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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 4/12/2016

Guests: Tad Devine, Tina Brown, Kate Brower, Montel Williams

Show: HARDBALL Date: April 12, 2016 Guest: Tad Devine, Tina Brown, Kate Brower, Montel Williams

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A New York state of mind.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.

Let me start tonight with the Democratic battle here in New York between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the one we`re billing "the battle for Broadway." Clinton is looking at a big win in her adopted state here, which she represented for eight years, of course, as a U.S. senator. A skunking of Bernie here would clear her path to the Democratic nomination in Philadelphia.

For Sanders, who carries his native Brooklyn in his voice and in his politics, an upset in New York would rise giant doubts about the Clinton juggernaut, enough perhaps to keep the brawl alive all the way to Philly.

Well, today, Sanders said unequivocally that he`ll win a major victory here in this state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will win a major victory here in New York next Tuesday!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: We win when the voter turnout is high. We lose when the voter turnout is low. Let us have the highest voter turnout in Democratic primary history in New York!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He`s something.

Anyway, while polls show Hillary Clinton with a double-digit lead here in this state, she`s intensifying her attacks on Sanders, and with just a week to go, taking nothing for granted.

I`m joined right now by Joy Reid, MSNBC national correspondent, Tad Devine, the great senior adviser -- actually, are you older than him?...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: ... to the Sanders campaign, and MSNBC political analyst Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, which is where all the action is, and a big Hillary Clinton supporter.

Anyway, I`m a going to ask you about this -- this gun thing -- let me ask you about the prediction.

TAD DEVINE, SANDERS CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Well...

MATTHEWS: He said he`s going to win.

DEVINE: ... I love his optimism.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, then he set that bar up there. She`s -- he`s down double digits. That usually means -- he said he was going to win here. We all do at election night.

DEVINE: Right. I think he said he was going to win every state we`ve been in thus far.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Oh, you`re taking the edge off it! Now he said he`s going to win here.

DEVINE: No, listen, this is her home state. She`s -- she`s ahead. Independents can`t vote in the primary here. I mean, there`s a lot of factors (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: What did he mean by, I`m going to win here?

DEVINE: I think he means and he believes, and I agree with him, that if we can mobilize an electorate, particularly a young electorate, if we can get new people in the process, we got a real shot at winning.

MATTHEWS: Have you been able to do that before...

DEVINE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... increase -- no, increase the turnout? I know I hear about the political revolution. Fair enough.

DEVINE: Sure.

MATTHEWS: But the overall turnout in these primaries has not gone up.

DEVINE: Chris, in Wisconsin, 19 percent of the electorate...

MATTHEWS: In Wisconsin.

DEVINE: ... 18 to 29.

MATTHEWS: Well, did the overall numbers go up?

DEVINE: 18 percent was 65-plus.

MATTHEWS: But did the -- has the turnout gone up?

DEVINE: It went way up for 18 to 29-year-olds.

MATTHEWS: In Wisconsin.

DEVINE: That`s right. That`s the most recent example of how Bernie Sanders increases turnout.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK. So is that a conditional claim by him, then?

DEVINE: Well, no. I think he...

MATTHEWS: Well, he said, We`re going to win New York, and you say he will win New York if turnout is beyond normal expectations.

DEVINE: I`ll tell you one thing Bernie doesn`t do, spin, OK? He says...

MATTHEWS: You`re the spinner!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: He made a clear statement!

Anyway, speaking at a roundtable on gun violence Monday -- that`s yesterday -- Hillary Clinton called out Bernie Sanders for his record on gun control, slamming his home state of Vermont for supplying the firearms used in violent crimes in New York. That`s a strong charge, saying that`s where the arsenal is for the killing in the streets of New York.

(INAUDIBLE) let`s look at what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When challenged on his gun stances, he frequently says, Well, you know, I represent Vermont. It`s a small rural state. We have no gun laws.

Here`s what I want you to know. Most of the guns that are used in crimes and violence and killings in New York come from out of state. And the state that has the highest per capita number of those guns that end up committing crimes in New York come from Vermont.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the Sanders campaign released a statement that turned Hillary`s words against Governor Peter Shumlin, who is backing Hillary Clinton. Quote, "I don`t know why Secretary Clinton would be so critical of the governor of Vermont, who strongly supports her candidacy. What Governor Shumlin recently said is true. It is campaign season. Therefore, things are sometimes said by all the candidates that sometimes aren`t entirely accurate. I would just say this. I think you`ve had a hard time convincing Vermonters that New York crime problems are coming from Vermont."

Anyway, a fact checker at "The Washington Post" points out that Vermont`s small population skews the numbers that Clinton is using there. Quote, "We do not find the per capita measure as a fair assessment of gun flows from Vermont into New York. The difference between this point, using per capita calculation, and the raw number is so stark that it creates a significantly misleading impression to the public."

Tad, you want to back that up?

DEVINE: You better believe it! Listen, there are over 4,500 guns in that reference that she made. 55 of them came from Vermont, OK?

MATTHEWS: That were used in violent crimes.

DEVINE: Yes, that -- well (INAUDIBLE) most of them were the crime was possession of a firearm, OK? We can`t tell whether any was used in a murder. But you know, it`s just terribly misleading. You know, if you`ve got a candidate whose problem is credibility, I would suggest don`t have her out there attacking on things that aren`t credible at all.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Howard, Governor Dean. I`ll get to you, Joy, in a minute. But Governor Dean, you were governor of Vermont. Did you feel that you were the arsenal of criminology or crime in New York City? Did you feel that your state was feeding guns down across the northern border?

