Show: HARDBALL Date: March 10, 2016 Guest: Ken Vogel, Erin McPike, Michael Kelly, Michelle Bernard, Kurtis Lee
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Punchline.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews, out in Los Angeles.
Well, last night, an African-American man at a Trump rally was sucker- punched by an attendee in North Carolina. According to the sheriff`s department, he was being escorted from the event because of a disruption when the incident occurred. Another video shows that the victim was pushed to the ground by deputies soon after being punched.
Well, while the police say they did not the see the incident take place at the time, they have now arrested John Franklin McGraw and charged him with assault and disorderly conduct.
In an interview with "Inside Edition" following the event, McGraw suggested that the victim, the man he punched, might have been a terrorist with ISIS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MCGRAW, PUNCHED TRUMP PROTESTER: We don`t know who he is, but we know he`s not acting like an American.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So he deserved it?
MCGRAW: Every bit of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was that?
MCGRAW: Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, You heard all that. The victim was 26-year-old Rakeem Jones. Here`s how he and his friend, actually, Ronnie Rouse -- that`s his friend`s name -- described what happened at the rally earlier today on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAKEEM JONES, PUNCHED AT A TRUMP RALLY: They`re telling us to go, so we get up. And as we were getting up, you see in the video, and we were walking up, surrounded by sheriffs, and I got hit. Like, it just threw me off, and then the next thing, I`m on the ground.
KATE SNOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: There`s a report that -- it says in "The Washington Post" that the man, and I assume they`re talking about Rakeem, extended a middle finger to the audience. Did that happen?
RONNIE ROUSE, TOOK VIDEO OF THE INCIDENT: Yes, ma`am. And what you miss, what you don`t hear is Donald Trump exclaiming to the crowd -- telling Rakeem to go home to his mother. Rakeem`s mother died when he was 18 years old, and he got a little emotional about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: NBC`s Hallie Jackson`s with us from Miami. Michelle Bernard`s president of the Bernard Center and a "Roll Call" columnist. And Robert Costa writes for "The Washington Post" and is an MSNBC political analyst.
I want to go to Hallie about this. What do we know about this? If you want to run through the incident as it occurred in series, what do we know happened here?
HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, with the protest incident. You had this moment when these protesters began to react. Donald Trump caught their attention -- or they caught his attention, rather, and he did. You can hear it on the tape. He says, Go home to your mother. He made some comments as these protesters began to leave.
That is when, if you look at the videotape, you see the person who is now arrested in this case, this 78-year-old man, essentially punch or appear to punch Rakeem Jones, the young man that`s in that video you just played.
At that point, there are sheriffs nearby. The protesters are sort of escorted out. The arrest didn`t happen until the next day, until after the actual incident occurred.
And now you`re seeing the fallout from this, Chris. You`re seeing reaction from a lot of different corners, including from Hillary Clinton, who tweeted out about what she called this repugnant behavior at Trump rallies, arguing that candidates need to be the ones who set the tone for events like these.
MATTHEWS: Now, in terms of Trump`s comments immediately before that, he was doing what he always does. Tell me if I`m wrong. He`s often taunted people as they`ve caused the disruption, a protest. I mean, that`s on purpose usually. They cause the disruption. The bouncers or the police or whatever come and begin to escort the person out.
It`s there`s kind of ritual thing going, almost like a tar and feathering, where he taunts them on their way out, even to the point saying in the past, Don`t let them have their coat, it`s cold outside, let them freeze.
Is that what that kind of situation seemed to be like, in that pattern?
JACKSON: Yes, it appeared to be that. And you`ve seen Trump do this before, right? There was that moment, I believe last month, when he said - - he talked about in the good old days, you`d take these folks out on a stretcher, saying that he`d like to maybe punch them in the face. So you hear Trump talking about this when these protests happen.
And remember, there are protests at every single one of his rallies. It`s interrupted by people. So Trump is -- this is not an unusual event for Trump necessarily. What was unusual last night was, obviously, that it did turn violent.
MATTHEWS: Have you been to enough of those rallies where you can offer a reporter`s estimate of the different kinds of reaction people have? I mean, I hear the crowds. I`m watching it here from the studio most of the time. And I -- sometimes, people are yucking it up, enjoying the craziness of it, the buffoonery of it, in effect, because there`s (INAUDIBLE) of a ritual, as I said, to this whole thing.
But do you ever see the faces of people looking angry, or you know, out for violence? Do you sense there`s real anger in the room, or there`s kind of a -- kind of an enjoyment of the moment? How would you describe the faces of people in the crowd?
I mean, this guy looked like he was -- had a point of view that he brought in that room with him. I don`t think he had -- he thought of what he was going to do when he got there. He obviously who`s (ph) who he was, this guy. We`ll find out later about his -- his mental state or his history of whatever violence, if he has any.
I`m just asking you, is there -- you do sense a menace in the crowd...
MATTHEWS: ... towards these people that are being thrown out? If you do, let me know. I`d like to know.
