Show: HARDBALL Date: March 9, 2016 Guest: April Ryan, John Stanton, Michael Rezendes, Philip Levine, Steve McMahon, Henry Barbour, Kathleen Parker, Jay Newton-Small
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Trump thumps, but Bernie stuns.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Bernie Sanders pulls an upset in Michigan. Can he repeat the big 10 magic in Iowa and Ohio? Can he carry this fight all the way to California? And can anything stop Trump after he`s bulled his way through Mississippi and Michigan, especially if he rubs out Rubio in Florida?
Let`s start with the mishegoss on the GOP side. It`s do or die time for the anti-Trump forces in the Republican Party. The New York billionaire nabbed three big wins last night in Michigan, Mississippi and in Hawaii. Polls show him on the verge of another big win next week in Florida.
And last night, Trump mocked the effort to try and stop him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of the four, they`re pretty much all gone, OK? Pretty much. They didn`t do so well tonight, folks, OK? I`m not going to say anybody didn`t do well. They didn`t do well. There`s only one person did well tonight, Donald Trump, I will tell you.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: Lying Ted -- I call him lying Ted. He holds the bible high, and then he goes down, he puts the bible down and then he lies. He`ll say, I`m the one that beat Donald Trump. I said it before. I beat him. I beat him. But he doesn`t say, yes, he won, like, four, and I won, like, 12 or 13, right? He forgets the other part.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, I think he under -- he undersold us all. I think he`s won about 15 now.
Anyway, Senator Marco Rubio`s campaign has been reduced to a one-state, last-gasp strategy, Florida, where he`s hoping to avoid humiliating defeat down there. Two of his Senate backers, by the way, Nevada`s Dean Heller and Oklahoma`s Jim Inhofe, said today if Rubio can`t win his home state, it would be time for Rubio to drop out.
Right now, Rubio`s chances in Florida aren`t looking too good. In three recent polls, including one today, Trump leads Rubio and the rest of the -- look at this. In the CNN/ORC poll, Trump`s up 16 points on Rubio. In the new Quinnipiac poll, I think that`s out today, he leads Rubio by 23 points in Rubio`s home ground. And in a brand-new Fox News poll out tonight, Trump also has a 23-point lead over Rubio, the favorite son, if you will. I`m being sarcastic.
In Ohio, however, Trump is now in second. The new Fox poll shows John Kasich leading Trump by 5 points in his home state.
Meanwhile, NBC has learned that Jeb Bush -- oh, this is so important -- plans to meet with every candidate left in the field, Rubio, Kasich and Cruz, but not Trump. Oh, boy, the establishment is fighting back.
Kathleen Parker`s a syndicated columnist, and a great one, Jay Newton-Small is Washington correspondent for "Time" magazine -- you`re already down there. And Henry Barbour`s a Republican strategist, the Republican strategist, and a supporter of Marco Rubio.
You know, Henry, just out of pure masochism, I`m going to start with you. Please tell me the Rubio strategy when he`s more than double-digit back. He`s double-double-digit back in his home state, and he keeps saying it`s like the Alamo. Well, the Alamo went the wrong way, too. Your thoughts.
HENRY BARBOUR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, I think Senator Rubio`s going to win Florida. And one of the reasons is, is that Donald Trump...
MATTHEWS: Well, you would say that...
BARBOUR: ... has got his own problems...
MATTHEWS: ... because you`re for him.
BARBOUR: He`s got...
MATTHEWS: What does it mean to say he`s got...
MATTHEWS: ... when all the evidence is he`s losing by 20-some points? What`s the reason for your thinking?
BARBOUR: OK. Well, I think -- I think that Donald Trump`s got about two thirds Republicans wanting to vote against him, and so Marco Rubio is the vehicle in Florida, just as John Kasich is in Ohio, if you want to stop Donald Trump, just as Ted Cruz was in Mississippi last night.
And I think Marco Rubio -- got a big debate coming up tomorrow night in Miami, on his home turf. He has -- he has -- he`s got the positive. He`s going to have to have the positive vibes going again that he had earlier in the campaign, where he looks like the visionary that he is. And he`s got to get back to that and...
MATTHEWS: Why did he start talking about...
BARBOUR: ... and I think his victory...
MATTHEWS: OK. I agree with you. He doesn`t have a prayer if he keeps talking about Donald Trump`s small hands and Donald Trump peeing in his pants and all this ridiculous stuff he`s been saying on national television.
MATTHEWS: I think that reduced him...
MATTHEWS: ... to the level actually below Trump, if that`s feasible -- below him. Your thoughts.
BARBOUR: Well, there`s no question he needs to talk about his record. and if he wants to talk about Donald Trump, let`s talk about Donald Trump`s record, his lack of plans, Trump University, where Donald Trump likes to say he tells it like it is, but the New York attorney general says that`s a bait and switch, a scam. So I think the more people learn about Donald Trump, they`re more -- they`re -- it`s slowing down.
BARBOUR: But I think the...
MATTHEWS: No, it`s not actually...
BARBOUR: ... Cuban vote, which is normally about 7 percent...
MATTHEWS: ... slowing down. It didn`t -- sir, sir, it didn`t...
BARBOUR: Say again?
MATTHEWS: It`s not slowing down. I mean, you could wish...
MATTHEWS: You could wish it (ph) a new existence. He won in last night in Michigan and Mississippi, overwhelmingly. What do you mean by slowing down? He won Hawaii last night.
BARBOUR: Look, sure, I`ll grant you that. He had a good night last night. Give him credit for that. Over the weekend, he certainly looked like he might be stalling.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
BARBOUR: Last night, he looked like he had his jet engines going. But he still has to get 60 percent of the delegates, the remaining bound delegates. He needs about 788 additional delegates to get to the magic 1,237 number...