DEAN: Well, they do. Actually, we do, except that it`s misleading in the sense that while we are the highest per capita exporter of guns, that`s because Vermont`s population is so small.

But Bernie`s real problems is his vote against the loss -- against the ability to sue gun companies. And what -- he needs to apologize for that, as Hillary had to apologize for Iraq. And if I were Bernie`s campaign -- not that I should give advice to Tad, who`s right here and is a very able guy -- I would stop talking about guns. That does not help Bernie in New England and the Northeastern primaries.

MATTHEWS: Question to both of you. Is Vermont and its laws on guns significantly responsible for the crime rate in New York City?

DEVINE: No, not at all.

MATTHEWS: OK, Governor Howard Dean, is Vermont significantly responsible for the crime in New York used by guns -- with the use of guns?

DEAN: It is not the largest exporter of guns, but there are a significant amount of guns that end -- bought in Vermont legally that end up in New York. There`s a lot more guns in -- from Virginia, for example, that are illegally purchased that end up in New York.

But again, I don`t think this is an article about semantics. I think this a -- this is a problem because Hillary is to the left of Bernie on this particular issue.

Look, here`s the other problem. I got eight endorsements in a row from the NRA. I got off the NRA boat (ph) after Newtown, after Wayne Lapierre made his spitting speech about this is all, you know, fine and good, we`re not going give up our right to bear arms.

I concluded that the National Rifle Association did not represent reasonable, thoughtful gun owners...

MATTHEWS: OK.

DEAN: ... and that Wayne -- and the NRA had become a right-wing extremist group. And that is when I left the NRA.

And I think if you`re going to run for national office, you probably have to do that.

MATTHEWS: Joy, I`ve heard of Catholic guilt. I think...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: ... Tad and I know about it. I know about Jewish guilt because my friends tell me about it. Is this Vermont guilt?

JOY REID, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Vermont guilt!

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) Vermont guilt we`re being accused of here?

REID: That`s going to be a hashtag.

MATTHEWS: That Vermont is now the -- is like the Mexico for drugs, it`s the -- it`s the home base of all bad guns? Has Hillary overstepped here. You`re objective.

REID: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Yes or no?

REID: Somebody is hashtagging Vermontguilt right this instant. I think what you see here is an example of the dangers of talking around an attack, right?

MATTHEWS: Can you help me out here?

REID: Yes, I think...

MATTHEWS: Particularly -- is Hillary overstating the charge? Is she overcharging Vermont as the source of the gun battles, the crimes down in New York. Everybody knows that.

REID: Yes. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: It`s been very healthy compared to what it was 20, 30 years ago. We know that.

REID: Sure.

MATTHEWS: But to an extent -- to what extent is Vermont and its gun -- lacks gun laws and (ph) cowboy (ph) guns laws responsible for the New York City violence?

REID: Well, very little. There just aren`t enough humans in Vermont, that if they all started exporting guns here...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s 50 guns...

(CROSSTALK)

REID: There aren`t a lot of people there. So I think, yes, she`s overstating it.

MATTHEWS: Is this where the campaign`s headed?

REID: But you know what?

MATTHEWS: Arguing over the number of guns coming from Vermont? Is that an attempt by Hillary to find some safe left place to the left of Senator Sanders? Is that what it`s about, to find someplace that she can be the left of him, so she doesn`t have to attack him for being too left, which we`ll get to in the polls. That`s not healthy for her in the long run.

REID: Right. It`s not attacking him for being too left. I think what you see in Hillary Clinton is this sort of Gordian knot they`ve tied themselves in because the Clinton campaign writ large I think does not want to directly personally attack Bernie Sanders.

MATTHEWS: Right. And not on his philosophy.

REID: And not on his...

MATTHEWS: And not on his philosophy, right.

REID: ... philosophy because of the risk of then alienating particularly the young voters that your campaign...

MATTHEWS: So true.

REID: ... is doing such a great job at. So even on issues where she`s got some advantage...

MATTHEWS: OK...

REID: ... and I think even Tad would admit that on the issue of liability for gun manufacturers, sort of the only industry that Bernie Sanders doesn`t think is, like, really evil, right, are these gun manufacturers (INAUDIBLE) liability.

But they don`t want to go at him directly and personally because the blowback against Hillary Clinton when she does that is so severe that they`re trying to find sort of ways to dance around and still attack him in these sort of side-glancing ways.

That doesn`t work in politics. If you`re going to attack Bernie Sanders on his policies on guns, you just have to do it.

MATTHEWS: I got to go back to Governor Dean. Governor Dean, Bernie Sanders has used the phrase "pact with the devil, sold her soul to the devil"...

DEVINE: That was Weaver. That was Weaver.

MATTHEWS: Well, her (sic) guy, anyway, her (sic) chief campaign manager. Is that what you have to do in Vermont? I mean, the way Bernie sold this is, you know, You can`t blame me. You don`t get elected in Vermont unless you`re pro-gun? Is that the deal?

DEAN: No, and I don`t know if Bernie really said that because he`s not that kind of a -- I don`t think he`s that kind of politician.

Look, here`s the deal. In Vermont, most NRA members are perfectly fine, normal people who don`t think you need a bazooka to blow up a deer. The NRA as a national group is not that way. And when you get to Washington, everything changes. So we all get endorsed. Pat Leahy gets endorsed, I got endorsed, Bernie gets endorsed by the NRA because the local people get us. We understand hunting.

And it`s true, we don`t have any gun laws. When you get to national...

MATTHEWS: OK...