JACKSON: Yes, you know, I think it depends on the night, Chris. I don`t think you can make a blanket statement about it. I think that some rallies, you`ve seen tension, obviously, you`ve seen sort of the sense that maybe something could happen. At others, it`s sort of a routine moment, where the protesters do their thing and then they get escorted out.
You know, you talk about, too, the reactions when it comes to the press. That`s another ritual of Donald Trump`s. At his stump speeches, he`ll turn around and he`ll talk about the cameras and the people in the risers, meaning the reporters and the press, and oftentimes, the crowd turns around and boos and jeers and yells. And so you have those moments very frequently at Trump events, I would say almost every time.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Hallie, hold on there. Anyway, Slate.com now counts at least 10 physical altercations at Trump rallies going back to this past October. His rallies, of course, can draw up to 30,000 supporters.
But this latest incident comes, as was just said, just two weeks Trump said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We`re not allowed to punch back anymore. I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They`d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: I`d like to punch him in the face, I`ll tell you.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Robert Costa, how do we get an objective report on the connection between that kind of talk and this kind of behavior? This has gone on -- people say things on television that cause people to say things. People say on the radio that cause people to do things. And yet in audiences of 10,000 people, one person does it. And is there a cause and effect when it`s that level of incidence?
ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Time and again, we haven`t seen much of a political cost for Donald Trump whenever he makes these kind of provocations. Instead, his base, his supporters embrace his lack of political correctness. It`s a lot of working class voters, people who feel like the system, the economy, whatever it is, is rigged, and they`re on his side regardless of what he says.
And it`s really different, Chris, from when I go to more rural areas versus suburban areas where it`s more country club Republicans. They`re aghast at Trump`s behavior and his performance. But those who are more conservative working class, they`re all with him.
MATTHEWS: Tell me about your scoop. I hear you got some news about another -- one of the candidates who`s no longer on the list.
COSTA: Based on my reporting, Ben Carson, the conservative favorite who recently dropped out of the 2016 race -- he`s going to endorse Trump tomorrow at Mar-a-Lago, the club Trump owns here in south Florida. They met today, confirmed by Carson`s business manager, at Mar-a-Lago to huddle for about an hour one on one. And now Carson is going to move toward the outsider (ph), perhaps the biggest endorsement for Trump since Chris Christie backed him a few weeks ago.
MATTHEWS: So now we have -- we have -- just before we go back to the topic right now, you now have Chris Christie and Ben Carson on Trump`s side. Meanwhile, this other milieu of people meeting in Florida with Jeb. Are they going to be the opposition, those other candidates? It`s an interesting sort of coalition building going on here.
COSTA: That`s right. I mean, you have lot of the high-powered donors. I was in Park City, Utah, earlier this week. Now in Florida, Paul Singer, the New York donor who`s with Rubio -- he`s convening meetings and phone calls, based on what my sources are telling me, trying to get some kind of revived anti-Trump effort.
But you hear -- even in the spin room, you had Governor Scott walking around from Florida. He hasn`t endorsed Trump, but he`s certainly friendly toward Trump and praising the way he`s -- he`s drawing out a lot of disengaged voters.
MATTHEWS: It`s interesting how the Republican Party is dividing down the Trump and anti-Trump factions at the top among the various candidates and the biggest donors. Thank you, anyway. Hang in there.
Anyway, Hallie Jackson just mentioned Hillary Clinton`s reaction came on last night. She commented on Trump actually today in an interview that airs tonight on "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" at 9:00 o`clock Eastern on MSNBC.
Let`s watch her comment about this -- this crime, perhaps. The charge now is assault and disorderly conduct. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Clearly, I know that everybody in public life gets protested against, and sometimes people do have to be removed. But it should be done in an appropriate manner. Other people in the audience should not be joining in. Mr. Trump should not be urging people on. This is deeply distressing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Michelle, I`m kind of amazed, as you might have been, by the sort of the calmness with which this guy was sucker-punched, to use a high school schoolyard -- he was really punched, and the way he took the punch and the way he`s talked about it. and his friend was there with him to video it. So those guys seem like they`ve got it all figured out.
What do you make of the incident itself? What does it say?
MICHELLE BERNARD, BERNARD CENTER PRES.: Well, the incident itself is absolutely horrifying, and -- you know, and I`m going to sort of paraphrase Jorge Ramos from Univision, but you remember he is the journalist who had the scuffle with Donald Trump back in August. And one of the statements he made at the time is that Donald Trump is fomenting hatred and racism.
And it`s no surprise if Donald Trump says that he wants to -- he wished he could punch someone in the face in February, it`s no surprise that the lowest of the low who are supporting his candidacy punched someone in the face in March.
I think it would be pretty difficult to argue that there isn`t some sort of a connection, when you have reporters who are of Latin descent being told to go back to your country or get out of my country, or you have this man who sucker-punched the African-American young male last night, saying, you know, We don`t know who he is. He could be ISIS. He could be a terrorist. What we do know is he isn`t acting American.
