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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 3/17/2016

Guests: Susan Page, John Stanton, Michele Bachmann, Heidi Przybyla, Amos Snead, Shane Goldmacher, Douglas Brinkley

Show: HARDBALL Date: March 17, 2016 Guest: Susan Page, John Stanton, Michele Bachmann, Heidi Przybyla, Amos Snead, Shane Goldmacher, Douglas Brinkley

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: If all else fails -- the plan to stop Trump.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Well, the defenders at the gate are sharpening their swords. If they can`t stop Trump before he enters the place and can`t stop him once inside, do they retreat and fight him from without?

Well, the Republican Party appears to be in chaos before the onrushing Donald Trump. After a dismal showing this week in four out of five state, the anti-Trump forces wonder if there`s time to stop him either before, during or after the Republican convention. A group of conservatives met today to plot one potential last-ditch effort, if all else fails, backing a third party nominee against Trump.

For his part, Senator Lindsey Graham, who recently joked that someone could kill Ted Cruz on the Senate floor and get away with it, announced he will now fund-raise for Cruz, anything to stop Trump.

Donald Trump has warned there could be riots at the convention if the party tries to deny him the nomination, and today John Kasich blasted that Trumpian warning. Quote, "This implicit acceptance of violence is the kind of rhetoric that`s pulling people apart. A true leader urges peaceful debate over violence. Leadership requires responsibility. I have faith the American people want civilized debate over violence. It`s what`s kept our nation the strongest in the world."

Perry Bacon is senior political reporter for NBC News, Susan Page is Washington bureau chief for "USA Today" and John Stanton is Washington bureau chief for Buzzfeed News. Thank you all.

Susan, I was just trying to think, when you put your headline together, "USA Today," what is uniquely wild about this moment, this day, when they`re all meeting, What do we do?

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, they`re coming to terms with the fact that there is a civil war coming in the Republican Party. And the only question is, do we have it now, do we have it at the convention, do we have it after the convention, do we have it after the inauguration next year?

And the answer is probably yes, all those times, because the Republican Party is splintering. And the reason that the elites cannot stop Donald Trump is because Donald Trump has succeeded by getting actual voters to come vote for him. So they are...

MATTHEWS: They come from anywhere.

PAGE: ... are irrelevant to the process as long as he keeps attracting voters.

MATTHEWS: What about this guy that came out and said -- we`ll get to him more (INAUDIBLE) but I can`t resist, and he says, I want to form a new party of people that used to be the ones who voted Republican?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I mean, I thought the whole idea of politics was to enlarge the group. But I don`t want those new people!

PERRY BACON, NBC POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, the new thing I heard I think today was -- for me at least, was the idea that you`re going to have a write-in campaign because you are already missed some of the deadlines to have a real third party on the ticket. That`s why Michael Bloomberg got out so quickly (INAUDIBLE) now you have this idea -- I guess it is pretty easy to write Mitt Romney or write Paul Ryan. But it`s not -- so that`s the idea that if Trump wins the nomination, you really can`t vote for him, you have write-in campaign.

Still, the core problem is Hillary Clinton would be president under that arrangement. So you just have these people now sort of, like -- they can`t vote for Trump, but they have no strategy (ph) actually to elect someone who could be a Republican president. That`s (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: What kind of a civil war would you like? Because you can have one, where the nomination goes to Trump, and they hate the nominee and start their own movement, or they could do what, break up the whole thing and give it to somebody besides Trump at the cost of the Trump people walking out. Somebody walks out.

JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED: Well, that`s right. And I think, like, especially if they do this -- this idea of a third party run, which I don`t think they`re going to actually...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What would it be called, the pre-Trump party?

STANTON: (INAUDIBLE) Donald Trump`s voters sure that they were actually -- there was a conspiracy against them, right? And it`s going to cause an even bigger fraction, as opposed to proving to people that Trump was an unelectable guy and we shouldn`t elect him because of his policies and his rhetoric. It would just make them say that`s why the establishment of the Republican Party sucks so bad, and we`re definitely going to go come at them twice as hard.

MATTHEWS: Isn`t it great we can use words like that on television, thanks to Trump?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He said "sucks." So what?

Anyway, some on the -- you`ll love this guy`s name. Some in the Republican Party are pushing efforts to deny Trump the nomination at the convention in July. I love this guy`s name, Curly Haugland. Curly!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: He`s a member of the Rules Committee. Nobody named Curly should be on the Rules Committee! He rejected the idea that the party should back the candidate with the most popular support. Here he is. Talk about non- democracy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CURLY HAUGLAND, GOP RULES COMMITTEE MEMBER: The media has created a perception that the voters will decide the nomination. Political parties choose their nominee, not the general public, contrary to popular belief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why bother holding the primaries?

HAUGLAND: That`s a very good question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Can we all plead guilty to creating the notion that people, when they vote, decide who wins?

(LAUGHTER)

BACON: I actually believe in that notion! So I`ll plead guilty to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... we`re all Charlie Browns. We all found out that we`re just Charlie Browns. Nancy (sic) did it to us again. We thought it mattered that we showed up for those primaries. It doesn`t matter.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You`re holding back (INAUDIBLE) you`re so careful! But it is outrageous, I think, that statement. It sounds terrible!

PAGE: It`s, of course, true. I mean, it is true...

MATTHEWS: It is technically...

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: We don`t have direct election of nominees.