DEAN: ... politics, the gun lobby is a group of lunatics. And I mean, you know, what Wayne Lapierre did after Newtown was outrageous!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What`s the biggest mammal you`ve ever killed?

DEAN: Oh, I don`t know. Probably a duck or something.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway -- that`s a great answer! Anyway, the latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" Marist poll out of New York, the primary voters, finds that some -- some, a big number of them -- Sanders supporters won`t support Hillary Clinton in the general election if she`s the nominee. Look at this, 30 percent of those who support Sanders right now say they will not support Clinton in November if she`s the Democratic nominee, while 15 percent of those who support Clinton now say they will not support Sanders in November if he`s the nominee.

30`s fairly high. But there were a lot of PUMAs, as they called themselves, back in the last election who ended up -- except for the real strange cases -- coming over. Tad, will your people make an adjustment, should it come to that?

DEVINE: Well, I don`t think it`s going to come to that. I think we`re going to win. But I also don`t think 2016 is anywhere near where 2008 was. You know, I mean, listen...

MATTHEWS: In terms of vitriol?

DEVINE: Absolutely. And I think everybody agrees we cannot afford -- America cannot afford to have Trump or Cruz be our next president.

MATTHEWS: The clinch!

(CROSSTALK)

REID: Tad, I got to tell you -- and you see this. They`re on line, and you know, I was out talking to voters all day today in the Bronx. And there is a different level of distaste for Hillary Clinton among Bernie Sanders supporters.

MATTHEWS: You found somebody who was a Sanders supporter that said they`re going to vote for Hillary in the primary.

REID: Yes, because he doesn`t -- he didn`t think that Sanders could win, so he`s going to vote for Hillary even though he likes Bernie better.

But I also only found only one person of each who said they wouldn`t vote for the other. You know, most people we talked to there said, You know, we`re fine...

MATTHEWS: Would they go for Trump?

REID: But when you -- oh, no. But most of...

MATTHEWS: Well, what are they going to do?

REID: Except the Bernie people. I did find people who said they liked Trump, but if Trump -- if they`re Democrats...

MATTHEWS: OK...

REID: ... and they didn`t switch their registration, they`d vote for Bernie.

MATTHEWS: Governor Dean, your thought on this...

REID: But there`s a risk to the vitriol...

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN: I think Tad is right. I`m certainly planning on voting for Bernie if Hillary doesn`t win. Obviously, I think Hillary`s going to win. But I mean, as Bernie himself said, the two of them are so different and much better than anybody on the other side.

Second of all, I would argue that for both of these candidates, these are great numbers. Right now, we`re at the most bitter part of the campaign, or close to it. We`re getting close to the end. Everybody is exhausted. Everybody`s tired. Everybody`s competitive.

If we -- I had to really work hard to get my people to support Kerry. And it took at least a month after I dropped out. So I actually think these...

MATTHEWS: Did you vote for Kerry?

DEAN: Of course I voted for Kerry!

MATTHEWS: OK, just checking.

(LAUGHTER)

DEAN: I asked all my supporters to vote for Kerry, too, but I waited for a month so they could calm down and cool down after all that. That was pretty bitter.

MATTHEWS: How hard is it for a candidate to vote for the other person they lose the primary in?

DEAN: It`s easier for the candidate than it is for the supporters.

MATTHEWS: Wow. That`s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I like this noblesse oblige.

DEVINE: I just want...

MATTHEWS: Anyway -- go ahead. Last word, Tad.

(CROSSTALK)

DEVINE: ... Governor Dean said about Bernie being endorsed by the NRA. Bernie`s got a D-minus lifetime rating from the NRA, OK?

MATTHEWS: Is that an endorsement or not?

DEVINE: No, it`s not an endorsement.

MATTHEWS: OK. What did you mean by that, Governor? Is he endorsed or not?

DEAN: He was endorsed originally, but that -- he may not have been in the last couple of races. I don`t know.

REID: He was. He...

MATTHEWS: So he was initially an NRA guy.

DEVINE: (INAUDIBLE) after they took -- after they defeated him in `88, after he...

REID: Then he changed his position, and then they were for him.

DEVINE: No, no. He changed nothing! He was still against the assault weapon -- always supported the assault weapon ban...

MATTHEWS: You know what`s amazing to me?

DEVINE: ... and his Republican opponent lied about it...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Only in Vermont does the NRA endorse the socialist candidate.

(LAUGHTER)

Anyway, thank you, Joy Reid. I don`t get it up there! It`s beautiful. I love Burlington, by the way, Berkeley East -- love that up there. Howard Dean, Governor Dean, thank you, sir. I love your honesty. Tad Devine, you`re pretty good at this. Anyway -- Joy Reid, as always.

We`ve got a special guest coming up Thursday night, by the way, on HARDBALL. I`m going to host a town hall out on Long Island -- you can pronounce it any way you want -- for Ohio governor John Kasich. He`s out on Long Island in a place called Jericho, New York. And we`re going to be with him for an hour at 7:00 o`clock Eastern time.

By the way, ask these people who are for Hillary or Bernie if it`s Kasich on the other side. You`re going to get some interesting answers because some of them might jump the fence.

Then at 8:00 PM, another big one. Chuck Todd`s going to sit down with Texas senator Ted Cruz up in Buffalo. I don`t envy him. That`ll be an interesting night, Buffalo meets Cruz. It`s a big night for politics, however, on MSNBC. We`re lining them up for you.

Coming up, Donald Trump versus the RNC. The Republican front-runner is claiming the voting system is rigged. And now Reince Priebus -- that`s his name -- is coming out to defend the GOP rules.