It is a very, very scary time in our nation, and the fact that Donald Trump is garnering so much support all over the country I think spells for a very difficult time in American history and a difficult time for the Republican Party.
Does today`s Republican Party want to be known as the party of Donald Trump, and -- you know, and as Jorge Ramos said back in August, this is our country. It is not Donald Trump`s country.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I`m with you on this. I just think it`s hard for me -- you don`t know about personal motivation. We`ll know more when this guy talks. But it`s your assumption it had something to do with the race, the ethnicity of those -- of that guy. It wasn`t just that he was a protester who was black.
BERNARD: No, I think -- I think -- I believe that it was because he was black. I believe it was because he saw this as a -- as someone who is not, quote, unquote, "one of us," you know, being unpatriotic, whatever that means to him, towards Donald Trump.
And you know -- and I want to go back to what Bob said earlier. It`s not just the sort of socioeconomic level of the people that we saw punch this man in the face.
Earlier today on another network, a person who was on "The Apprentice" with Donald Trump, and I believe it`s being reported was once president of Trump Productions, went on television and defended the man for punching this young man in the face, thought it was a hellified (ph) punch delivered by a 78-year-old, and basically, I believe, was quoted as saying something to the effect of, These liberals don`t have any respect for freedom of speech. You don`t see people going out to a Hillary Clinton campaign and causing this kind of trouble. It`s a problem.
MATTHEWS: I think everybody saw what that was. That was a punch delivered directly to the face of somebody with tremendous hatred and anger, and anything you want to assume about it I think is fair at this point.
Anyway, thank you, Hallie Jackson, great reporting, as always, about crowds out there, getting a sense of them and the mix in the crowd between those there for the show and those there with real anger. Robert Costa, thank you for that scoop about Dr. Carson about to endorse Donald Trump. And Michelle Bernard, as always.
And up now, a big announcement to tell you about. I`m really excited to tell you that Hillary Clinton will be joining me for an exclusive town hall in Springfield, Illinois, this Monday night at 7:00 Eastern. That`s 7:00 Eastern this Monday night, an hour with Hillary at a town hall with Hillary Clinton right here on HARDBALL, actually. It`s going to be on at 7:00 o`clock Eastern, our time.
Coming up, Marco Rubio`s last stand. He says he regrets his personal attacks -- you know, the real poor stuff of his, below the belt stuff. He says his kids, his children were embarrassed by him. And now he`s headed into tonight`s debate with one final chance to change the race ahead of Tuesday night`s must-win Florida primary.
(INAUDIBLE) interesting to see if those guys keep their gloves up tonight. Anyway, we`ll see about that. Good luck to both of them.
Plus, the sharp debate last night between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Clinton showed some authenticity, admitting she`s not a natural politician like her husband or President Obama. Can she turn a vulnerability into a strength? That`s a great question.
And for all you die-hard fans of "House of Cards," take a break from binge watching season four. We`ve got actor Michael Kelly, who plays Frank Underwood`s chief of staff and henchman, I hate to say, joining us tonight.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the interactive aspect of a Trump rally.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The guy with the worst spray tan in America is attacking me for putting on makeup! Donald Trump likes to sue people. He should sue whoever did that to his face!
Donald is not going to make America great. He`s going to make America orange!
RUBIO: He`s, like, 6-2, which is why I don`t understand why his hands are the size of someone who`s 5-2. Have you seen his hands?
RUBIO: They`re like this. And you know what they say about men with small hands.
RUBIO: You can`t trust them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was the worst of the worst, wasn`t it.
Welcome back to HARDBALL. For two weeks, Senator Marco Rubio has tried to out-Trump Trump in the insult, the Don Rickles, you might say, department. That`s for younger people. That means a comic who made his living insulting people.
He`s not been successful at this new trade. "The Washington Post" headline today reads, "Inside Rubio`s collapse, a fateful decision that helped unravel his campaign." According to the "Washington Post" story, quote, "A strategy designed to get under Trump`s skin and force him on the defensive instead backfired on Rubio. At rally after rally, Rubio was unintentionally personifying the caricature that Trump was perpetually drawing of him as `little Marco.`"
Well, here was the -- here was that failed strategy on display during a recent Republican debate. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: Last night in the debate, during one of the breaks, two of the breaks, he went backstage. He was having a meltdown.
RUBIO: First, he had this little makeup thing applying, like, makeup around his mustache because he had one of those sweat mustaches.
RUBIO: Then he asked for a full-length mirror. I don`t know why because the podium goes up to here, but he wanted a full-length mirror. Maybe to make sure his pants weren`t wet. I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Well, that was about as low as it got, fortunately. Anyway, today, Marco Rubio has won just two contests, Minnesota, and of course, Puerto Rico. And the news gets worse for Rubio. A new poll shows Donald Trump basically thumping him in Florida. That`s Rubio`s home state. Fox now has Trump with 43 to Rubio`s 20. Suffolk University has Trump up 36 to 27. That`s 9. And in "The Washington Post`s Univision poll, it`s Trump 38-31, about 7. So it`s mixed in there. Those were all taken at different times, but it adds up about 10 points.