BARBOUR: ... to have a majority in Cleveland. That`s a high hurdle for him. The way he has to do it is winning these big states, these winner- take-all states like Ohio, like Florida. So it`s going to be a real battle in Florida...
MATTHEWS: OK. You know...
BARBOUR: ... but I think Marco on his home turf has got a good opportunity.
MATTHEWS: Well, so far, he`s only won Minnesota and Puerto Rico. Nothing wrong with winning in Puerto Rico, but that`s not a great foundation for a national across-the-board effort here.
Kathleen, what is...
MATTHEWS: I see Trump winning this thing right now.
KATHLEEN PARKER, "WASHINGTON POST": I do, too, frankly. And I say that with no pleasure. But look, Marco Rubio did diminish himself when he went off on these little, you know, bullying tactics that Trump has used. And while it might have worked for somebody, it just didn`t work for him because the last thing he needed was to look like the high school punk. You know, I mean, he already -- he already looks so young, and that`s something he`s had to fight. And I think he let his shadow grow a little bit in order to look a little older. You know, he`ll be grateful when he`s 80. But for right now, it hurt him. And then he`s acting goofy...
MATTHEWS: Yes, Trump...
MATTHEWS: Trump said his ears were too big. He said his hands were too small. I mean, it really got out of hand.
PARKER: I`m embarrassed for our country, frankly.
MATTHEWS: Me, too. Anyway -- and not -- well, I get over it quicker.
Let me ask you, Jay Newton-Small, you`re down there. What do -- what you make of these numbers because numbers drive our business here, our politics in presidential elections? I mean, Hillary Clinton didn`t win the most delegates, Barack Obama did. She won a lot of big states, he didn`t, but she won. And I think it`s fair to talk about delegates, and I just don`t see Rubio getting in the game again.
JAY NEWTON-SMALL, "TIME" MAGAZINE: No, and I think the most striking thing about most of the polls that you see out right now is the fact that if you had one-on-one matchups between Rubio and Trump or -- or Cruz and Trump, or even Kasich and Trump, all of those one-on-one polls show the other candidates beating Trump.
It`s the fact that there are three candidates that are still in the race that`s actually really helping Trump. And so you talk about dysfunction on Trump`s side, it`s really the establishment dysfunction that cannot unite behind a single candidate that is essentially leading to this problem and leading them to a Trump nomination. And when you have that, if you have that, if they cannot unify behind Donald Trump, its a going to be like Humpty-Dumpty. You`re never going to put that party (ph)...
newton-small: ... back together again.
MATTHEWS: Let me challenge you on that. You think when it comes down to Trump versus, say, Cruz, if it does come down, that people are going to like Cruz more? Because I thought -- I used to take that position, and Trump got really mad at me for saying that. (INAUDIBLE) unite around Rubio, you know, like Henry was saying. I thought Rubio would be the logical one. Trump made fun of that, say, What makes you think they`re going to unite around anybody?
And my second question to you right now -- what makes you think they`re going to like the looks of Ted Cruz anymore when the spotlight`s on him? I don`t think they are going to like the looks of the guy, when they have to look at him and choose him for president, Ted Cruz.
NEWTON-SMALL: Well, he`s definitely not the most likable of candidates, I have to say that. But in this sense, I mean, there is evidence for it. If you look at the polls where it`s one on one, head to head, and there`s a bunch of polling both national and state by state, where they just do candidates state by state, Trump versus each one of the candidates -- each one of those candidates, if you consolidate the anti-Trump vote...
NEWTON-SMALL: ... actually do beat Donald Trump. So there is evidence of that.
MATTHEWS: How about in...
NEWTON-SMALL: ... consolidate that vote.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go back to Henry on this. The exit polls we took last night in Mississippi -- fascinating. The voters down there say they`d be satisfied with Cruz or Trump in the range of about 60, 62 percent. But they said they wouldn`t be -- they would be satisfied with Rubio at the level of 38 percent.
I mean, what do you make of that, the fact that when they look at all three candidates in Mississippi, the state you`re from, I believe, he doesn`t make it?
MATTHEWS: Rubio doesn`t make it!
BARBOUR: Well, it`s just the dynamics at the time. And look, campaigns have ups and downs. Ronald Reagan in 1976 was pretty much left for dead, and we lost six primaries in a row, but he came back and won Texas, won three of the last four and went to the `76 convention in a virtual tie with Ford.
BARBOUR: So look, we`ve got to -- we`ve got to rebound. We`ve got to have a big night at the debate. We`re on our home turf. Rubio`s got to be positive. He`s got to show people that he`s the conservative who can unite the party.
And remember, Chris, Marco Rubio is our strongest candidate in the fall. And I think he`s got to remind people of why he`s the strongest one. And he just has to get back to his bread and butter.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me just tell you about 1976. The reason Ronald Reagan made a comeback in 1976 against Jerry Ford is because he went to North Carolina, and with the help of Jesse Helms and the Panama Canal issue, rebuilt himself into a contender against Jerry Ford.
How`s Rubio going to do it? He doesn`t have a Panama Canal issue, and he sure as hell doesn`t have a Jesse Helms.
Let me go back to Kathleen on this.
PARKER: Well, look, obviously, Rubio is counting on Florida. Kasich wanted to wait it out until he could go through Ohio. I think he probably will take Ohio. But Marco Rubio cannot -- I mean, he can restate all of his positions over and over and over again, but he`s already -- you know, he`s already -- I don`t know. I don`t want to say he`s already lost it, but the fact is, you know, he was...
MATTHEWS: OK. Can I say something?
PARKER: Yes, say something.
MATTHEWS: Where (ph) you do well, the op-ed pages of the newspaper, is when you write that great column in the op-ed pages...