And while Republicans get restless, House Speaker Paul Ryan comes out to say he`s not the party`s white knight, telling supporters, Count me out. We`ll see.

Also, John Kasich stands alone. He says he`s running against the darkness of his rivals, Trump and Cruz. I`m going to speak to Kasich supporter Montel Williams about the process tonight on this show right now within this hour, about the Ohio governor having a chance headed into Cleveland and the convention.

Plus, the HARDBALL roundtable tonight will be here tonight to discuss the 2016 campaign moving into the center of the media universe, New York City, the battle of the tabs, home of fearless reporters and take-no-prisoners tabloids.

Meanwhile, "Let Me Finish" tonight with Bill Clinton on the campaign trail, as at the Irish event today, watching him in action.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: It was quite a heart-warming scene in Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia Monday before the Phillies took the field for their home opener against the San Diego Padres. Heroic Philadelphia police officer Jesse Hartnett, who was shot three times in an ISIS-inspired ambush attack in January, threw out the first pitch before the game.

It was a double tip (sic) -- dip, actually, of good vibes, though, as Hartnett then pulled an engagement ring out of his sling and promptly proposed to his girlfriend -- there she is -- right there near home plate, much to the delight of the sell-out crowd. She said -- of course, she said yes.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, here`s a roundup of what`s happened in the Republican race today -- just today. Speaker Paul Ryan, the best hope of being a white knight for many in the establishment, said he would not accept the Republican nomination.

Governor John Kasich, the third man in the race who`s actually running, called out what he calls "the path of darkness" offered by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. That sounds like he`s not going to follow those guys. And front-runner Donald Trump went to war with the Republican Party, calling the primary process itself corrupt and a scam. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our Republican system is absolutely rigged. It`s a phony deal! These are dirty tricksters! This is a dirty trick! And I`ll tell you what. The RNC, the Republican National Committee -- they should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this kind of crap to happen!

The rules are no good when they don`t count your vote. When (ph) they don`t like in Colorado -- the rules are no good when you have to play dirty tricks in order to pick up delegates.

The party is playing dirty! And we got to show our Republican Party -- you`ve been disenfranchised. Everybody has! You got to show the Republican Party that they can`t get away with this stuff any longer!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Interesting tactic. He is basically saying, if he doesn`t get the nomination, it`s dirty.

Anyway, earlier, Reince Priebus, the chair of the Republican National Committee, tweeted: "The rules were set last year, nothing mysterious, nothing new. The rules have not changed. The rules are the same, nothing different." That`s his defense. It`s boring, but it`s his defense.

Joining me right now, the man who used to have that job, Michael Steele. He`s an MSNBC political analyst. And Robert Costa, national political reporter for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst as well.

Gentlemen, the news is out tonight that The Daily News" is endorsing Hillary Clinton. It`s going to happen. We`re going to show you the -- the front cover in a minute.

But, Michael, let`s get to this point. Trump has a pretty good argument. Popular vote should decide the nominee. The guy who gets the -- the person who gets the most votes should be the nominee. The counterpoint by the inside guys is that, well, we have rules that allow people to get picked by conventions and caucuses, and they can also be picked who are not -- they not bound to anybody. They could also make up their own mind.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Democracy is a pretty good sell in this country.

STEELE: It is a very good sell. And it`s a very good argument for Trump to make.

It`s a very difficult argument for the establishment types, the chairman and others to defend, because, I mean, people think, I went to the polls. I voted. I stood in line in a primary. I sat in a room for three hours at a caucus, and I voted. What do you mean you now can -- you can dilute, you know, on a best-case scenario, dilute my vote, and in the case of Colorado, not even include me in the process of voting? What do you mean by that?

So Trump has got a good argument. But the rules are the rules. They have been set...

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

STEELE: ... as the chairman said. But here is the problem, Chris.

We also know the rules can be changed. And that`s what a lot of people also know and realize, as they saw in 2012, what happened to Ron Paul, when they changed the rules there to prevent him from getting nominated from the floor.

So there is no confidence in the system when they have already seen actions taken by those to block out people they don`t like or don`t want to get the nomination.

MATTHEWS: Well, guys, two big things happened today, besides the fact that "The Daily News" up here is endorsing Hillary. As I mentioned, Speaker Ryan today said he wanted to put to rest once and for all the speculation that he would emerge as the party`s Republican nominee for president. Let`s watch Ryan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: So, let me be clear. I do not want, nor will I accept the nomination for our party.

So, let me speak directly to the delegates on this. If no candidate has a majority on the first ballot, I believe that you should only choose from a person who has actually participated in the primary. Count me out.

The rules committee, which is assembled by the delegates, will decide what the rules are.

But I would encourage those delegates to put in place a rule that says you can only nominate someone who actually ran for the job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, I think a couple of things came from that. Check me on this, guys, starting with Robert.

If he really took himself out -- and I think he did just then -- that reduces the numbers of possible candidates in multiple choice to three, the three that are still running. I don`t think he meant Jim Gilmore, or somebody that dropped out six months ago. He means the active candidates, I believe.

So, if it`s just three of them, that to me makes the case for Trump, because the only argument to put somebody else in there besides Trump would be somebody who didn`t compete, but offers real party unity, someone who could come aboard like a Ryan and truly unite the party under a whole new dispensation if you will, something new, a different way of looking at it, because you couldn`t decide among the candidates running.

It seems to me it makes Trump`s situation much easier to argue. Your thoughts, Robert?

