Heidi. People should get their heads organized before they vote. Anyway, it`s tough for some people.

Anyway, Heidi?

PRZYBYLA: Chris, this narrative coming to a theater soon near you. Bernie, as Trump enabler. Look, the latest calculations are, according to the "Cook Political Report", that Bernie Sanders would have to carry three fifths of the delegates going forward just to break even with Hillary Clinton.

This race is just about over. And the big question is whether Bernie really takes Hillary down and continues to take her down on this trade issue, which like we discussed, is going to hurt bad --

MATTHEWS: We`ll see.

PRZYBYLA: -- in some of these south eastern areas where the UWA, the Teamsters, all the unions are not endorsing them.

MATTHEWS: Well, if he can`t beat her in Michigan, he`s not going to beat her.

Thank you so much, Heidi Przybyla. Thank you, David Corn. And thank you, Margaret Carlson.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the end of Downton Abbey. What is it about the magic of that place? Why do I love going there Sunday night after Sunday night to that English country house to the big living room upstairs, to the servants table downstairs?

OK, I love Mary Crawley, then again who doesn`t? She reminds me of the old movie roles played by Joan Fontaine. As Frank Sinatra would say, she`s got class.

Consider me simple, but I can`t get past the idea that it was all real. I think it`s real. It feels real, that there really is a place called Downton Abbey, really is a fellow named Lord Grantham and an American heiress who become his Lady Grantham, that there really was a Sybil who died young and beautiful with the guts to marry the chauffeur, that there really was an unlucky Edith and yes, a stunning Mary. That Mr. Carlson is running things from top to bottom, and that Mrs. Hughes, is standing by him in all things except when he`s unaware that the 20th century is plummeting along, and his Victorian world is vanishing beneath his feet.

That whole wonderful family of people, that place which I cannot believe isn`t real because Downton Abbey lives so deeply and wonderfully within me. Is this, of course, the divide between where we go across from the real to the unreal for no sounder reason except our humanity, because it`s so much happier over there.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.