MATTHEWS: That`s where Rubio exists. He doesn`t exist among the American people. The neocons, who love him because they think he`s their little soldier boy, have been putting out three over and over. Singer (ph) and Bremer (ph) and all those guys love him because he`s pushing for war all the time. The average person has no interest in Marco Rubio.
PARKER: I think that`s probably right. And you know, he -- there are people -- many people on the -- in the establishment who want him to go ahead and drop out...
MATTHEWS: I call it the hawks.
PARKER: ... should have done it before Florida because if he loses, his political career is pretty much over.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Jay Newton-Small. You`re on the ground. What do you smell down there?
NEWTON-SMALL: Well, we`re here at the Democratic debate site, and so we`re waiting for Hillary and Bernie to slug it out tonight at 9:00 o`clock, which is potentially the last debate that they`re going to have. They`ve agreed to three more, but they haven`t actually nailed down any of those venues or dates, so we`ll see if they actually have any more after this. It`s not really in Hillary`s interest to have any more.
But in terms of the Republican field, you know, Donald Trump is here in the state, like, rallying people in the last couple of days. You have Marco Rubio, who`s living down here, trying frantically to get back a lot of his votes that he...
NEWTON-SMALL: ... that elected him to the Senate. But it`s definitely feeling like -- you know, there`s a group of protesters out here in front of the Hillary and Bernie debate, and they`re all Trump protesters. You don`t see any presence for any of the other Republican...
NEWTON-SMALL: ... (INAUDIBLE) out here, so...
MATTHEWS: They`re pro-Trump.
PARKER: They`re pro-Trump, yes.
MATTHEWS: OK. In Trump`s victory press conference last night -- love these victory press conferences -- featuring, by the way, 10 flags last night, 10 American flags -- that`s up from six the previous time -- this guy is getting more and more presidential or Napoleonic, whichever -- he seemed to be trying to make nice with what you referred to as the establishment, Jay.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It`s very, very important, as a Republican, that our senators and that our congressmen get reelected. We have some terrific people. Not all of them are on my side, but we have some terrific people.
I want to thank Paul Ryan. He called me a couple of days ago. He could not have been nicer. He was very encouraging, and I have great respect for Paul Ryan. Great respect.
TRUMP: I say let`s come together, folks. We`re going to win. I say let`s come together. And believe it or not, I am a unifier. I unify. I mean, you look at all of the things I built all over the world, I`m a unifier. I get along with people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I love the less educated people. He says anything!
Anyway, meanwhile, this morning, Donald Trump taunted Rubio about the consequences of losing his home state. But he also didn`t rule out the possibility of putting him on his ticket as VP. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: I believe with all my heart that the winner of the Florida primary next Tuesday will be the nominee of the Republican Party!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PARKER: That`s on "MORNING JOE" this morning.
MATTHEWS: Wow. I guess that wasn`t it.
Anyway, let`s go back one more time to Henry. You`ve got to explain this guy one more time. Tell me how he`s going to offset a 20-some-point deficit right now in Florida and save his skin?
BARBOUR: Well, look, we`re going to have a really big turnout. I don`t believe it`s a 20-point deficit. The people I`m talking to in Florida think the race really is about a 10-point race or less. They do -- most people believe, that I`m talking to today down in Florida, that Rubio is going to outperform on election day. They do believe it`s going to be a record turnout, like 2.3 million. About 1.95 million is the record so far. So a lot of new voters coming in. And...
BARBOUR: But one point I wanted to make, Chris, is...
BARBOUR: ... last night, Donald Trump said, They`re saying horrible things about me. Well, Mr. Trump, they`re just talking about your record. And that`s his problem. And I`m hopeful, I`m hopeful that that`s going to come to a head down in Florida.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Henry Barbour, thanks for joining us.
Let`s go to that bite we told you about. Here`s Donald Trump in his victory speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think if he runs and loses -- and you know, I don`t think he would win right now, but if he runs and loses, I think he will never be able to do anything very big politically in Florida. I certainly don`t think he would be considered by anybody as a vice president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he drops out before losing Florida, will you consider him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could he possibly be on the list as a vice president of yours because he could help outreach to Hispanics and help your outreach to the establishment?
TRUMP: Sure, sure. And he`s got a lot of talent. I just don`t want to say that yet, Joe. It`s too -- it`s just not appropriate to talk about it until he makes a decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, interpret that, Jay. He first of all said the guy`s through if he loses and he`s going to beat him badly down there, beat him like a drum. That`s what he says. And then he says, after Joe sort of pushed him a little, and Mika pushed him a little, he said, Well, I might put him on the ticket.
What does that mean, Jay?
NEWTON-SMALL: Well, I mean, I think he doesn`t want to offend Latinos any more than he already has. And he`s certainly making this trek back to the center, to the establishment, trying to sort of mend faces and to soften his -- his positions on immigration, soften his positions on torture and make nice with Paul Ryan and the establishment. So, I mean, he`s trying to be more candidate -- more sort of candidate...
MATTHEWS: More boring.
NEWTON-SMALL: ... and more presidential.
MATTHEWS: Does he dare to be boring?
NEWTON-SMALL: Yes, more boring, frankly.
MATTHEWS: OK. I don`t think he will. Anyway...
PARKER: No, Donald Trump is -- every day is a new day for him. You never know what he`s going to say or what he`s going to do. You know, one day he`s for something, next day he`s against it. He loves everybody. He`s a unifier. Oh, absolutely, it`s awesome.
And you know, Donald is going to be great friends with all the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and they`re just going to -- you know, they`re trying to figure out, How can we get out of the frame with this person, you know? And they are really a bind because...