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: People don`t like to call this a brokered convention. It`s a contested convention, but Ryan did not rule out someone like a Scott Walker or Senator Rubio using their delegates to try to broker a situation at a convention.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You mean to win? To win, for Walker be the nominee? He got blown out in this contest. He was rejected.

COSTA: Agreed. And he left early.

It`s more someone like Rubio, who has accumulated delegates, who could be a player. And it`s not so much about them rising. It`s about them shaping the outcome of the contest and what happens on a second ballot.

MATTHEWS: But don`t they -- look, I saw this article the other day that shows -- nothing wrong with this -- he`s back in 19C, back in coach on an airplane with no staff around him, coming up from Florida to go vote in the Senate. Rubio is out of the game right now.

He is not going to be in Cleveland with a big gang of delegate grabbers and people like that. You have to are a campaign to run, don`t you, at the convention.

Michael, you tell me. Don`t you have to have a campaign, active campaign to actually win the nomination, even at the convention?

STEELE: I think you`re absolutely right about that.

You just cannot walk into the convention, even if you have got 150 delegates like Marco Rubio, and think you`re going to compete with someone like Ted Cruz, who is the master of organization, or Donald Trump, who is sitting probably at 60, 70, 100 delegates away from the nominating number.

So you`re right. You have got to put together the campaign, which is why a lot of people thought, Chris, that that`s what Ryan was doing when he said a couple of days ago about having this parallel message to the convention and all of that.

Now, having taken himself out of it, I think you`re more correct than not that this is -- he is really saying to the delegates, you`re only going to deal with the three people who walk into that convention, who have run the complete race, and nothing more.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Oh, excuse me, Michael.

Let`s take a look at what Donald Trump said about Hillary Clinton, because in the same way that the Democrats, Hillary and -- Hillary and Sanders, are saying, you think we`re bad, look, the real challenge here is to take on the other party. They`re so different than us.

Anyway, last night, Donald Trump slammed Hillary Clinton in the same way, from the other side, saying, her -- catch this -- her whole life, her life, has been a lie. Let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don`t think the e-mails will take her down, because she is being protected by the Democrats. It would take anybody else down, but it`s not going to take her down, because she is being protected by the Democrats, which is a disgrace.

But she is going to have to live with that when she runs, because everybody knows that she is guilty as hell, OK, everybody. Her whole life has been a big, fat, beautiful lie. It`s been a terrible, terrible lie. Everything about her is a lie.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, this is the kind of stuff that goes on, Michael and Robert, in developing countries, where somewhere in Zimbabwe, where you say the election is rigged. If I lose, it`s rigged. If I win, I put the other person in jail, like in Pakistan. Bhutto gets hanged.

You lose an election in these Third World countries, sometimes, you die. This is the kind of language Trump uses. I don`t want to put down Third World countries, because developing countries need a break. We don`t need this crap. He says Hillary`s whole life is a life.

What did he mean by that, Michael?

STEELE: You know, Chris, I have to say, it`s early branding. It is. I was talking with someone.

MATTHEWS: This is tradecraft?

STEELE: I was talking with someone earlier today. And we were talking about negative ads in the general campaign. And my response was, Donald Trump will not have to run negative TV ads.

That is an ad. That branding, right there, will catch on, and just like we saw with little Marco and lying Ted, et cetera, he has an innate ability to brand his opponent without having to go in through all the traditional modes an means to do that, running 30-seconds ads, and having people going on there talking on his behalf.

In that sound bite, you`re beginning to see the difficulty that I think a Hillary Clinton is going to have in a fall campaign against a Donald Trump, because what is she going to do? She`s going to be spending a lot of time defending against that, as much as she is trying to go on the attack against him.

MATTHEWS: Robert, quickly, it`s a colossal attack on a person`s character to say their whole life is a lie.

And, by the way, there`s a lot about Hillary Clinton. We have been working on a documentary about her we`re going to have this weekend. And I got to tell you something. There is a lot about her life that is very consistent. She is a methodist, believes in good works. She fell in love with Bill Clinton. Whatever his behavior, we know what it is or how bad it may have been.

She is consistently loyal. She is a Democrat without a hyphenated Democrat. And she is pretty traditionally a moderate Democrat. Her whole life makes sense to me. Your thoughts. I don`t understand the whole lie thing.

COSTA: Based on my reporting, most Republicans think Trump`s ability to politically bludgeon Secretary Clinton and to take her on, on multiple fronts will initially get the party base enthused.

But there`s a lot of concern that if it continues at this kind of pace, and at this kind of rhetoric, it could have consequences down-ballot and it could create a tenor and tone for the campaign that at first gets everyone excited on the Republican side, then becomes drastically divisive day after day.

MATTHEWS: It`s one thing when Bernie Sanders` campaign manager says she sold her soul to the devil and now this stuff. This is frightening.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Steele. Thank you, Robert Costa.

STEELE: You got it.

MATTHEWS: Up next: John Kasich says he is up against the -- he is doing it again -- the darkness of his rivals, Trump and Cruz. Kasich supporter Montel Williams is coming here with a case for the Ohio governor, the third man.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

A day after top U.S. health officials warned the Zika virus is scarier than they feared and spreading faster than they first thought, the White House is criticizing Congress for failing to act on their request for funds to fight that disease, calling it quite a disappointment.

And North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed an executive order giving residents the right to sue in state court for discrimination, undoing a portion of the controversial so-called bathroom law that some say is anti- LGBT -- now back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Two paths. One choice, the path that exploits anger, encourages resentment, turns fear into hatred, and divides people. This path solves nothing. It demeans our history, it weakens our country and it cheapens each one of us.

