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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 5/10/2016

Guests: Paul Manafort, Ann Coulter, Kellyanne Conway, Luciana Lopez, Scottie Nell Hughes, Tina Brown, Tom Davis, April Ryan, Evan Siegfried, Christine Quinn

Show: HARDBALL Date: May 10, 2016 Guest: Paul Manafort, Ann Coulter, Kellyanne Conway, Luciana Lopez, Scottie Nell Hughes, Tina Brown, Tom Davis, April Ryan, Evan Siegfried, Christine Quinn

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Make room for Donald. Let`s play hardball.

Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews up in New York. Well today, voters are going to the polls in West Virginia. This was the state that in May of 2008, Hillary Clinton scored a major win over Barack Obama. Eight years later it`s looking like well, Sanders territory, Bernie Sanders territory. Polls close in 90 minutes in West Virginia at 7:30 Eastern time.

Over the past few weeks Clinton has been shifting her focus to the general election, obviously, and the man who is now the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. When it comes to a Clinton/Trump matchup there were surprising new polls out today from three key swing states.

According to polls, catch these numbers. Hillary Clinton beats Trump by only one point in Florida. One point in Ohio. Trump leads Clinton by four points, just four in the state. Wow, will see. In Pennsylvania, where I come from, a state that`s not voted for a Republican since the first George Bush president in 1988, Clinton beats Trump by a single point, highly significant 43 - 42. While meanwhile a new NBC national poll shows Clinton beating Trump across the country by just five, 49-44, very competitive. What is the Clinton campaign make of all this? NBC`s Kristen Welker is in Louisville, Kentucky. Kristen, thank you for joining us. These numbers may be outlying, but they come, are these a shot to the heart to the Clinton people or are they going to ignore them?

KRISTIN WELKER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think right now they`re not paying too much attention to them. I think that`s the way to think about it in terms of the national polls. They`ve always anticipated this will be a competitive race. In terms of the battleground polls that you cited, they believe they`re outliers. They say that minorities were under sampled in those polls. So they don`t think it`s reflective of what the electorate is ultimately going to look like. You can argue the points back and forth. Bottom line is there bracing for a close race not only in the battleground states, but all of the country.

That`s why you see secretary Clinton really training her sights on Donald Trump. And one of the key parts of her strategy is to court women voters, independent voters, Republican women voters as well. That`s been underplayed yesterday and again today here in Kentucky. She rolled out a new policy that she says is aimed at lowering the cost of childcare. That`s of course something that appeals not only to women, but to working class voters. Well Chris, as you pointed out, she`s still locked in the primary battle. That`s what brings her to Kentucky. As we have been reporting all day she`s now up with ads here in Kentucky. And that`s a big shift in strategy for her, because remember she was saving all of her resources for the general. Now she wants to win a few of these primary states so she can head into the convention on a much stronger footing.

Great to hear from you. Kristen Welker, is with Hillary Clinton. Anyway, Chris Jansing is covering the Sanders campaign out in San Francisco. Chris, how in the world do you see this race? It`s very hard to put your finger, get your head around it. Bernie Sanders could be flaming hot in May. He could win at least a handful of primaries. What`s he going to do with the victory if he does get it?

CHRIS JANSING, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that`s really the question. What`s he doing when you know what the delegate math is and the delegate math is against him. And even he said to me today, look I know the path, it`s really narrow. So he`s not giving up is the number one thing I would think. If you want to look at it at a human level, Chris. This is a guy who`s been saying the same thing for 30 years. Fighting for the same progressive causes. Now he`s got this huge audience. He doesn`t see a reason to give it up. He had 15,000 people in Sacramento last night. Another thousand plus, you couldn`t get in. He had close to 6,000 more today on a Monday morning.

This is somebody who really looking at the polls. The ones you just talked about, and sees that he`s outperforming Hillary Clinton in those one to one match ups. And he kind of gleefully is responding to the fact that she`s now spending money in Kentucky. He said, look, she in the media have said this race is over. Then why is she putting up ads? Why is she doing a six-figure ad buy if she thinks it`s over. So he is not going to stop. Anybody who thinks that somehow there will be some sort kumbaya, this isn`t going to happen. He is going to support whoever the Democratic nominee is if it`s not him. But he`s not going to give this up. He plans to take it to the convention, Chris.