MATTHEWS: We have the College of Cardinals (INAUDIBLE)

PAGE: But the fact is -- try to have -- try to have -- try to put a candidate forward who failed, who was way behind the guy who actually got the most votes, and see what happens to your party.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Or else bring in some masked man who hasn`t been there before. You know, We got a great idea, Paul Ryan. He doesn`t seem like a presidential candidate!

STANTON: (INAUDIBLE) want to step into that drama and have people coming at him the way that they -- that, you know, Trump`s people are already sort of becoming. I don`t see how he would possibly want to do that.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, a group of two dozen conservatives met today, which is the news about this, with the goal of organizing an effort to stop Trump by any means necessary.

According to "The Washington Post`s" Robert Costa, our friend and colleague, quote, "Per three people familiar with the talks, the mood of the room was muted and downbeat. Attendees voiced frustration with the lack of coordination so far and wondered aloud whether Trump could be halted. A statement released by Erick Erickson, one of the organizers, said in part, `We believe that the issue of Donald Trump is greater than an issue of party. We call for a unity ticket that unites the Republican Party. Lastly, we intend to keep our options opened as to other avenues to oppose Donald Trump.`"

Well, I guess everything here is democracy (INAUDIBLE) it`s to avoid Donald Trump. Yesterday, Mr. Erickson told NPR that while he preferred to stop Trump by denying him the nomination, if all else fails, he`d back a third party candidate. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ERICK ERICKSON, REDSTATE.COM: I think that if Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee, the Republican ceases to be the party that I was an elected representative of. So there is going to have to be the groundwork for a new political party in the country that represents people who typically have been Republican voters in the past.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, John Stanton, he certainly has a good voice for radio. I was very impressed by that.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But as for the content, it was outrageous. I mean, it seems like these people have taken it upon theirselves (sic) to deny the guy who gets the most votes the nomination.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... how many votes he gets. In fact, they seem to talk like even if he goes into the convention with the requisite majority, they`re still going to try to find some way to scuttle the ship.

STANTON: Well, to me, the most remarkable thing is Erick Erickson and a lot of these other guys were...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Tell me who Erick Erickson is.

STANTON: He`s -- he runs Redstate. He`s a very, very influential conservative writer and thinker, particularly amongst very conservative members of the right. And he and everybody else in this room two or three months ago were "anybody but Hillary." And this is now "anybody but Trump," including Hillary, essentially, because if they do a third party...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Tell me -- all three of you, tell me what it is about Trump besides the brazenness in his whole being -- what it is about his ideology they don`t like, his philosophy?

PAGE: Well, he...

MATTHEWS: Is that too long a list or what?

PAGE: Ronald Reagan talked about the three stools of the Republican Party, and Donald Trump doesn`t endorse any one of those three stools.

MATTHEWS: They being?

PAGE: Which -- they would be a muscular foreign policy, a conservative -- being conservative on social issues and disciplined fiscal policy. On none of those does Trump subscribe to the traditional Republican formulation.

MATTHEWS: But they -- but the grass roots love him.

BACON: I think the more cynical explanation would be Donald Trump does not respect or care what the Republican establishment or its leadership...

(CROSSTALK)

BACON: He doesn`t care what Erick Erickson thinks. He doesn`t care what Mitch McConnell thinks. He doesn`t care what Paul Ryan thinks, And they know that those -- those who are going to lose power if Donald Trump -- like, Marco Rubio would have followed a lot of their instructions. Donald Trump -- that`s very cynical, but that happens to be true.

MATTHEWS: Well, hasn`t he sort of rousted these people out of the public? I mean, he said there`s a bunch of nobodies inside controlling the party. Now they`ve all come out from under their rocks.

PAGE: And he`s tapped the unhappiness among Republican voters about how their own leaders have behaved, especially...

MATTHEWS: Yes, and now they`re behaving like that in public.

PAGE: So you know, he`s...

MATTHEWS: This guy, Curly Haugland...

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: He`s winning by the rules, right?

MATTHEWS: ... is unbelievable.

PAGE: Donald Trump is playing this game by the rules. He`s winning delegates by the rules that they set up.

MATTHEWS: Let`s get back to the old economic -- numbers game. How`s it look for him to win the whole thing fair and square, number-wise?

BACON: Like, right now, you`ve got to assume (ph) the Republican needs about 30 percent, I would argue, of the non-white vote. He`s at something like 15...

MATTHEWS: No, I`m sorry. You`re ahead of me. You`re actually ahead of me.

BACON: Sorry.

MATTHEWS: I meant the nomination.

BACON: I think he`s going to be -- either get the delegates or be like -- if you have 1,100 delegates...

(CROSSTALK)

BACON: ... and the requirement is 1,200...

MATTHEWS: OK...

BACON: ... you`re so close, can they really give it to somebody else?

MATTHEWS: Can he get within the gimme?

PAGE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And is there a gimme? There`s got to be a gimme.

PAGE: 1,237, I think he gets there, actually.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

PAGE: And I think if he doesn`t get there, he gets so close that it is undeniable...

MATTHEWS: So that he`ll get the gimme?

STANTON: Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. He`s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... give me what it is. It`s 100 shy?

STANTON: Maybe 100 shy, but I do think he might actually get over it. I think he may walk into the -- into the -- into the convention with all the delegates he needs.