It has but one beneficiary. And that is to the politician who speaks of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s John Kasich.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Governor John Kasich today warning the Republican Party faces. He cautioned voters from following what he calls a path to darkness. Though he never mentioned his rivals, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, by name, they were clearly the focus of what he said.

He criticized proposals to create religious tests for immigration, to monitor neighborhoods based on religion, to deport 11 people, and ripping up trade agreements abroad and laws here at home. Kasich also called out the gloomy and angry rhetoric used by Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KASICH: We have been told that because of all this change, America has become dark, that we have succumbed and that we are no longer strong. We`re told that we`re no longer respected in the world. In fact, we`re even told that foreign governments are actually controlling our destiny, because they have become smarter than us and tougher than us.

Some who feed off of the fears and the anger that is felt by some of us, and exploited, feed their own insatiable desires for fame or attention. That could drive America down into a ditch and not make us great again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, on Thursday, John Kasich will be my guest at a special town hall on Long Island, New York. That`s coming up two days from now.

Joining me tonight, a Kasich supporter, talk show host Montel Williams.

Mr. Williams, thank you for joining us.

(CROSSTALK)

MONTEL WILLIAMS, FORMER TALK SHOW HOST: Thanks for having me.

I do wish I could be there Thursday. Unfortunately, I have got a speech in Dallas. I would be there with you, Chris, on Thursday, because I think it`s that important. Yes, sir, go ahead.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about this guy.

WILLIAMS: Sure.

MATTHEWS: He`s -- it`s late in the race. It`s the last month or two. And he is talking about the high road.

Now, Trump talks nationalism. But he doesn`t talk the values of this country. He doesn`t talk about the values of bring me your tired, your wounded, your sick, none of that, your long -- you know. He doesn`t talk about freedom of speech or freedom of religion, all the good things.

He talks about tough nationalism.

WILLIAMS: Divisiveness.

MATTHEWS: And that sounds good to a lot of working guys who say, I have been shoved around a lot. Hey, Trump comes along and says, this country has been shoved around. It`s not your fault.

It sells.

WILLIAMS: How about all those same people that feel like they`re being shoved around, their children go to school every day, they raise their hands and they say one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all?

I want to say it again, indivisible.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WILLIAMS: We have two candidates that are running in the Republican Party that are the antithesis of the Ronald Reagan Republican Party, that literally almost said in its essence, not the exact words, bring me your huddles masses, which just says a Republican Party of Lincoln is not the party of divisiveness.

We have two people running for office, and Donald Trump being the lead one, trying to divide America, thinking that this will make America great again. Remember, the only person in this entire race -- I have been saying this now for seven months -- that is the adult in the room has been John Kasich, because he is the only person who is looking ahead to America after November 2, after the vote, when we all have to remember...

MATTHEWS: OK, you`re here. How does he get to be president?

WILLIAMS: How does -- well, he gets to be president because I think, like we all know, there is going to be a contested convention.

There is not going to be a 1,237 for anybody. So, therefore, when we get there, got to go back to 1924. The Democrats did 103 rounds of voting before they picked a candidate. There could...

MATTHEWS: They picked a loser, though.

WILLIAMS: Well, yes, OK.

(LAUGHTER)

WILLIAMS: But let`s also think in terms of Lincoln. Lincoln was picked on the third round.

Very easily -- and I`m not trying to suggest to Governor Kasich that he already prematurely select his running mate, but I will tell you right now, you throw John Kasich and Rubio on the same ticket in that convention, all bets are off. All bets are off. I could care less what any pundit has to say, because when you take a look at it, John Kasich has the best chance of beating Hillary Clinton, the best chance.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I know.

By the way, speaking of V.P., let`s take a look at this. This morning, Kasich said he would not accept the role of Trump`s running mate. Let`s watch him deny that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Donald Trump says that he would consider picking you as his vice presidential candidate. Would you run with him?

KASICH: Zero chance.

QUESTION: Zero chance?

KASICH: Yes.

QUESTION: What if that`s the best chance for the party?

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: Zero chance. I am -- look, I`m running for president of the United States, and that`s it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Do you think that`s it?

WILLIAMS: I think that`s a fact. And it`s really pretty funny.

MATTHEWS: Why would he turn down the chance because of Trump? Obviously, Trump is a crapshoot. He could -- anybody can win a general election, depending on what happens to Hillary. But Hillary is the favorite, I think unless something happens with the e-mails.

But why wouldn`t a guy take a chance on that?

WILLIAMS: Did you see the position of the vice presidents we have had the last three or four? Why would you second-fiddle to a person who is completely diametrically opposed to everything you stand for?

MATTHEWS: Yes. Was Cheney second fiddle?

WILLIAMS: Huh?

MATTHEWS: Was Cheney second fiddle?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think he...

MATTHEWS: Come on. He was calling the shots.

WILLIAMS: Yes, that`s right. He wasn`t second fiddle. He was the guy in charge.

MATTHEWS: That`s a terrible example, but I think he was.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

But I also think that completely diametrically opposed. John Kasich stands for an America that is united. Donald Trump wants an America that will allow him...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m so glad -- I`m so glad you came on. And I`m so glad people make this case, because there has got to be -- there has to be a counterpoint within the Republican Party to what Trump is selling.

WILLIAMS: If they go up online today, and just listen to John Kasich`s speech this morning, I think most people would understand that we have got the person that could...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, I always say this about Kasich. Whatever you think of him, he is who he is.