MATTHEWS: It must be amazing having breakfast with the guy in the morning. You have no idea who (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) Kathleen Parker -- that could be pretty good for a marriage, though. It`s always new!
Anyway, thank you, Jay Newton-Small, and thank you, Henry Barbour -- Henry Barbour, you are a soldier, a soldier!
Anyway, coming up, Donald Trump is holding a rally right now in North Carolina. He`s in good shape in the Republican race, as we`ve said. But we`ve got new poll numbers that show he`s not the strongest candidate against either Hillary or Bernie Sanders. These are numbers you may question, but they are the actual NBC numbers, and NBC`s got a good track record.
Plus, the Democrats. Bernie Sanders won a surprise victory, an upset, stunning upset in Michigan last night, and that gives him the mo heading into Ohio, a very much like state, even though they don`t like each other in football. That`s next week, next Tuesday.
And while Hillary Clinton is the favorite in Florida, she may lack the populist to win in Rust Belt states. And that seems to be a problem for her and that could be trouble if she`s the nominee for the general.
And "The Boston Globe" investigative reporter who helped expose the coverup in the Catholic church. It`s the story behind the brilliant movie, "Spotlight," this year`s Academy Award winner for Best Picture, a great interview coming up with the real reporter behind that story.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" with this refreshing political battle -- and I mean it -- in the Democratic Party. It`s so different than the Republican battle.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just want to take this opportunity to thank the people of Michigan, who kind of repudiated the polls that had us 20, 25 points down a few days ago. The political revolution that we are talking about is strong in every part of the country. And frankly, we believe that our strongest areas are yet to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
After trailing Hillary Clinton by over 20 points in the polls out there, Bernie Sanders pulled a big upset, a huge, stunning upset in Michigan last night, in the primary, taking the state by a couple of points, 50-48. But what an upset it was.
Glenn Thrush of Politico dubbed it the Michigan miracle, saying that Sanders is not only alive, but dangerous -- that`s an interesting word -- after his Tuesday night triumph.
And the statistics Web site FiveThirtyEight called it one of the greatest upsets in modern political history.
Well, Secretary Clinton`s loss was offset by her big win in Mississippi, where she beat Sanders by -- catch this number -- 66 points. That was the difference between the two of them in Mississippi. But Michigan raises questions about Secretary Clinton`s appeal in the Rust Belt, which is a crucial region for the Democrats this coming November.
In a state known for its predominance of blue-collar workers and former Reagan Democrats back from the `80s, Sanders did especially well among those white voters without a college degree, beating Clinton by 15 points with that group, look at that number, 57 to 42 among the so-called Reagan Democrats.
The excitement over Sanders` victory was on full display last night in Detroit, look at this, where Sanders supporters paraded a giant puppet of the candidate behind my set. They came in like that. By the way, afterwards, just so everybody feels good about this, we invited them in to put on that demonstration to the diner there, to Coney Island hot dog place.
I also got a note from the people who put it in there. It was written on a napkin last night. And there it is. It says, "Thank you for inviting us in. We appreciate your willingness to hear what we have to say."
That was addressed to me and to MSNBC.
I`m joined by Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who supports Hillary Clinton, as well as Democratic strategist Steve McMahon.
Mayor, Mr. Mayor, thanks for joining us.
Tell us about Florida and how -- well, it`s an amazing state. As we learned through the recount, one of the good things with the recount, we figured out how diverse your state is. Down south, it`s more like up north. It`s sort of like New York. You get up in the Panhandle, it`s more like Georgia. It`s Southerners, it`s New Yorkers. It`s got every accent in the country, every ethnic group. What is it politically in terms of Sanders vs. Clinton?
PHILIP LEVINE (D), MAYOR OF MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: Well, I could tell you something, Chris. Florida really is representative of what America is today, with our Hispanic community, our African-American community. It`s the United Nations here.
And I think when it comes down between Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton, we`re seeing, as you can imagine, tremendous enthusiasm for Secretary Clinton because obviously there`s lot of trust that what both of these candidates say, they mean. And we know Senator Sanders is espousing a socialist revolution.
And I`m not sure the people of South Florida specifically are looking for a socialist revolution. As you know, a lot of them have gone through it in Nicaragua and Cuba and Venezuela. So we kind of know what that`s about. And I think that you`re going to find that down here that message may not resonate so well.
MATTHEWS: You sound like Churchill fighting Attlee back in 1945 in Britain. Are you saying that socialism necessarily brings in government control, that it ends up being somewhat despotic? That`s you`re saying. Explain.
LEVINE: Well, I would think so. There`s no question about it.
MATTHEWS: He will argue that it stays democratic. He will say, you can be a Democratic socialist and have just as much freedom as we have in this mixed capitalist system we have now if it gets more socialist.
You say, no, it`s dangerous. What do you mean?
LEVINE: Well, I`m not so sure that -- I`m not so sure that a lot of people living in these highly socialist countries are dying to live in those countries or a lot of people are moving there.
Clearly, they`re all moving to Florida. Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela. they`re all coming here. And when you talk about the socialist Democratic countries in Europe, once again, I think that you will find that there`s not a lot of growth, that there`s not a lot of employment opportunities. And those same people are all moving to Florida right now.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of the appeal of Bernie when he says I`m going give you like University of Miami -- not Miami -- that`s a private school. Florida State, University of Florida, free tuition? That`s quite an offer.
LEVINE: Well, you know what I think? I think, of course, in socialist revolutions, they offer everything free.
He is offering free education. We know he is offering free health care. We have no plan how they`re going to play for it. You want to destroy Wall Street. I understand now he`s offering free Uber, and free Starbucks, and maybe free Netflix as well.
MATTHEWS: You`re kidding.