MATTHEWS: See, I just think if Kasich stays in there for the good people in the Republican Party, the moderates, the better sort, OK, and he splits the vote with the angry crowd behind Cruz, really angry crowd, that they just do the job for Trump.

PAGE: Yes, but Cruz is into -- going into a tough territory here because Cruz`s states have now voted.

STANTON: Right.

PAGE: Cruz now has to win in states that are kind of not his natural constituency, places where there are fewer evangelical Christians.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I can`t see him in Connecticut, even Pennsylvania, with all the riflemen there. I just don`t -- maybe in the very middle of the T.

BACON: I mean, part of the problem, of course, is Kasich is not a team player in this kind of way, either. The logical process -- you heard Rubio, Nikki Haley, a lot of people praising Cruz. Kasich -- they need him to drop out. He`s not going to do it.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Susan, you interviewed Laura Bush recently, and you asked about Donald Trump. Let`s watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAGE: You`re a Republican.

LAURA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: That`s right.

PAGE: If Donald Trump is the nominee, the Republican nominee, are you going to vote for him?

BUSH: Susan, I`m not going to answer.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: Don`t ask.

PAGE: In your book, it`s clear that you don`t think Islam hates America, that you don`t think all Muslims should be banned from entering the United States. Is there a point where you would feel compelled to come off the sidelines to speak against...

BUSH: Well, this is what I want Americans to remember, what our real values are. And one of the very first things, one of the reasons we`re a country, is because we believe in freedom of religion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow, that`s impressive. But it sounded like she said, I`m not going to vote for a guy with that point of view.

PAGE: Well, it sounded like she really didn`t want to answer that question. She went on to say that we`ve had episodes in our past of xenophobia and that we need to battle against them. We need to remember what our...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... episodes.

PAGE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: The Irish usually.

PAGE: So...

MATTHEWS: Now that it`s St. Patrick`s Day, we might remind ourselves that they were on the receiving end of a lot of that hatred.

By the way, I was thinking how these Bushes are so great, the women especially, the spouses. Years ago, I was upstairs -- people with me and Lois Romano, I was the only guy in the room interviewing Barbara Bush. And near the end of the interview -- it was a nice lunch -- I looked her in the eye, I was doing a magazine cover for my paper, and I looked her in the eye, I go, you know, just looking at you, Mrs. Bush, you look pro-choice.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: ... so WASPy (INAUDIBLE) And she looked at me and she said, I don`t care what I look like. I`m not talking.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: So I see that Laura Bush is the same way there.

Anyway, thank you, Perry Bacon, sir. And thank you, John Stanton, and thank you, Susan Page.

Coming up -- if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, will he drive women to the polls the wrong way for him to vote for Hillary Clinton? Between accusations of misogyny, an attack ad that portrays Clinton as a dog and the violence at her rallies -- his rallies, Trump could trigger a groundswell support for the Democrats come November. That`s what I think`s going to happen.

Plus, the Republicans are fighting to keep control of the U.S. Senate, but they need to hang onto seats in key swing states, and those sitting senators could be vulnerable with Trump at the top of the ticket, don`t you think?

And the HARDBALL roundtable is here to tell me something about this presidential candidate (ph) I don`t know.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with, of course, St. Patrick`s Day.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, tune in tomorrow night at our regular time at 7:00 Eastern. Governor John Kasich will be my guest, fresh off his victory in his home state of Ohio. I`ll ask him how he makes his case for the nomination over Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and the likelihood of a contested convention come July in Cleveland. That`s 7:00 PM tomorrow night here on MSNBC.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have more respect for women than Hillary Clinton has. I have more respect than Hillary Clinton, OK? I will take care of this country far better than Hillary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was, of course, Donald Trump back in January saying that he respects women more than Hillary Clinton does.

Well, today there`s new evidence of a growing gender gap when it comes to the Republican front-runner. A Reuters poll today finds that half the women in the country have a, quote, "very unfavorable" view of Trump. And an NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll earlier this month found that in a hypothetical matchup between Trump and Secretary Clinton, Clinton would win double-digit, near double-digit, among women, 58 to 31. That`s a 27-point spread.

This comes as "The New York Times" today reports that President Obama privately told a group of donors last week that the time is coming for the party to unite behind Hillary Clinton. Well! While the White House says the president did not express a personal preference -- of course, he did -- it`s the latest sign that the primary race is winding down and that Democrats are looking to the general election this November.

As Hillary Clinton competes to become the first woman president, there`s no question that women voters will make a critical difference in November, especially if Trump is her opponent, based on these numbers.

I`m joined right now by former congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, as well as MSNBC political analyst and former DNC chair, Governor Howard Dean.

Congresswoman, thank you for joining us. I`m looking at these numbers, and they`re pretty darn impressive. I mean, it almost puts the picture that for -- if you look at these numbers sustaining through the rest of the year, Trump`s unfavorability among women, it really looks like the male vote is going to have to come galloping to the rescue. Like, 65 percent, almost two thirds of men, would have to vote for Trump to offset the women problem he seems to have. Your thinking.

MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), FMR. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Actually, I`m not terribly worried at all because so much of the polling that has gone on this year, Donald Trump, of all of the Republican candidates, was really doing very well with African-American voters, Hispanic voters, female voters, male voters.

Hillary Clinton is the one that has the major gender gap, and that`s with men. Men don`t seem to like Hillary Clinton. And I don`t blame them! She just came out and said that she was going to put out of business the coal industry, the entire coal industry, and she was going to throw all those coal miners out of work!