Joining me right now is MSNBC political analyst and former RNC chair Michael Steele -- sir, thank you -- and Kurtis Lee, political reporter for "The Los Angeles Times."
Michael, you`re a pro politically. What do you make of a guy that tries to imitate the other guy`s act but looks creepier?
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Stay with what you know. That was, I think, the fatal flaw with the Rubio strategy. He didn`t need to get into the gutter. He didn`t need to go where Trump was. All he needed to do was make the policy argument. We know he`s strong on that. We know he`s got the brainpower as well as the charisma to make the case.
But they felt that you had to go to that space. And you never go where you`re not comfortable or where you`re not good. And he was not -- he was both of those things. He was not good at it and he was clearly uncomfortable with it after a while, particularly in the last debate.
It just seems forced, and so he paid the ultimate price. And I think it may have cost him the pathway to the nomination.
MATTHEWS: I`m sure the comedians out here who write comedy for these shows out here in L.A., they can figure out the difference between something that is funny and something that is utter -- thumps on the floor.
What do you make of this? It`s killed this guy, maybe.
KURTIS LEE, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Yes, I mean, I was on the trail with Rubio in February before he turned to this.
I mean, most of the time, he was talking about, you know, this future of America, this bright future, this very optimistic tone.
MATTHEWS: That was his theme.
LEE: Yes. That was his theme. He was hammering it home on the stump quite a bit.
And then it seems like the campaign kind of hit this panic mode and shifted its message quite a bit and started talking about spray tans and Trump`s little hands, kind of fitting into this mold of little Marco that Trump has talked about.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Michael on this just before we get in what Rubio said himself in regretting all this.
This idea of Trump, you know, we watch NBA or college basketball game, that`s hot right now -- by the way, Holy Cross just beat Lehigh to win...
MATTHEWS: I want my executive producer (INAUDIBLE) to fully appreciate that, because that is an upset. With a terrible losing season, they apparently won every one oft playoff games, which is nice. You have to win the last ones.
Anyway, let me ask you about this thing here with the old trick of, you know, fouling in a basketball game. We watch it all time at the end of a game. Look, my favorite game is basketball. And you foul at the end of the game for the reason you want to get the ball back.
MATTHEWS: It`s a very simple metaphor.
I guess they told Rubio -- and he`s not stupid and his people aren`t stupid -- that if you want to get attention back, you got to get that ball back. Let the guy take his foul shots. You get the ball. You can get three, he gets one. If you`re lucky, you win on the transaction.
But you have got to get the ball back. Is that what they told him, if you don`t hit him on the inside, get the publicity that he`s been getting by going after him? You`re not even in the game.
But it matters how you foul someone. You can foul in a way that you get a technical or you can foul in a way which you get thrown out of the game.
STEELE: So, you have got to be smart about how you foul. And that was clearly not the case here.
They thought they saw an opening. And they played to that opening. They should have just stayed in the lane they were in, because the bigger argument, the better argument was about a brighter America. Donald Trump`s argument was, we want to take America back, or we want to make it strong again.
His argument was, let`s talk about a better America, and that was the one that ultimately was the winning point. And, you know, again, when you get out of your lane and you start fouling, you`re going to get out of the game. And that`s exactly what has happened.
MATTHEWS: And he was really selling the positive -- if Republicans don`t get some minorities, Hispanics, if they don`t get some black Americans, after all the problems in the `60s -- ever since Roosevelt and Kennedy and Johnson, they have been losing that game politically.
Yet don`t want to seem to win that. They`re not going to win it unless they try.
LEE: And that`s what Rubio was. He`s trying to be this transformational figure for the Republican Party. But it just hasn`t correlated with the Republican electorate.
MATTHEWS: Well, here he is admitting it. It`s amazing, guys, when a politician admits it. Talking now to a guy who knows politics from the inside, a guy who covers it, it hardly ever happens.
But here he is now regretting the way he tried to take Trump down. Let`s listen to a remarkable statement by a politician.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it`s not something I`m entirely proud of. My kids were embarrassed by it, and I -- you know, if I had to do it again, I wouldn`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. They don`t always do that.
LEE: Not always, no, no.
And this could be one of those things where he is looking at his political future there. Everything is weighing on Tuesday there in Florida for Marco Rubio. And if he doesn`t win, it`s tough for him to continue on.
MATTHEWS: Well, how does he go tonight? Because now he has to go in having admitted he shouldn`t have gone below the belt. He shouldn`t have made the stupid jokes about physicality. And now he`s going to go out and face Trump. Now, will Trump be graceful and say I`m glad you`re...
MATTHEWS: You`re laughing. Will Trump be graceful?