LEVINE: So, I mean, clearly, you can offer anything you want, but you have got to be a realist about this.
And I think what Secretary Clinton`s plan is about really bringing jobs and opportunity.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about, did you go to Michigan? Where did you go to college?
LEVINE: University of Michigan. Go, blue.
MATTHEWS: I thought you did. What a great school. A lot of people -- it`s a national school and one of the best.
What do you think is the difference? Last word to you. Difference Between Michigan and Florida, where Michigan, where Senator Sanders nipped them, nipped them, won the election up there over Clinton? What stops him from doing the same in Florida, based on the nature of the state? What is it?
LEVINE: I think it`s very different. I think obviously Florida is very international. There`s a lot of people that believe in free trade, but understanding that Secretary Clinton believes in free trade, but at the same time, wants to make sure that we protect workers, we protect companies and that we have a plan for more exports.
You can`t just close yourself off. And I think the Michigan, unfortunately, experience has been one where they have seen jobs go overseas. Maybe the Floridians haven`t seen that as much. But we need to fix the ills that have happened in Michigan.
MATTHEWS: Thanks so much. Thanks for joining us right now.
Let me go to Steve McMahon.
LEVINE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: This view of this whole thing.
Who are you with?
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I`m with nobody.
MATTHEWS: You`re absolutely -- OK, let`s call it as a Democrat. You`re Democrat, unhyphenated.
MATTHEWS: What about this debate? He just took a shot at Bernie`s socialism. Bernie says, I`m a Democratic socialist in the Northern European model, Denmark socialist, Swedish socialist, no threat there. He identifies it with the worst kind of socialism.
And, frankly, I mean, it`s a little bit of a -- you know, it`s a red herring, because nothing Bernie is talking about is outside of the sort of progressive agenda of many Democrats, in fact, outside the progressive agenda of probably about half the Democratic Party right now, because that`s about what is he is getting.
MATTHEWS: How do you give free tuition to all the big state schools in the United States without controlling their spending, controlling the schools? You can`t give them all the same amount.
MCMAHON: Well, the same way you do high schools and grade schools in states all across the country today. You just expand it for four more years. There`s nothing socialist...
MATTHEWS: No. If you pay the University of Michigan how much they charge for tuition, the federal government writes the check, right? It`s a single-payer system for our education. How do you control that?
Suppose somebody in University of New Hampshire says we want the same amount of money you`re spending at Michigan, the same amount of tuition you`re spending at Berkeley, and the federal government says the schools are not quite the same? Who decides that kind of thing? Somebody in Washington.
MCMAHON: Or maybe they`re block grants to the states. The Republicans love to do that, maybe Michigan based on population.
MATTHEWS: That is not what Bernie is offering. Bernie is offering free tuition. I just wonder how you administer it. It`s a question.
MCMAHON: I honestly don`t know how you administer it. But I think it`s not as big a problem or as big a challenge as some people would make it out to be.
MATTHEWS: I think it is going to be fascinating when they decide this school is not as good as that school, or you can`t build that football field, you can`t build that student center. The federal government starts doing that, it will be interesting.
Anyway, fair enough debate.
Thank you. I love arguing with you.
Philip Levine, the mayor of Miami, we haven`t had him before. And Steve McMahon, we have had him a lot. And he`s great.
Up next, Donald Trump may be riding high right now, but new polling shows he is hardly the best Republican candidate to run against Hillary Clinton. These polls amaze me. I`m not sure I agree with them. But they show an overwhelming advantage for Senator Sanders in a one-on-one with Trump, and Hillary Clinton having a tougher time. I don`t know if that`s counterintuitive. But it is to me.
And that`s ahead. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Donald Trump is coming off a night of big wins in Michigan, Mississippi and Hawaii, but a new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll of registered voters in both parties shows nearly two-thirds, 64 percent, have a negative view of him. And six in 10 say Trump represents something harmful to the Republican Party.
These are all voters, not just Republicans.
Anyway, tonight, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Trump`s rally has been interrupted several times by protesters. It`s his first campaign events since his victories last night.
Looking ahead to possible general election matchups, the new poll shows Hillary Clinton beats Trump 51-38. Write that down, 51-38 Hillary over Trump. And in the matchup between the outsiders, that`s Sanders vs. Trump, 56 Sanders beats Trump at 37, an overwhelming victory predicted by the polling.
Joining me right now, the HARDBALL roundtable. David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC political analyst. April Ryan covers the White House for American Urban Radio Networks. And John Stanton is with BuzzFeed.
I`m just going to throw this out. How do you react to that poll? Does it sit with you that Hillary is so much weaker up against Trump come November projecting it out?
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Than Bernie?
MATTHEWS: Than Bernie.
CORN: Well, I have been saying all along, until Bernie goes through, and we will call him Senator Sanders.
MATTHEWS: No, they all go nicknames.
CORN: Goes through a negative campaign of hundreds of millions of dollars spent against him, calling him a socialist or whatever they do...
MATTHEWS: You just heard the mayor of Miami.
CORN: Well, you just heard the mayor, who is a Democrat, right?
And so until he goes through that, he is not on equal ground with Hillary, who has had 20 years of negative ads against her.
MATTHEWS: So she has taken the worst?
CORN: So, I think at this point, there is probably perfect knowledge on the populace about what people think of Hillary.
MATTHEWS: I think it`s a perfect opinion. It`s set.
CORN: Perfect opinion. And not yet on Bernie Sanders.
So I think it`s not apples to apples. It`s not a fair comparison, although he does do well, as she does, against Trump. But it`s more a reflection on how poorly people think of Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Is he a virgin forest in terms of the opportunity of the Republican Party to go after him and chopping at him, to keep my metaphor straight? Is there a lot of opportunity for them, as you have just heard, to nail Bernie more than Hillary, since she has already been hit so hard?
APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: I talked to the Republican Party leaders a couple of weeks ago, and they are, again, expecting Hillary, hoping for Bernie. But, either way, either one could chop down...
MATTHEWS: So they don`t believe this poll. They don`t believe it.
RYAN: No, no, no, no, no, they don`t. I was in the inner sanctum a couple of weeks ago with the top leaders. They are actually expecting Hillary, but hoping for Bernie. Either way, they know those candidates will beat their intended or expected nominee.
MATTHEWS: John, sometimes politicians are wrong.
JOHN STANTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, BUZZFEED: Right.
MATTHEWS: I have been through a lot of campaigns where they beg for this guy. Out in Utah, we have got to get Orrin Hatch, we can kill him. He`s been there 40 years now. I mean, Reagan, he will be easy. We don`t want to run against George Bush Sr., but Reagan is easy. And they`re not easy.
STANTON: These are the same things people were saying last summer about Trump. And they were saying it this fall about Trump, and they were saying it two weeks about Trump.
He defies all of this. And anybody that looks at these polls and says this is a predictor of what`s going to happen I think is playing with fire.
MATTHEWS: Does he defy gravity?
STANTON: He does.
RYAN: He`s Superman.
CORN: Yes. I mean, this stage in time, if you talk to the Democrat strategists -- and we just had Steve McMahon on -- they have been conducting focus groups. And they`re blown away by the reaction of women to Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: What is the reaction?
CORN: It`s visceral.
CORN: Very negative. He is the abusive boyfriend I left type negative.
RYAN: Oh, my.
CORN: And so they think that`s insurmountable.
Now, there are things on Hillary too that the other side will say may be insurmountable for her, but, again, like Hillary...
MATTHEWS: Could she be the perfect -- could he be the perfect opponent for a woman? Because Hillary is a woman, could be the first presidential woman -- for president who is a woman. Could she build the case for voting among her gender, say, you know, it`s not just that I will be first woman, we got to beat that guy?
RYAN: But the problem is for Donald Trump, he`s going to inevitably slip up, like he did with Megyn Kelly.
MATTHEWS: We have been waiting for that.
RYAN: No, no, no, but he did with Megyn Kelly. He did with Rosie O`Donnell. He`s done it over and over again.
MATTHEWS: Who won those fights?
RYAN: Who won those fights? I`m not going to say he did. I think we as a society have allowed this kind of thing to happen. But I believe...
MATTHEWS: We`re all guilty?
RYAN: We`re all guilty.
MATTHEWS: No, we`re not.
RYAN: Yes, we are. Yes, we are.
MATTHEWS: A lot of people rooted for Megyn Kelly in that fight.
RYAN: I rooted for her. She did a wonderful job.
MATTHEWS: So we`re not all guilty.
STANTON: The mob never starts off the mob. They`re just people.
And they`re people that if you asked them before they became part of the mob, I would never become that, I would never be a person that went down and burned somebody`s house done.
But, suddenly, when there is a guy around that speaks to that fear that they have, people, regular people, your neighbors, your family, their friends, they become the mob and they start doing...
MATTHEWS: How does that work?
STANTON: It`s the cult of personality. It`s the thing that has been going on with humans for a long time. He is doing -- he is playing...
CORN: He is not charming, though.
RYAN: He sticks his foot in his mouth all the time. And we have not found the Kryptonite.
We always scream, but he continues to rise higher and higher.
MATTHEWS: Every time he fights with anybody, it`s like Pac-Man used to be. He gets bigger. He just eats up this other -- Vicente Fox, nothing wrong him, a very dignified former president of Mexico, classy guy.
RYAN: Who said, no, no, no.
MATTHEWS: I know all that.
The pope, pretty classy guy, right, my religion. Most religions, everybody likes him. He sort of won that fight, Trump.
RYAN: Well, not necessarily.
MATTHEWS: He went after Jeb Bush and made him into this. He made him into this. He makes Rubio into this.
RYAN: But, no, the fight against Jeb Bush was different. Jeb Bush has the albatross around his neck, his brother W. And Republicans wanted to distance themselves from W.
And also the fact of the name Bush. He is a dynasty.
CORN: I told you, one guy who beat Donald Trump. Who is it?
CORN: I`m waiting.
CORN: Barack Obama, May 2011, at the White House Correspondents Dinner. You were there. We were all there.
RYAN: Yes. That was amazing.
RYAN: We were there.
MATTHEWS: But Trump didn`t have the stage.
RYAN: They need to...
RYAN: But he ran right after that. He decided not to run for president.
CORN: He also -- he beat him on being dismissive and knowing exactly how to get at him. And Hillary Clinton, I think, is going to have a lot of headwind on her side, because...
CORN: Tailwinds. A lot of Americans aren`t going to buy all of Donald Trump`s shtick. Some will. There will be a mob.
Some will be roused by the passions. But a lot of women and a lot of other people are going to say no way. And they may even hold their nose to vote for Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: OK. I`m going to ask all three. You don`t have to take -- nothing about partisanship or preference. Who is the strongest candidate to go against Trump in the fall?
STANTON: Probably Hillary.
MATTHEWS: April? You don`t have to say who you`re for. Who is the strongest?
RYAN: I think both of them actually are. He is weak.
MATTHEWS: What is the matter with you?
RYAN: What is the matter? Both women -- both of them -- OK.
MATTHEWS: Who the strongest, E-S-T? Who the strongest?
RYAN: OK, Hillary.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you.
RYAN: I`m just saying.
MATTHEWS: What do you think?
You won`t answer it either. I have been tougher on her. What about you?
CORN: I would say Hillary over Bernie 53 to 47. I think it`s close at this...