This is something more that a candidate who`s in line with fascist values would put forward. I understand why people would be very nervous. Women want to make sure that they have jobs, that their husbands have jobs, and I don`t think Hillary Clinton is calming anyone`s nerves right now.

MATTHEWS: Which one has fascist values? I missed the reference there. Which one, Trump or Hillary?

BACHMANN: Oh, Mrs. -- Mrs. Clinton! Mrs. Clinton! Because here she is, and she says she`s going to put an entire American industry out of business because the number one energy source used to supply electricity in this country is coal. What is she going to do to replace coal?

We need to have energy and electricity in this country. People really like it when their gasoline is more around $2 a gallon or under.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... just stick with coal?

BACHMANN: ... going to have electricity prices spike? Of course, I do. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: I mean, just stick with it interminably.

BACHMANN: Our country has done more to clean -- our country, Chris, has done more to clean coal than any other country on earth. We`re delivering clean coal, a wonderful product, where people can have electricity, or we could be like Bernie Sanders, socialist, and be like Venezuela that was going to shut down the country for a week because they don`t have any electricity!

We are a first world country and we need to have energy resources...

MATTHEWS: OK...

BACHMANN: ... and Hillary Clinton is going to deny energy to the American people!

MATTHEWS: You know, I always know where Congresswoman Michele Bachmann stands. We just heard it. This is an ideological war, and Hillary is on the wrong side with her. Let me ask you -- against her.

This thing about the gender gap -- you are a male, as am I, but I look at this thing and I look at the way he talks to people on television, and these words are pretty much not just un-PC, pretty much ancient, the way he talks, if not caveman sometimes.

HOWARD DEAN (D-VT), FMR. DNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there is that.

These numbers actually make it impossible for Donald Trump to win, period. I mean, Congresswoman Bachmann just talked about him doing well among African-Americans. The number of African-Americans who were polled in this is -- about 4 percent African-American are voting in these Republican primaries.

A higher percentage of Hispanic -- I think we know where he is going to end up with Hispanics. So, look, I think the problem is, we don`t know who the Republican nominee is going to be, because they have these most unbelievable rules, and it is actually possible for somebody who is not even on the ballot to end up as the presidential nominee.

MATTHEWS: That would guarantee Hillary`s victory.

DEAN: Well, who knows? Who knows with...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, an anti-Trump advertisement on television by Our Principles PAC which aired early this showcased some of the denigrating language that Trump has used to describe women. Here is an excerpt. And I want the congresswoman to respond to what we see here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bimbo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dog.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fat pig.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Real quotes about women from Donald Trump about women.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A person who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a 10.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like her right in that fat ugly face of hers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like kids. I mean, I won`t do anything to take care of them. I will supply funds, and she will take care of the kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, it doesn`t matter what they write, as long as you have got a young and beautiful piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Women, you have to treat them like (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is how Donald Trump talks about our mothers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our sisters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our daughters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Congresswoman, what do you make of that, Donald Trump`s words thrown back at him by women?

BACHMANN: This is going to be exactly what Hillary Clinton puts out as part of her campaign material, and we`re going to be seeing this all the way until November.

But I think, more importantly, take a look at what happened from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton after the election on Tuesday night. Donald Trump gave a very optimistic, full-bore view of what he was going to do for America. Hillary Clinton almost looked like she was mad that she won on Tuesday night. She looked tired. She looked angry.

She was upset she even has to go through this whole primary process. She doesn`t have a very optimistic view of America. I think people, women especially, look at Donald Trump, they trust this guy. He is a tough guy. This is a guy who succeeds, and he is a guy who I think is going to follow through with what he says he is going to do.

Now, we don`t know if he is going to the nominee. It may be the constitutional conservative in this race, Ted Cruz. He may be the candidate. It will be Ted Cruz or it will be Donald Trump. It doesn`t matter which one it is for Democrats. They`re going to rip to shreds whichever Republican candidate it is.

But I would put our Republican candidate up against Hillary any day of the week. That`s where the enthusiasm will be, for the Republican candidate.

MATTHEWS: Well, unfortunately, you`re wrong about that. You understand that that ad wasn`t done by the Democrats. It was done by a group of Republicans, the one going after Donald Trump`s comments about women. That was not a Democratic...

BACHMANN: Oh, sure.

MATTHEWS: OK. It`s the people...

BACHMANN: Sure. It`s the people that want to pull him down. That`s true. But the candidate will either be Trump or it will be Cruz.

MATTHEWS: Governor?

DEAN: Who knows who the candidate is. It`s not my specialty.

I do want to contradict one other thing. The congresswoman asked where the energy was coming from. A bipartisan bill passed at the end of last legislature, last Congress, which extended the solar tax credits by five years. What most people believe is, the amount of solar power we`re going to be using is going to increase by fivefold in the next five years. That`s where our electricity is going to coming from.

MATTHEWS: I think solar is going to be great if it works. It does work.

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN: It`s working really well. And it`s going to be cheaper than coal.

MATTHEWS: And it`s good for the universe.

Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

BACHMANN: Solar is great.

MATTHEWS: Solar. I think we can all agree on solar. That`s a nonpartisan -- anyway, thank you both, Governor Dean, for being with me.

DEAN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you both, actually.

Coming up: Donald Trump has energized much of the Republican Party, but could he be toxic for down-ticket races? A lot of these people want to get reelected. Big surprise there. What would be the effect on the swing state Republicans?