LEE: It will be interesting to see.
Trump will -- certainly, when Trump does stand up there and say possibly little Marco and go after Marco Rubio, does he stand up to Trump or does he remain presidential and hit on his record, what he did in Florida in the state legislature, what he has done in the U.S. Senate?
Does he just talk about his record and focus on -- change back to focusing on this American future and an optimistic message? It will be interesting to see where he goes on that.
Michael, so far, only one candidate has chosen to shoot to moon, as I say, and actually do the positive stuff, and that`s John Kasich. I don`t think anybody else has really done it lately. What do you think about tonight`s debate? Hype the debate tonight a little. What do you think? Is Trump going to be brutal on this guy now that he has got him down?
STEELE: You know what? I don`t think so.
I don`t think it works to Trump`s advantage to do that. He knows the math as well as Rubio does at this point. Even with a win, he is still going to be in the better position to grab the nomination.
So I think Trump, his opportunity is to sort of look past Rubio. He may take a zing or two at Kasich. He may take a zing or two one at Cruz, but I don`t think Rubio is as much in his sights as before.
And to your point about the modesty and the honesty that Rubio showed, I wondered if he would have admitted if it worked, because it`s easier to come out and say, yes, I shouldn`t have done that, after it has failed miserably. So there is another side to that coin. If it had worked, I wonder what the conversation would be now.
MATTHEWS: Yes. People always -- I hate to be mean about it, but people often admit -- quote -- "bad judgment," after they get caught.
Anyway, thank you. When they don`t get caught, they never said I was guilty of -- let me tell you what I did that you didn`t know about. They never do that, do they?
Michael, you and I are Catholics. We know all this stuff too well.
STEELE: We know all about the guilt, baby.
MATTHEWS: Thank you too much, Michael Steele.
And thank you, Kurtis. It`s great to have you on out here with "The Los Angeles Times."
LEE: Thank you so much.
MATTHEWS: I will be back tonight at 11:00 p.m., by the way, tonight with full coverage of that Republican debate I talked about, so be sure to tune in, our two hours of -- you don`t have to watch the debate necessarily, because we`re going to go through it point by point.
Up next -- in fact, you don`t have to watch it at all. Just watch us.
We turn now to the Democratic side of the race and a humble admission from Hillary Clinton. That`s coming up.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening.
President Obama welcomes the new Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to the White House for a state dinner this evening. The two leaders announced they`re teaming up to curb emission of planet-warming gases. This is the first official visit by a Canadian leader in 19 years.
Historic flooding in Louisiana has left five dead and forced thousands to evacuate. Rivers rose to record flood levels, and more rainfall is expected. Some areas have received more than 20 inches of rain already -- back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
After Bernie Sanders scored an upset win against Hillary Clinton in Michigan this week, the two candidates met for their final scheduled debate last night. The two clashed on immigration, trade deals and Clinton`s paid speeches to Wall Street banks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), Presidential Candidate: I think our best chance was in 2007, when Ted Kennedy led the charge on comprehensive immigration reform. I voted for that bill. Senator Sanders voted against it.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The great tragedies, human tragedies of recent years is children came from Honduras and I said welcome children into this country. Secretary Clinton said send them back.
CLINTON: I just think it`s worth pointing out that the leaders of the fossil fuel industry, the Koch brothers, have just paid to put up an ad praising Senator Sanders.
SANDERS: When you get paid $225,000, that means that that speech must have been an extraordinarily wonderful speech.
I would think that a speech so great that you got paid so much money for it, you would like to share it with the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: A little sense of humor there.
Democratic voters go to the polls next week in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri. Polls in several of those states show Secretary Clinton on solid ground. She leads Sanders by 30 points down in Florida. She is ahead nine points in Ohio, and she has a commanding 42- point lead in her original home state of Illinois, before she moved to Arkansas.
For more, I`m joined by tonight`s roundtable. Howard Fineman is global editorial director for The Huffington Post and an MSNBC political analyst. Erin McPike is a political reporter. And Ken Vogel is investigative reporter for Politico.
I want to start with Howard, my friend.
As we say in baseball, throw it around the horn right now. All those states, what should Hillary Clinton be worried about from Senator Sanders this coming Tuesday? What is the fear zone?
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ohio.
Ohio is the one where it could be a contest, and Ohio is in many ways similar to Michigan, where Senator Sanders pulled off that big, narrow, but big upset. And I think there is some indication that he closes in situations like that.
And the messages that won Michigan for him on trade and middle-class economics, that`s the core of it. The polls in Michigan, Chris, showed that eight out of nine out of 10 voters cared about those two things above all. That`s going to be his calling card. That`s his strong message.
Is he going to win the nomination? Probably not. But is he a loud siren of alarm to Hillary about getting right on those messages? Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: You look good in the baseball cap.
Anyway, Secretary Clinton made a frank statement last night about her limitations as a politician. Let`s watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I have said before and it won`t surprise anybody to hear me say it, this is not easy for me.