MATTHEWS: You want to do one of those things, 53-47?
RYAN: No, I`m not going there. You got enough out of me already.
MATTHEWS: Here was the surprise endorsement today. I`m not sure what this is worth. Carly Fiorina announced she is awarding anybody but Trump, Ted Cruz. She said it was necessary to stop Trump. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLY FIORINA (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, you know there are other people in our party who are actually kind of horrified by Donald Trump. I`m one of them.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
FIORINA: But here`s the thing. We`re not going to beat Donald Trump by having leaders in our part tsk-tsk over our voters. We`re going to have to beat Donald Trump at the ballot box. And the only guy who can beat Donald Trump is Ted Cruz.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you think that`s worth, April?
RYAN: You have to consider the source.
MATTHEWS: There is a clever answer.
CORN: That and $4 will get you a latte at Starbucks.
MATTHEWS: It does how the anger he creates among the people he`s fought with, like Jeb, that once he`s fought with somebody, they don`t come back and hug him.
RYAN: He attacked a woman personally.
MATTHEWS: On looks.
RYAN: Publicly. On looks publicly, not the fact that...
MATTHEWS: That`s one he lost.
RYAN: Yes, that fight.
MATTHEWS: That fight, that for a while there.
RYAN: But, yes, she has a bad record. She ran HP down the hole. She pushed it down the hole.
MATTHEWS: Their best line, don`t you think, was every woman in America knows what he meant? That was one of the profound -- whenever you generalize like that, people go -- you don`t get back into the fight match with him. Anyway, I thought that was great.
Anyway, the roundtable is going to stick with me long enough so they come back and tell me something I don`t know. And I hear it`s going to be good stuff.
And, tomorrow, tune in at 7:00 and 11:00 p.m. Eastern. We`re going to give you full pre- and post-game coverage, as Republicans face off in Miami. Again, Trump is going at Rubio, trying to finish him off tomorrow and rub him out for next Tuesday`s primary down there.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
David, my friend, tell me something I don`t know.
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Last night, Donald Trump and his victory speech said he would be more presidential than any president except perhaps Abe Lincoln. Well, at "Mother Jones" today, we found some video of him roasting Joan Rivers, and it is full of gross jokes about Joan Rivers` body parts. I can`t say them here. You can see it at MotherJones.com.
MATTHEWS: Almost as gross as Joan Rivers?
CORN: Almost as gross as Joan Rivers. It`s certainly not presidential, and nothing that Abe Lincoln would have done.
MATTHEWS: And you`re not going to forget it, are you?
CORN: I wish I hadn`t heard this. Believe me, I wish I hadn`t heard it.
MATTHEWS: April, thank you.
APRIL RYAN, NATIONAL URBAN RADIO: At the briefing today, I asked Josh Earnest about the nomination process for the Supreme Court justice vacancy, and he said that progress is being made. And what`s the definition of progress? The definition means from a senior administration official, the fact that the president has put the nominees, given them to both sides of the Senate leaders to see and view. He`s also --
MATTHEWS: So, he`s given the names?
RYAN: He`s given the names.
MATTHEWS: The possible names?
RYAN: Yes, possible names, the Senate leaders on both sides. He`s also reviewed the information himself, as well as the fact that he`s talking amongst the senior staff about the possibilities of progress has been made.
MATTHEWS: How narrow is the list now, how short is it?
RYAN: They will not tell us. We`re hearing it`s less than ten.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s a smart move for somebody to accept that nomination? You get vetted but probably never confirmed.
RYAN: Loretta Lynch really clearly said, I`m not going to go through this mess again, because remember, it took her so long --
MATTHEWS: You`re a target.
RYAN: She pulled out yesterday. Yes, you`re a big target.
MATTHEWS: That`s like being targeted.
RYAN: Bullseye. Bullseye.
CORN: The long list, when the president calls you, it`s hard to say no.
JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED NEWS: Utah tomorrow, they may be voting to ban their death penalty and this is a big movement, it looks like --
MATTHEWS: Where is the LDS Church on that?
STANTON: The church has stayed out of it, which has given a lot of the lawmakers in the state the freedom to figure it out on their own. A sub committee voted on it. The second church, second state that has done this now after Nebraska last year. It`s much -- surprising to us, because it`s happening in red states as opposed to --
MATTHEWS: Something about that makes me happy, states actually vote on that, especially when they vote to end it.
MATTHEWS: And it`s the people doing it, you know?
MATTHEWS: Anyway, I spent a lot of time in Utah, that`s where I started, working for the last liberal senator from Utah, Frank Moss.
CORN: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: That`s where I begun.
Thank you to my round table. We don`t have a time pressure tonight. It`s a little scary.
Anyway, David Corn, my friend, April Ryan, my friend, who we argue in the dressing room more than you can imagine, and John Stanton.
MATTHEWS: Up next, we`re going to speak with one of the real life reporters portrayed in the Oscar-winning best picture, what my favorite movie, "Spotlight," a story of brains and grit and inspiration to journalists, really print journalists actually and non-journalists alike who benefit from the work of these guys.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are we hesitating? Baron told us to get law. This is the law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Baron told us to get the system. We need the full scope. That`s the only thing that will put an end to this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, let`s take it up to Ben and let him decide.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ll take it to Ben when I say it`s time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s time, Robby. It`s time. They knew and they let it happen to kids, OK? It could have been you. It could have been me. It could have been any of us. We`ve got to nail these (EXPLETIVE DELETED). We`ve got to show people that nobody could get away with this, not a priest or a cardinal or a freaking pope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
That was a scene from "Spotlight", the dramatic true story of how a team of "Boston Globe" investigative reporters exposed the widespread sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in the Boston archdiocese and the decades- long cover-up by the church hierarchy. The movie takes us behind the scenes to the newsroom where these journalists and editors uncovered a systemic pattern of abuse and carefully navigated around the city of Boston`s sensitivities when it came to the crimes of one of its greatest institutions.