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening.

Several lawmakers are calling for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the head of the EPA to resign over the contaminated water crisis in Flint. The two testified before the House Oversight Committee Today.

Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland visited Capitol Hill earlier. He met with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Patrick Leahy, the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee.

Twenty automakers will make automatic emergency breaking systems a standard feature in vehicles by 2022. Officials say the technology will prevent thousands of crashes and save lives.

And SeaWorld says it will no longer breed killer whales. The 24 it already has in its three parks will be the company`s last. In 2015, SeaWorld said it would end shows featuring those whales -- back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I also don`t believe in the end that he is going to be or nominee.

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: OK, but you would support him if he were?

AYOTTE: You know, I don`t support what he has done, and I don`t think he will be our nominee, so I don`t think I will have to worry about supporting him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte last summer saying she wouldn`t have to worry about supporting Donald Trump or not because she didn`t believe he would become her party`s presidential nominee. High hopes, apparently.

But as Trump inches closer to securing the nomination now, Ayotte could be eating her words. She along with four other Republican senators running for reelection, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Rob Portman and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, could all face tough odds with the Trump at the top of the ticket, making party leaders nervous about the prospects of losing the U.S. Senate to the Democrats this fall.

"The New York Times" reported in February that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has begun preparing senators for the prospect of a Trump nomination, assuring them that if it threatened to harm them in the general election, they could run negative ads about Mr. Trump to create space between him and Republican senators seeking reelection.

"We will drop him like a hot rock," McConnell said. What a line. "We will drop him like a hot rock." Anyway, according to his colleagues, he said that.

But Democrats want to make Republican own Mr. Trump. Here is parts of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee`s latest Web ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What the hell are we doing?

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: I will support the Republican nominee.

AYOTTE: I plan to support the Republican nominee.

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I`m going to support the nominee regardless of who it is.

QUESTION: Would you support Donald Trump?

SEN. MARK KIRK (R), ILLINOIS: If he was the nominee, I certainly would.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: I tend to support the Republican nominee.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I have every intention of supporting the Republican nominee.

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R), MISSOURI: I`m going to be for whoever wins this primary.

WOMAN: Republican Representative Joe Heck says he will support the eventual nominee.

TRUMP: My hands, if they`re small, something else must be small. I guarantee, you there is no problem.

BLUNT: It`s good for our candidates to have somebody like Donald Trump.

TRUMP: What the hell are we doing?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Time for the HARDBALL roundtable.

Amos Snead is a Republican strategist. Heidi Przybyla is senior political reporter with "USA Today." And Shane Goldmacher is with Politico.

Let me start with you, Amos.

This problem is real, because I have seen statistics that show that as goes the presidential line, so goes the Senate line in something like 90 percent of the cases. The days of ticket-splitting, even in the Senate, places like Pennsylvania, where I grew up, are over. You go with the tide.

AMOS SNEAD, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think if you look at this, I don`t think you`re going to see a lot of Republican senators, Republican House members running against Trump. I think they are going to run in parallel with him.

MATTHEWS: How do they hide from him?

SNEAD: Well, I think if you look -- see what just happened in Texas.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: When he comes to the airport, are they waiting for him? That`s the question. We can`t laugh that one off. Are they there with him holding his hand, introducing him at all the party events or not?

SNEAD: I think we`re going to see a lot of scheduling miracles that happen between now and November so that these candidates don`t end up in the same part of the state as Trump does when he shows up in town.

MATTHEWS: No pictures together?

SNEAD: I don`t believe so.

(CROSSTALK)

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, "USA TODAY": ... appointment.

MATTHEWS: What do you think? Can they get really away with that, without every party member knowing to ditch the guy, to cut him, as you say?

PRZYBYLA: Look, they have been fretting about this for months, Chris. I take you back to December, when the NRSC put out this memo on what do we do if Trump is at the top of the ticket?

And they think they can do kind of this wet noodle embrace of like capitalizing on some of the populist fervor that he is stirring up.

MATTHEWS: You mean pick up the angry white working guy, but don`t lose the suburban...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... reads the papers.

PRZYBYLA: But you are going to have to condemn the woman thing. Right? Like you ran on the woman -- the ad that was running earlier today, how does Kelly Ayotte in good conscience not say that`s -- I don`t agree with the rhetoric that he`s used on that?

MATTHEWS: OK. Explain how you can do that. You explained it with the wet noodle, but I`m just wondering how can you be that clever, to get the women, stick the women with you, sophisticated women, all women, and not lose that angry white guy?

PRZYBYLA: I don`t think you can. You want my opinion, I think it`s going to really hurt them. I think it`s going to be devastating.

And that`s the words of the NRSC political director Rob Jesmer, who was quoted as saying this is going to be a complete and utter disaster for a lot of these candidates.

If you look at the map, Chris, remember 2014. If the Senate map looked like 2014, when you had some of these red states like Arizona, Alaska, it would have been less of a huge issue, but Trump would have been maybe not as much of a liability.

But these are all these industrial states, where we`re not sure how this is going to shake out yet. Like, in Ohio, he said, oh, he is drawing in all these blue-collar voters. Well, guess what? More blue-collar voters crossed over to support Kasich as a protest vote. So, we don`t know how this is going to shake out. That`s where the map is this year.