I am not a natural politician, in case you haven`t noticed, like my husband or President Obama. So I have a view that I just have to do the best I can, get the results I can, make a difference in people`s lives, and hope that people see that I`m fighting for them and that I can improve conditions economically and other ways that will benefit them and their families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Boy, Erin, that`s the opposite of how Trump talks. Trump says he`s the greatest being that has ever been on the planet, he`s married to the greatest being on this planet, the most beautiful.
Everything he has ever done is wonderful. He went to the best school, he went to all that. And here is Hillary Clinton, with all the degrees in the world, including Yale Law School and Wellesley and everything else in her background, and she is saying, yes, I`m not very good at this.
What do you make of it?
ERIN MCPIKE, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Yes, Chris, that was a direct play for women voters.
I perked up when I heard her say that. It was the most disarming thing she has said throughout this entire election cycle. Women relate to it. It`s, maybe we`re not as confident, though we should be, as our male counterparts, that she has some nervousness, that she is not as talented in a speaking way that Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are.
I think it was a great move. And it was a more subtle play for women than she has been doing throughout the cycle.
MATTHEWS: Are you saying like women students get better grades than men, but the men raise their hand more often?
MCPIKE: Absolutely. Absolutely that`s true.
MATTHEWS: That`s what I think.
Anyway, let me go to Ken on this.
Hillary Clinton, because, you know, we have been through a lot of drama with Hillary Clinton, back, you know, in New Hampshire back in `08 when she was feeling bad about the campaign. She had just gotten beat in Iowa and she really showed, I don`t know if it was tears, but certainly emotion.
And people said that was a voice. And then it works for a while. I`m not sure how it works in the long run. But against Trump, it may be the perfect counterbalance. What do you think?
KENNETH VOGEL, POLITICO: Yes. That`s right, because it takes what in some ways is regarded as a weakness for her, that she doesn`t have this electric charisma of her husband, of Barack Obama, even of Bernie Sanders.
She doesn`t fire people up in the same way. And in some ways, it makes it a strength. She is saying, what I lack there, I make up for in hard work. That`s the way a lot of people, not just women, see themselves. People don`t see themselves as like a preternaturally talented, like a Michael Jordan type.
They see themselves more as a scrappy defended like a Steve Kerr type, to use the Chicago Bulls basketball analogy. And I think that that`s really a place where she can find her groove, and it is similar to what she did in 2008, going back to the debate where she said -- she sort of forced Obama into saying that she is likable enough by saying that it hurt her feelings, some of these polls that showed her to be not as likable.
That`s strong for her.
MATTHEWS: OK. While she`s saying that she`s not so good at it, she showed her strength. The debate moderators played video of Bernie Sanders showed back in 1985 discussing Cuba and Fidel Castro, in which Sanders discussed the positive aspects of the Cuban revolution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: Way back in, what was it, 1961, they invaded Cuba, and everybody was totally convinced that Castro was the worst guy in the world.
All the Cuban people were going to rise up in rebellion against Fidel Castro. They forgot that he educated the kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society, you know, not to say that Fidel Castro or Cuba are perfect. They are certainly not.
But just because Ronald Reagan dislikes these people does not mean to say the people in their own nations feel the same way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, in the past, Senator Sanders has visited Cuba and tried to meet with Castro. He says America don`t understand what is happening there and he has called the Cuban revolution a revolution in terms of values.
Well, last night, Sanders didn`t back away from his past comments. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: Cuba is, of course, an authoritarian, undemocratic country.
And I hope very much, as soon as possible, it becomes a democratic country. But, on the other hand, on the other hand, it would be wrong not to state that in Cuba, they have made some good advances in health care. They are sending doctors all over the world. They have made some progress in education.
CLINTON: I think in that same interview, he praised what he called the revolution of values in Cuba.
If the values are that you oppress people, you disappear people, you imprison people, even kill people for expressing their opinions, for expressing freedom of speech, that is not the kind of revolution of values that I ever want to see anywhere.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s a hard one, Howard.
I mean, I don`t want to go back to my Cold War views. It`s not about my views, which are still pretty much what they were, but here you are. Trying to defend anything good about a dictatorship is tricky, anything good.
It`s just is hard to do. You have to wonder why somebody would do it. What would be the motivation for doing it?
FINEMAN: Well, Bernie is going to do it because Bernie is Bernie and he is stubborn and he sticks to his guns, which is why people like him, for the most part.
FINEMAN: Look, the Cuban vote in Florida doesn`t mean as much as it did.
Most of the Latinos in Florida are not Cuban anymore. And they`re not Democrats. A lot of them are Republicans. But that said, I think Bernie is on the wrong side of that one. You could tell in the audience, and I think Hillary scored on that, even as the politics have changed.
It`s hard to defend. It`s hard to say now, many years later, of course it`s an authoritarian regime. That is conceding a little late something that he should have talked about at the beginning.