The film which took home the Academy Award for best picture at the Oscars stars an ensemble cast of actors, including Mark Ruffalo, who plays the "Boston Globe" spotlight reporter you just watched in that opening clip, Michael Rezendes.
Mr. Rezendes himself joins us now for our "7 Days of Genius", an MSNBC and 92nd Street Y partnership, which includes a series of conversations with thought leaders in the fields of politics, innovations, science and journalism, which is you, Michael. Thank you for this.
Was that scene real? Or is it the way how it went makes things seem light in a more complicated situation.
MICHAEL REZENDES, BOSTON GLOBE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, it`s a bit of dramatization. But what I`d like to say about that scene is that it`s a credit to my boss at the time, Walter Robinson, who recruited me for the spotlight team even though I have a tendency to rear up easily, I guess you might say. You know, we did have our differences from time to time, but I think everything worked out in a spectacular fashion.
MATTHEWS: It seems to me, watching this, and watching and being -- having did it myself more than many years ago, investigative work is patience, the ability to absorb pain and humiliation and attack, right? It`s not about quick moves.
REZENDES: You`re exactly right. A lot of the work is tedious, a lot of it`s drudgery, a lot of it is getting doors slammed in your face, a lot of it is accepting humiliation at times, but patience pays off, I think.
MATTHEWS: I love the we you went down in the basement and found in the morgue there, you found these directories of Catholic priests, and discover that they`d all of a sudden to be an absent because of sickness, because of this, and you developed a way of figuring out how they got transferred when they were abusing children.
REZENDES: Yes, we had the documents right down in the basement, it turns. And we discovered that all of these assignments, these strange sounding assignments like sick leave or emergency response, or lend-lease, they were, in fact, euphemisms for priests who had been accused of abuse and placed on the self.
Once we understood that, it was just a matter of time, a very painful, tedious 3 1/2 weeks to put together a list of suspect priests which proved very, very useful in our investigation.
MATTHEWS: What about Marty Baron? We`re looking at Liev Schreiber, we`re looking at him played by Liev Schreiber. Marty Baron is now here at "The Washington Post" down here. Is that his sort of affect, the way, the understatement, beyond belief understatement?
REZENDES: Yes, that is Marty Baron. There`s no doubt about it. I think perhaps he`s loosened up in the last few years and maybe since the movie has come out. But that was Marty Baron`s affect when he was here, no doubt about it.
I`ve got to say, none of this would have happened without Marty. It was his fresh set of eyes, coming from Florida, which has terrific sunshine laws. Open record laws. It was Marty`s fresh set of eyes that was the trigger for this entire investigation and he deserves all the credit in the world for it.
MATTHEWS: You know, that`s a big part of the political culture down there. I know, I worked for the speaker down one time years ago when he got a job with the White House. They`re very proud of that sunshine thing. That`s not a big part of the Catholic Church, though, is it?
REZENDES: Not at all. The Catholic Church is a very secretive institution. It`s a secretive culture. They often hide behind the First Amendment, which, of course, not only protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press, but also freedom of religion. It is a secretive institution. And that`s one of the challenges we face in our investigation was piercing that veil of secrecy.
MATTHEWS: OK. You`re talking right now to a 20-year-old, 22-year-old kid, woman, male, young adult, tell them why they should become investigative reporters or tell them why they shouldn`t because it`s a challenge.
REZENDES: Well, I think the reason they might want to become an investigative reporter is because this is a life with meaning and purpose. This is a life that gives you a chance to make change and make the world a better place. I think it`s a way to pursue a very satisfying life. It may not be satisfying financially, but in terms of achievement, in terms of contributing to the betterment of society, it`s a wonderful job.
MATTHEWS: You`ve proven that, sir. Thank you, thank you so much. I loved seeing you at the Academy Awards, by the way.
Michael Rezendes, the real star of that movie.
When we return, let me finish with this refreshing political battle going on right now on the Democratic side. It`s interesting to watch between Senator Sanders and former Secretary Clinton. It`s an interesting battle and it`s actually about policy compared to the other side, which is about how big your hands are, how big your ears are.
Anyway, you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this refreshing political battle in the Democratic Party, I say refreshing for a number of reasons, most of them by way of comparison. Contrast it with what`s happening in the faltering Republican Party, it`s exactly what the founders of this country imagined. It`s an actual debate over policy.
First, picture the GOP fight. Trump makes fun of Rubio for sweating too much, of melting, of being a choke artist. Rubio accuses Trump of having small hands, you know what that means, he smirks. He charged him with wetting his pants during a debate.
Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton argue over U.S. trade policy and its implications for well-paid jobs in this country.
The question is whether the free trade policy is going back to President Kennedy have been good for the constituents of the Democratic Party, the working people, especially those at the big industrial states like Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois and Pennsylvania.
The two Democrats also argued throughout the campaign on the issue of war policy, with Sanders taking on Clinton`s vote to authorize the 2003 war with Iraq. That, too, has been an important debate. It gets to the all too serious question of how often and where the United States should engage militarily in a world where civil war and religious feuding is not abetted by outside intervention, where America can find it much easier to enter a conflict than to exit one.
With all the finger-pointing and raised voices, there looms a prominent compelling distinction, between the Democrats fighting this political season and the Republicans. One is embarrassing and the other is really something quite valuable. One is a test of on-stage macho, the other is a pretty good debate over matters that matter.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
Right now stay, tuned for a special town hall with Marco Rubio hosted by Chuck Todd.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END