MATTHEWS: I think there truly are -- Shane, I think there truly are -- they don`t like the word moderate Republican. Don`t call -- let`s call them mainstream conservative Republicans.

But they do have a sensitivity about they don`t want to be known as racist, even if they have a little bit of a tinge. They don`t to have it public. They are embarrassed by it. They may live in the suburbs, they may be part of white flight, but they damn well read the newspapers and don`t want to be one of the bad guys, and Trump talks in ways that sounds very bad to people.

SHANE GOLDMACHER, POLITICO: And it`s basically an inversion of 2014, when Barack Obama was unpopular. He wasn`t even on the ballot, and all the Democrats in all these red states tried to run away with him, those same scheduling problems and doctors appointments.

They weren`t appearing with him. And guess what? The Republicans are going to face that same problem with a nominee like Donald Trump or even a nominee like Ted Cruz. And so for all of these Republicans, they are really facing a challenge. How can they win and separate themselves in a country now where people don`t ticket-split?

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a candidate who I think is pretty attractive, just watching her over the years. I think she`s fine. I don`t know if I will vote for her, Kelly Ayotte, OK? She`s running against a tough opponent, Hassan -- Hassan, the governor up there. It`s always tough to beat a governor.

How does she do that wiggle thing?

(CROSSTALK)

PRZYBYLA: She`s running out of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m serious. In a small state, where everybody knows each other, you get a sense of where Kelly is vs. -- Kelly Ayotte vs. Trump. Are they together or not?

PRZYBYLA: Well, that`s exactly it. She runs on her personal brand. That`s the argument that they`re making now to these vulnerable Republicans, is, look, you go out there, you do your own ground game, you do your own advertising, and you run in your personal brand.

It`s a small state, right? But all throughout this campaign, there is going to be additional comments, coming from Donald Trump, inflammatory comments. And unlike right now, once you get into the heat of those campaigns, she is going to be asked to respond to every single of them and have a position.

MATTHEWS: And, by the way, the Democratic opponent will have, right, Amos, the pictures together. Every time they get within a mile of each other, they will be in the ad. They`re not going to let them separate.

SNEAD: I think you`re right. But I also think, if you look at Trump, there is going to be a lot of Republican money that is going to be...

MATTHEWS: Would you like to be a Republican running in a state, for example, a purple state like Toomey, Portman, Kirk, Johnson, Ayotte? Would you like to be one of those people running for reelection with Trump at the top?

SNEAD: I would not like to be running for reelection in any state right now. But I think what Trump is doing, but a lot of the money is going to go...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know. There`s a lot of safe senators. And they`re all Democrats, except for one, Michael Bennet. They`re all safe, except for him.

Anyway, let me go -- the super PAC out there supporting Democrats, the Senate Majority PAC, it`s called, is out with this new ad slamming Kelly Ayotte for following Trump`s lead on denying President Obama a vote.

Now, this a tough one for his Supreme Court nominee. This is a double whammy. It`s not only Trump. It`s not letting people vote. So, you want Trump to be the nominee, but you don`t want to the nominee of the president to be considered. Little problem there. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Delay, delay, delay.

NARRATOR: Donald Trump wants the Senate to delay filling the Supreme Court vacancy, so he can choose the nominee next year, and Senator Kelly Ayotte is right there to help.

Ayotte joined Trump and party bosses in refusing to consider any nominee, ignoring the Constitution. Newspapers call Ayotte`s actions appalling, wrong and disappointing.

TRUMP: Delay, delay, delay.

NARRATOR: Kelly Ayotte ignoring the Constitution, not doing her job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: How do I know those words weren`t headlines? They are in the ad. They`re probably buried in the jump somewhere.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us.

And up next, these people tell me something I don`t know, all three of them.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Shane, tell me something I don`t know, Mr. Goldmacher.

GOLDMACHER: John Kasich is going to Utah this weekend. It has a lot of people scratching their head.

And the reason is Utah is potentially a winner-take-all states for delegates if somebody gets to 50 percent. The most likely person would be Ted Cruz. So, by John Kasich going, he is almost guaranteeing that Donald Trump can pick up a share of the delegates, which hurts his overall cause of keeping him below 1,237.

MATTHEWS: Why is he going to Utah?

GOLDMACHER: This is a really big question, because he can get some delegates if he goes there, and he wants more delegates when he gets to Cleveland.

But a lot of Republicans, part of the anti-Trump movement, would rather he stayed away entirely.

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s a single media state. Maybe he will get a lot more firepower in the whole -- everybody in the state watches Salt Lake TV. Maybe he will just get firepower that -- he is going to be on here Friday night.

Everybody ought to know that. That`s tomorrow night at 7:00.

Heidi.

PRZYBYLA: If the tone of this campaign sounds a lot like high school at times, you would be wrong.

There is a new study out from Carnegie Lemmon that shows that the language structure, the vocabulary, the grammar that the candidates are all using is actually at the sixth or eighth grade level, and it`s getting worst as the campaign goes on. They measured the grammatical constructs that, you know, sixth and eighth graders used and may actually against all the candidates. This is bipartisan. You know, Trump, you`ll be shocked to know, scores the lowest.

The others, Cruz --

MATTHEWS: I`ve read that. Like grade school.

By the way, is Carnegie Mello still a school where they teach you to speak with an English accent?

PRZYBYLA: Oh.

MATTHEWS: Very (INAUDIBLE) acting days, I know that.

PRZYBYLA: I don`t know. It is not a place I frequented.