MATTHEWS: I don`t think it`s just Cubans, by the way. Here I go again. But I`m not going to forget that Castro put nuclear missiles on his island aimed at New York. Not defensive batteries, not AAA fire. Aimed at New York. They were intermediate range missiles for the purpose of counterbalancing our threat to the Soviet Union. It had nothing to do with Cuba.
FINEMAN: Yes, right.
And, Chris, also don`t forget, in a state like Florida, and in Ohio and in Illinois, the way the Democratic vote is lining up, Hillary is appealing to older voters, all the way down the line, and Bernie is appealing to younger voters all the way down the line.
The younger voters, the millennials don`t know anything about the history of Cuba and think it`s really cool to get the chance to go down to Havana and see the old cars. The old voters, they remember the history that you`re talking about.
MATTHEWS: The younger voters may not even exist if it had gone the other way in the cold War.
Anyway, thank you.
The roundtable is sticking with us now.
Up next, these people tell me something I don`t know.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table now.
Ken, tell me something I don`t know.
KEN VOGEL, POLITICO: Well, billionaire hedge funder Paul Singer who supports Marco Rubio is convening a meeting of other major donors in Florida just a couple of days after the Florida primary. They`re going to discuss the way forward, which if Marco Rubio loses in Florida and John Kasich loses in Ohio, means that they`re going to be discussing whether to go in with Trump, or whether to sit on the sidelines, which could be a huge, free pass for Hillary Clinton if they`re not spending money on ads attacking her.
Let`s go to Erin -- Erin McPike.
ERIN MCPIKE, REUTERS: Of the 4.3 million active Republican voters in Florida, 1 million have already voted, setting up for a huge voter turnout.
Also, Marco Rubio`s internal polling shows him within six points of Trump. That he`s closing fast there.
MATTHEWS: Well, down in Florida?
MATTHEWS: In Florida?
MCPIKE: Yes, that`s right. Yes.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Chris, Donald Trump has a very interesting controversial campaign manager named Corey Lewandowski who was accused today of shoving a reporter from Breitbart, which is a news organization that`s generally been favorable to Trump.
But leaving that aside, there are people, even within Trump`s own family, who are not fans of Lewandowski, because he has a very short fuse, and has tried to keep everybody from direct contact with the boss, except him.
Look for some more controversy coming out of the internal circle of Donald Trump over the next days and weeks.
MATTHEWS: I think there is a call for you from him right now, Howard.
MATTHEWS: Just kidding. Anyway, thank you. Thanks for the roundtable. Howard Fineman --
FINEMAN: My phone is ringing. Let me get my cell phone.
MATTHEWS: Erin McPike, Ken Vogel, thank you, all.
Still ahead, he plays White House chief of staff, Doug Stamper, in a hugely popular "House of Cards". There he is, Michael Kelly. He`s coming here to talk presidential politics in the Frank Underwood administration. Oh, God, it could get it worse.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can`t afford any more shakeups on the campaign right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We also can`t afford any more of your mistakes.
Shut up. Shut up. When I first woke up, I couldn`t speak. I had to blink my eyes if I wanted to respond. Do you understand? If I can`t get your loyalty, I will have your obedience. Blink. Blink.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, we`re back.
That was a scene from season four of the popular Netflix series, "House of Cards". In this latest season, "House of Cards" contains striking parallels, you might say to the real life drama of the 2016 presidential campaign, including a brokered convention, a reference to a potential election year Supreme Court fight and, of course, the wife of the president who craves her own political ambitions.
Actor Michael Kelly, my favorite in the show, whom you saw in that opening scene, he actually didn`t kill a guy for once, plays President Frank Underwood`s chief of staff Doug Stamper, who served as his loyal protector and enforcer. Here`s another scene from season four of "House of Cards".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You sent the photo of the rebel soldier.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s not true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Personal phone, off the premises.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe somebody hacked my account or something.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you really going to keep lying to me? I could have you arrested, or I`d rather you go quietly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know things, Doug.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing you can prove. Now threaten me again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Michael Kelly joins me now, as part of our "7 Days of Genius" series, it`s MSNBC and 92nd Street Y partnership that includes a set of conversation with thought leaders in fields of politics and innovation, science, journalism and film.
You`re one of those geniuses, Michael, and thank you for coming.
MICHAEL KELLY, ACTOR: Wow.
MATTHEWS: What I love about the series, I think it`s far darker than reality. If anybody thinks this is as bad as this, I`m sorry. You know, the idea that your boss, the guy who want to be president puts the guy in a car and turns the exhaust system into the car and kills the guy he works with, or that you bury somebody, I don`t know if she`s alive or not, out in country -- this stuff, I`m sorry, it`s not that bad.
Do you think it is?
MATTHEWS: Do you think politics is this bad?
KELLY: No, thank God. I`ve spent enough time on the Hill to know it`s not that bad. And I`m very grateful for that, you know?