WILLIAMS: Yes, sir.

MATTHEWS: He`s no fraud. I have watched that guy for 40 years. That`s the guy I have known for 40 years.

Thank you, Montel Williams. Thank you.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Well, anyway, up next, we have got a New York roundtable coming here tonight.

The candidates focus on the state primary just one week out now in the media capital of the world. We`re going to talk about the tabloid war going on here. As I said, we`re going to show you the front page of "The New York Daily News" that`s from tomorrow endorsing Hillary Rodham Clinton for president.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It`s no surprise Donald Trump has a big lead in his home state of New York, where a week from today, he hopes to make up for his loss in Wisconsin.

Well, "The New York Times" yesterday pointed out yet another reason why Trump enjoys a home field advantage here. The New York tabloids, quote , "Mr. Trump is reuniting with the president corps he knows best, a boisterous tabloid culture that spawned and nurtured the outsize Trump personality known -- now known worldwide."

Any way, asked for comment, Trump`s campaign told "The Times" that, quote, "The tabloids never stop. But one thing I will say with great certainty, they are far more honorable than the political press." We`ll see what that means.

Aside from their sensational headlines, which have been many, the tabloids have already had a big influence on 2016. A recent example was Bernie Sanders interview with "The New York Daily News", which "The Washington Post" said was pretty close to a disaster for the candidate. That sounds like Larry David.

Anyway, they also made a splash with this cover after my interview with Trump last month when he said women should be punished for violating an abortion ban. Anyway, and late today, "The Daily News", as I said, look at that, "Why we choose Hil", with one L, "over Bernie", for the Democratic primary, saying, quote, "Clinton`s proposals are shaped for the world in which we live, not the world in which we might wish to live." I guess they`re knocking Bernie`s socialism.

I`m joined right now by the roundtable, Tina Brown is a founder and CEO of Tina Brown Live Media. Harold Ford, I drop my H`s everywhere, is former Democratic congressman from Tennessee, and Kate Brower has the franchise of a lifetime in the literary world. She`s longtime White House correspondent who`s out now with yet another great new book, "First Women: The Grace and Power of America`s Modern First Ladies," which everybody will read.

Let me ask you about the power of the tabs. I think one thing people don`t get about New York is that even sophisticates like yourself who read "The New York Times", "The Gray Lady", they also, because he`s a friend of mine, Walter Shapiro once said, you can`t just start with "The Times" in the morning. It`s too much. It`s too congested with ideas. So, you`ve got to start with "The Post".

Read the tab, you get your revving up and then you can read -- a lot of smart, sophisticated business people, business women and cultural leaders read "The Daily News and "The Post".

TINA BROWN, TINA BORWN LIVE MEDIA: Absolutely. I do. I read the --

MATTHEWS: Why would you read something that`s clearly not reliably true?

BROWN: I read the tabs like a run --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: I just pick them up and I think --

MATTHEWS: But it`s not reliable.

BROWN: It doesn`t matter. It`s part of coffee. It`s a caffeinated life and you need your little --

MATTHEWS: What do you think if you think of the tab, if "The Post", "The New York Post", do you think that`s Murdoch talking, or who do you think is talking?

BROWN: It`s all part of the cartoon of being in New York City. It`s part of the rough and tumble, the brashness. You don`t really absorb it and really sort of take it into account seriously but for the 20 seconds when you`re reading the story, it`s what you need to wake you up. It`s a New York attitude.

MATTHEWS: I can tell that "The Post" likes Trump, "The Daily News" is Democratic. Mort Zuckerman is just endorsing Hillary today, tomorrow morning. They`ve taken sides. It`s like the old days of journalism. Like in Boston, you could always have "The Globe", and you have "The Herald".

HAROLD FORD, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Look, "The Post" took Trump on early when he made the comments about John McCain not being a war hero. They`ve taken them on numerous times, but what really hurt Cruz is when he challenged and attacked New York values. If there is anything in the morning, it wants --

(CROSSTALK)

FORD: It wants to be the morning snapshot of New York values. You pick that up and I would agree with Tina`s assessment, you`ve got to read it during coffee, you catch it as you`re catching the subway, you catch it as you walk by your newsstand, wherever you live in the city, at that moment, that`s the theme, the quote of the day.

And Donald Trump has realized, he`s caught it at the right time. Cruz has made terrible comments about the city.

MATTHEWS: He`s got "The Post".

FORD: So, he`s got -- but he`s got the mood of the city on his side.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: "The Daily News" --

MATTHEWS: It`s almost like the guys, you know, go home. The headlines seem like they`re leading the cheers of the people walking by. Nothing about New York unlike other big city. Everybody walks to work eventually when you get to the city, whenever you come, train, whenever you get here, when you get here, you have to walk up and down the street. You still have kiosk -- you still have the New York kiosk with the big front pages of the tabs.

BROWN: "The Daily News" brought in this election, I have to say, "Drop Dead, Ted", and "He Said, She Said, She Said" over Bill Cosby. They`ve been doing some great --

MATTHEWS: Will you get a call from Zuckerman for that?

All that stuff goes on here.

BROWN: You know what --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, look here, "The New York Post" reported yesterday the scoop from Kate Brower`s book, that First Lady Michelle Obama hoped Vice President Joe Biden with launch a White House bid against Hillary Clinton.

Here is the quote from "The First Women", the name of the book, just out. "The 2008 presidential campaign left deep and lasting scars on both the Clinton and Obama camp, and they are still shockingly fresh. One Obama aide said that Michelle would have liked to see Vice President Joe Biden run against Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination."