MATTHEWS: You have to know these things.

AMOS SNEAD, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: We will not see a third party presidential candidate at this election. I think a lot of people going to flirt with it, but with $200 million --

MATTHEWS: No third way?

SNEAD: I don`t believe so.

If it`s not Bloomberg, who else is going to have the name ID or $200 million to go to this?

MATTHEWS: I could bet you, happy either way, I could win the bet if it does happen. But if I lose, I would be happy, too, because I like a straight up and down election. I think it`s better for the country, because you can vote for the person that wins or loses.

You don`t mess around, because a lot of people are cagey, don`t blame me, I voted for John Henderson. I don`t blame, I voted for Gene McCarthy. It`s too superior.

Thank you. That`s one of my opinions. Amos Snead, thanks for joining us.

Heidi, you`re something else. You get every time in this business, every time. It is a business, getting the ideas out there and exciting people by your thought process.

And Shane Goldmacher, gold finger.

Coming up, the greatest historian Doug Brinkley will be here, he`ll tell us a few things about Donald Trump and the GOP that can learn -- that they could learn about Franklin Delano Roosevelt when it comes to the environment. He`s got a great new book out about Roosevelt, FDR`s role in saving our environment.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Marco Rubio returned to Capitol Hill today after bowing out of the Republican presidential race on Tuesday night. Not long ago, was heralded as the GOP savior. In ten months, though, Rubio says he will be out of politics altogether. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: No, I`m not going to be anybody`s vice- president. I`m not -- I`m just not going to -- I don`t want to -- I`m not interested in being vice-president. I don`t mean it in a disrespectful way. I`m not going to be vice president. I`m not running for governor of Florida. I`m going to finish out my term in the Senate over the next ten months, we`re going to work really hard and we want to achieve some things and I`ll be a private citizen in January.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, I can`t bring myself to believe that. Once it`s in your blood, this guy wants to be president and expects he`ll get there sooner or later. Good for him.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Franklin Roosevelt is best known, of course, for pulling the country out of the Great Depression and winning World War II. But much like his cousin, Teddy, FDR was also an ardent conservationist. The new book, "Rightful Heritage" by author and historian Douglas Brinkley examines Roosevelt`s legacy on the environment. It`s about FDR`s love of the American outdoors.

Look at him there. And now, he preserved and rehabilitated the natural landscapes of this country as president in the 1930s and `40s. In addition to creating numerous parks and wildlife refuges, Roosevelt launched the Civilian Conservation Corps, a jobs program that planted 3 billion trees in this country and by Roosevelt`s third term, 5 percent of the male population of this country had participated in the CCC.

The book covers a worthy subject as the debate over the environmental effects of climate change becomes as heated as ever. For example, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump who considers global warming a hoax, has said that efforts to curb climate change hurt American industry. In fact, back in 2012, he tweeted, "The concept of the global warming wag created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive."

I`m joined right now by the great author and historian, Douglas Brinkley, who`s author of "The Rightful Heritage".

Douglas, thanks for joining us.

First of all, I want to do a couple of things -- remind people of what a great break it was for a lot of working guys out there, out of work, the CCC and what it did positively for the country and what it did for each of those hundreds of thousands of guys that went into it.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, THE RIGHTFUL HERITAGE: Well, thanks for having me on, Chris.

Yes, FDR created the CCC, and it was his own invention, the idea was to take young men and that were unemployed, often leaving in urban settings, and get them to work in the national parks, create state park systems, plant trees, because the whole country was deeply deforested, dustfall conditions, have drought, agriculture had tied.

But Roosevelt thought the national parks were the heirlooms of America. They were out Taj Mahals or Louvres. So, they did amazing work everywhere. It also gave these young men a chance of loving American environment, loving the land. They got paid $1 a day. They sent the money home.

And now, all the states that had CCC camps, they have an alumni group, I interviewed many of the survivors, people that did that amazing work, they all became ardent conservationists, or most did, because they are they were in Roosevelt`s tree army from 1932 to 1942, when Congress defunded it. FDR desperately wanted it to be permanent, because he thought we constantly needed youth corps doing work.

MATTHEWS: I think we need something like it today to get people who have nothing else to do, to do something positive. Do these guys, when they get older, do they go back like to the battle field? Do they go back and look at what they had done and see the trees full-grown, that kind of thing?

BRINKLEY: Absolutely. I talked to many of them. They went to see the exact, you know, picnic area, the swimming whole reservoir they dug, or just started enjoying. They created so many water foul stations.

You know, FDR created U.S. Fish and Wildlife, which today, runs 550 national wildlife refuges, and it saved many species, the alumni, if you like, go back and they`re proud of it. I`ve read their diaries. I kind of did a comprehensive job of understanding the CCC, the pet New Deal program that FDR loved the most.

MATTHEWS: You know, I had a theory about politics the guy you see or the woman you think of outdoors and they win. When you think of indoors, they tend to lose, whether it`s Dukakis or Dole, anybody like that. Those pictures we`ve just been showing, maybe you didn`t see them, are amazing pictures of FDR, having the time of his life. I mean, he`s got the whole world on his shoulders.

When we look at these pictures, just breezing through the papers, of smoking apparently. How did he get around, being in his wheelchair, how did he get around to all these incredible spots he had a role in saving?