MATTHEWS: So, what`s true? Tell me what`s true, because self-interest is definitely true. I know members of Congress who plot 20 to 30 years ahead as to who`s going to be chairman of the committee at that point that they had to compete with. They think way ahead about self-interest. That`s for sure.
So, the violence part is not as direct, I don`t think.
KELLY: Right. Yes, no. I mean -- and thank God, right? But I think that, you know, we always joke about Beau Willimon being clairvoyant because inevitable these things happen. We write this show -- I don`t write anything -- Beau Willimon, the write, write this stuff a year out before anyone sees it.
So, inevitably, things come to light that parallel the political events of our country. This year, it`s never more specifically than what we`re having with the primaries running in our country. You know, it`s really interesting. It`s really interesting.
MATTHEWS: What`s it`s like working with Spacey? He`s one of the talents of our time, I think.
KELLY: It`s amazing. This is a man who I`ve looked up to my entire career, someone I`ve, you know, admired his work. And when I got this job, I was like, wow, I`m going to get to go and learn from Kevin Spacey every single day. So, I couldn`t ask for anybody more. I couldn`t ask for a better boss.
And the fact he`s so much fun to be around. I mean, the show is so serious, you see the scenes. But we all come prepared to work. It`s something that Beau Willimon and David Pincher set from the beginning. We come there and we`re ready to work. So, when we have down time, Kevin is always the ring leader in having fun.
MATTHEWS: It was a real risk for the industry, for Netflix to just say, we`re going to put everything out there basically for free to our subscribers. There`s no tell, there`s no, you know, there`s no box office. Once you`re in to Netflix, you get it for free. You can sit and watch the whole thing with 13 episodes on a rainy Saturday, right?
MATTHEWS: And yet, that`s the way things -- nobody thought this would work to just throw it out there.
KELLY: I didn`t.
MATTHEWS: And don`t get (INAUDIBLE) about it.
You didn`t think it would work?
KELLY: Are you kidding? When I signed on, you know, we had a lot of great people involved. You had Kevin Spacey, the whole gang, Beau Willimon. They were already attached when I came on.
And so, you had -- I knew we were going to make a great product. The only one known to me was Netflix, it`s where you got your DVDs. We were the first show to stream like that.
I remember the Netflix executives coming for a visit early on. I said, I heard you were going to drop all 13 episodes at once. Is that true? They were like yes.
I said, you don`t want to do like seven and then six a few weeks later. It was like, no. It`s what our people want.
They know the viewers want it. In day when we`re carrying around a little computer in our hand, we get everything right now, right when you want it. You want to know a question, you got Siri, she answers it, you know? It`s so incredible.
MATTHEWS: Kathy and I watched -- we did chocolate chip cookies and run out. We still say let`s watch one more tonight. The trouble is, it gets about 12:30 in the morning. Why are we doing this?
KELLY: Because it`s so good.
MATTHEWS: I know. It`s irresistible.
Thank you, Michael Kelly, my friend. Thanks so much for coming on.
KELLY: Thank you, sir. So good to see you.
MATTHEWS: You can catch all of season 4, as we said, of "House of Cards" on Netflix. Right now, you can start right now for the next 13 hours.
Anyway, when we return, let we finish with the interactive aspect of the Trump rally. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish with the interactive aspect of a Trump rally.
He says something, the audience roars back. He yells at a protests, the crowd blasts its agreement. He taunts, they taunt. He talks tough about wishing he could punch someone, they cheer in agreement.
Well, thousands get it. Tens of thousands. They get it. It sticks. They know they are watching a master showman that`s why they came.
They like what Trump is saying, like the crowd that there`s there to join and interact with him. That, too, is part of the show.
So is joining in the cat calling when someone is in the process of getting bounced. Everyone boos. Everyone laughs as Trump boos.
When Trump goes further and say, don`t give them their coats back, it`s cold outside, really cold, they cheer that too.
It`s fun. He`s threatening people with paying a price for interrupting his performance. But there`s a risk. There`s a risk.
And now we know what the price is to be paid when one person in that crowd hooting and hollering and joining in taunting throws a punch at one of Trump`s target, someone of whatever bent sees their chance -- his chance to inflict physical harm.
We all know about mob behavior. It`s about how individuals begin to act differently when caught up in a mob scene. We have seen it in the best of demonstrations. I felt it myself in demonstrating against the Vietnam War.
You don`t act yourself. You feel something that comes with the rage of the crowd, especially when confronting the other side. The usual restraints don`t hold.
And this is where the leader needs to lead. This is when the person up there rousing the crowd in defense of rage and excitement better take account of what he`s risking because if the rhetoric is really for show, that`s what`s being said on the platform is really to express a political rage, not a call to violence. Not everyone gets the message. And that`s when the trouble gets serious.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
Tune in 11:00 p.m. tonight when I`ll be back with a post-debate show about Republicans in their face off in Miami tonight.
And on Monday, be sure to watch our exclusive HARDBALL town hall with Secretary Hillary Clinton.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END