In response, officials for the first lady`s office have said those assertions are unequivocally false. Of course, that`s what she would say.

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, AUTHOR, "FIRST WOMEN": I mean, I think that, you know, just look at what happened in 2008 --

MATTHEWS: You`re standing by. You got the scoop.

BROWER: Yes, absolutely. There are, the Obamas see the Clintons as this political dynasty that came before them. I was told that Michelle Obama looks down her nose at Hillary Clinton to a certain extent --

MATTHEWS: Yes, but they don`t want to be the Clinton sandwich. I know that. That means, you know, they stuck with the two of them.

BROWER: Yes, yes.

MATTHEWS: But they need, don`t they need Hillary Clinton to carry on the legacy, protect the accomplishments, root for the president?

BROWER: Yes, I mean, probably, yes. But I mean, they would have been happy if he had --

MATTHEWS: Oh, if he had won.

BROWER: Yes, and if he had run, because the Obamas and Bidens are really close. She was happy for him --

MATTHEWS: Is that a Jill and Michelle connection?

BROWER: Yes. I mean, they`re very close. Yes.

MATTHEWS: What do you think of that? Do you think Michelle is rooting for Joe to get in there and mess it up for Hillary?

FORD: I take the first lady -- I take the first lady at her word and I take the author at her word that someone probably told her that as well.

I think, to your point, the president wants to see the legacy continue.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FORD: I think if you would ask someone a year ago what Mrs. Clinton, the core of the campaign right now be defending the Obama legacy as aggressively and as unapologetically as she is, I think a lot of people would have said that`s probably not going to be the case in May. Good for her. Good for this president. Hopefully good for his legacy that she`s doing it and wins.

MATTHEWS: That`s a great picture of Michelle.

Do you believe all this? Do you think Michelle is rooting for --

BROWN: I think that no love lost between the Clintons and Obamas, really. You know, I think Barack Obama is so appalled probably at what he sees on the Republican side, and he knows that Hillary is somebody who is pragmatic, and could actually protect the legacy. But I don`t think there`s any personal love lost between Michelle Obama and Hillary.

MATTHEWS: Nothing concentrates the mind like the thought of imminent hanging. Any way, the round table is staying with us.

And up next, these three geniuses will tell me something I don`t know.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, you want to turn in Tuesday night on MSNBC for a night of politics here, a big night. At 7:00 p.m. Eastern, my town hall with Ohio Governor John Kasich, the one Republican a lot of Democrats are watching in case they made up there.

At 8:00 p.m., Chuck Todd sits down with Ted Cruz at a town hall up in Buffalo. Good for Ted. I mean, I should say, good for Chuck.

I`ll be back at 11:00 p.m. after the Democratic debate. I`ll have an hour on the tonight`s key moments and full debate analysis of the Democratic debate that night. It`s all coming up here on MSNBC on Thursday, and a big Thursday night on MSNBC. So, get your popcorn ready.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Tina Brown, tell me something -- you know so many things I don`t know. So --

BROWN: Well, listen, as a man who took down Trump over abortion, I got a great abortion factoid for you from Cecile Richards. She was that woman --

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes. Of course, I know her.

BROWN: Since 2011 when Rick Perry, he`s the governor, began signing legislation that closed down more than half the abortion providers in the state, over 100,000 women in Texas have tried to self-abort.

MATTHEWS: No. To what effect?

BROWN: Well, sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn`t. I mean, it`s a terrible, scary thing --

MATTHEWS: Yes, it`s so dangerous. Please don`t do it. Don`t do it.

BROWN: Don`t do it. But it just shows you can`t say exact cause and effect but you can say it`s an ugly --

MATTHEWS: Kate Brower, the greatest living writer right now.

BROWER: Well, from my book, "First Women", which is really about the sisterhood of these women, and their friendships over a period of time. One thing I learned is the new first lady comes for a tour. You know, the presidents --

MATTHEWS: I know that. I`ve seen them on TV.

BROWER: Yes, during this tour, the new first lady will come into the second floor into first lady`s dressing room and the outgoing first lady will stand in front of a window and say if you look over here you`ll see the Oval Office and this is where you can stand in the shadows watching your husband which is the bond they share. They know how difficult this is --

MATTHEWS: It`s like keeping an eye on the guy or a love relationship?

BROWER: Both.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. Congressman, thanks for joining us. Thanks to our roundtable, Tina Brown, Harold Ford, Jr., and Kate Andersen Brower, love these impressive names.

The book, by the way, "First Women" is available in the bookstores right now, and there are bookstores right now. That`s the goodness.

When we return, let me finish with Bill Clinton on the campaign trail today with the Irish Americans here on Fifth Avenue.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with Hillary Clinton`s most committed surrogate. I was up in New York today at the American Irish Historical Society to catch former President Bill Clinton. He spoke positively refusing to engage in the tit-for-tat between his wife and Senator Sanders.

In many ways, he`s the same Bill Clinton we knew as president. At today`s Irish event, he could have given 15 or 20 minutes of general remarks and people crowded into the room on Fifth Avenue would have been glad they came. Instead, he gave economic facts arguing we could have a stronger economic recovery with the right presidential leadership.

Here he is, the once and possibly future occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: She`s better qualified to be president this time than I was when I ran, because of trouble around the world. It`s not just the matter of going out, as you were so kind of give me credit for and seizing an opportunity. The world`s in tough shape. And one of the things that could stop us from rising together is the crisis around the world. I want somebody there that had to figure it out. I want somebody there that will instinctively know what to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: 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