BRINKLEY: He drove to all of them. He had his car specially equipped with gears that he could drive and he could go at very high speeds. He went to places like Glacier National Park and gave a radio address from Glacier saying there`s nothing more American than the national parks.

He went all the way by boat to Hawaii just because he wrote a paper as a boy on volcanoes there and wanted to see them himself. He worked -- he became an honorary member of Blackfoot Indian tribe there.

And, D-Day, Chris, June 6, 1944, he didn`t cancel in any of his meetings because he didn`t want to let the press know that was going. He had been working very hard to create Big Ben national park in Texas. He accepted the deed to get -- Ben got crated on D-Day.

And when Congress wouldn`t go for a national park, he would sign executive orders and create them as national monuments, places like Jackson Hole, places like the Dry Tortugas or Capital Reef in Utah on and on. He was determined to celebrate and protect the American landscapes.

MATTHEWS: I love those places like the Grand Tetons.

Anyway, in December of last year, Republican front-runner Donald Trump compared his proposed ban on Muslims to Franklin Roosevelt`s wartime proclamation, which included Japanese interment. It prompted FDR`s granddaughter Anna Eleanor Roosevelt to issue this statement:

"For Donald Trump to site my grandfather and internment as a defense of his own intolerant and divisive agenda is reprehensible. As a nation, interment weakened us all. It`s a tragic reminder of what happens when we allow fear and hysteria to trump our values."

What do you make of that part of the Roosevelt tradition which today is very discredited, to put it lightly?

BRINKLEY: It`s the low moment of his entire four-term presidency. You`re exactly right, he never feared mongers. He`s opposite from Trump. He was optimistic, always.

However, after Pearl Harbor, he got deeply fearful that the Japanese were going to burn all the coastal areas of California, Washington, Oregon by arson. Take the dry season and have balloons that blew up and we would be burning on the West Coast.

MATTHEWS: Who`s got -- where did he get the idea? What spooked him? What made him think -- these people are pretty civilized. Why would they go out of country and start forest fires?

(CROSSTALK)

BRINKLEY: They did, Chris -- the Japanese did fire and burn a little bit near Santa Barbara and the Los Padres National Forest and also up in Oregon, but he just knowing the forester and how vulnerable it was in the dry season, we needed to protect that. Again, it was the worst moment of his presidency, I believe, by doing that executive order.

MATTHEWS: Back to your good stuff about conservation. What happened to this country, it used to be something I have gone out to arches in Utah and did river runs, when I worked out there for a Utah senator.

I mean, it`s just magnificent. I was out there with my daughter recently. Shoshone, Yellowstone, you just watch and watch the bison go by the hundreds. It`s -- no country in the world has this, nobody has what we have.

BRINKLEY: That`s what FDR -- let`s take Utah since you raised it. FDR created Capital Reef Points Park. Arches where you went, roadside attraction. He quadrupled the land around it. He went into Zion, which was not a huge site and made it much bigger.

But when George Dern was the secretary of war, former Democratic of Utah, they built all the roads. So, Chris, Utah and Idaho both vote -- always voted for Franklin Roosevelt because he was trying to turn them into national park, ski resorts states and they got federal money, they got work crews. They collected a lot of papers from the Mormons and the CCC who really worked hard at it.

He went to Yellowstone with Eleanor Roosevelt and had a wonderful time. But Eleanor Roosevelt was very angry that the souvenirs in the shop were made in China not by American wood carvers, and she wrote in her my day column how upset she was that we weren`t selling American trinkets in the American national parks.

MATTHEWS: Eleanor Roosevelt, the nationalist, I love it. That`s a different side of her.

BRINKLEY: Yes, she was.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Douglas Brinkley. You`re an amazing author and amazing historian. You know so much and you write it beautifully. The book is called "Rightful Heritage: For FDR and the Land of America." Beautiful cover, too.

Anyway, when we return, let me finish tonight with what else, look at this thing. St. Patrick`s Day.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with St. Patrick`s Day.

Here it is again, at the time you never know what the weather is going to be like. When I was at La Salle College High School in Philadelphia marching up Broad Street, it could be snowing or sweltering. St. Patrick`s Day was unpredictable.

My parents were married on St. Patrick`s Day. That, too, was unpredictable. One of them from a family of Shields, Conroys and Quinlans. I`ve been called a Quinlan.

The other with a mother you could have confused for Mrs. Doubtfire, a real orange woman with an accent and cooking skills to prove it. My four brothers and I grew up in that cross section of the British aisles that compromised the Matthews family.

And one thing we knew was the importance of St. Patrick`s Day, it was mom and dad`s anniversary. Also, let`s not forget a day we were all dispensed from Lent. It was a day to enjoy what you had been giving up.

What if St. Patrick himself? He was the apostle of Ireland, he was, the patron saint, of course, a long with a Brigit of Kildare and Columba, a missionary back in the fifth century of our Lord.

At 16, he was captured by pirates from home in Great Britain and taken as a slave to Ireland. He escaped, became a priest, returned to Ireland where he rose to bishop of Armagh, primate of Ireland. He died today, March 17th in Ireland, a holy day of obligation today.

I went to college at Holy Cross, what was then called wall to wall Irish, and that was OK. It`s more diverse now and even better. Last night, the Holy Cross basketball team, once the home of Bob Cousy and later Tom Heinsohn, beat Southern in a preliminary round to the NCAA tournament. It was a three pointer in the last minute that won. Good for the Crusaders, good for the Irish.

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

"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