MATTHEWS: You just showed some super imposed picture of that incredible rally for Bernie behind you. Those people are really up for this thing. Anyway, thank you, Chris Jansing. We`ll have the results from West Virginia tonight when polls close, as I said, at 7:30 Eastern here. And I`ll be here as well. For more into nice primary let`s bring in Steve Kornacki of MSNBC at the big board. Steve, explain -- my question to you before we went on the air -- Tell me about West Virginia Democrats. It`s a white state to be blunt. Tell me about these people.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC: It looks like a Bernie Sanders state. He`s done well in states that are largely white. He`s done well in states that are more rural that are poor. On paper it looks like a Bernie Sanders state. The interesting thing is if you look at Bernie Sanders positioning in West Virginia tonight and more broadly his positioning in this race right now. It reminds a lot of people of where Hillary Clinton was eight years ago in final weeks of her campaign against Barack Obama.

I mean take a look at this. West Virginia, May 2008, we already thought Barack Obama was the nominee. Hillary Clinton came into this state and won by 41 points over Barack Obama. And look at this, it wasn`t just West Virginia down the stretch eight years ago. Hillary Clinton won a lot of states down the stretch eight years ago. She won Kentucky. She won in Puerto Rico. She won in South Dakota. She won four of final six contests on the Democratic side. The problem for her was it wasn`t enough in terms of delegates when their primary was over. She got out pretty quickly. She endorsed Barack Obama.

Here is the thing for Bernie Sanders. Looking ahead, remember he won Indiana last week. He is favored. You see the most recent poll in West Virginia today. He`s favored in West Virginia. It could be two straight for him. When you look ahead see a lot of potential victories for him. If he got West Virginia tonight. If he got Kentucky next week, that looks good. If he got Oregon next week, that looks good. He could win a lot of states. I`m circling them the rest of the way. The problem is from a delegate standpoint. Bernie Sanders right now is down by 295 pledge delegates. And these are all proportional states. So like you win South Dakota big, if he puts a big win on the board there, Hillary Clinton is still getting delegates.

So here`s the bottom line, if you give Sanders massive margins in all these states I`ve circled, if you look at places Hillary Clinton will do well, and you say, hey, Bernie Sanders overachieves and he breaks even in these places, he`s running 30 points behind in New Jersey right now. Let`s say he forces a tie in New Jersey. God knows how he`d do it. Let`s say he force a tie in New Jersey. Even if you give him all those assumptions, it means you get to California on June 7th and he need to win about 75 percent of the vote in California to fully erase this deficit he faces right now. If you can tell me how Bernie Sanders will get 75 percent of the vote in California, then you can tell me how he wins the nomination. Otherwise, Hillary Clinton will be ahead at the pledge delegate count at the end of this.

MATTHEWS: Back to West Virginia. Tell us on the air now, the nature of the Democratic in West Virginia -- they`re not as left, let`s put it bluntly. Not as left as other states you`ve looked at.

KORNACKI: But now at all. Not at all. We asked this question every primary we have. We asked some Democrats, do you call yourself liberal, moderate, conservative. Now the largest group is still liberal in West Virginia. This is one of the very few states we`ve seen though where that number is under 50 percent, it`s just under 50 percent. In Indiana, last week we had the primary. The number was under 70 percent there. It`s under 50 in West Virginia.

The other thing we`re seeing tonight in West Virginia, there`s a lot of pro-Trump Democrats or pro-Trump independents voting in this Democratic primary tonight. The reason, there`s an active Democratic gubernatorial primary in West Virginia. No gubernatorial on the Republican side. Looks like there`s a lot of people showing up for this Democratic primary, because they want to vote for governor maybe and they are voting for Trump. Excuse me, they`re voting for Sanders. But they say they want to vote for Trump in the general election. That`s a factor to keep an eye on.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re great, Steve. Thank you for that. Result You answer my questions. It`s fascinating to think of a West Virginia liberal. I guess that`s something we`ll learn about tonight when the results come in. We`re going to check back with you, Steve, later tonight.

Let`s turn on the Republican side right now. NBC`s Katy Tur is covering the Trump campaign. She`s outside of Trump Tower right on Fifth Avenue here in New York a few blocks north of 30 Rock. Well, here`s the story. He comes to town to Washington, I`ll be down there on Thursday, is he coming in as the boss or the job applicant?

KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: It depends. It`s what position you`re taking on it. I think for the Republican establishment, it`s something who is a job seeker. If you`re Donald Trump, he`s coming in as the boss. I just took a tweet from him the other day and were sprouts took Paul Ryan saying I didn`t inherit the Republican Party. I won it from the voters. And that is the way that the campaign sees it. Certainly the way that those close to Donald Trump see it. They see it -- his vote tally right now as a message to Washington saying that as much as you might dislike me, the voters like me more than they like you. They have more confidence and need the moment and they have confidence in you. That is something they should respect in Washington. That`s according to the Donald Trump campaign.

MATTHEWS: We`ll have Paul Manafort on in a few minutes after the 7 o`clock break will have more. I`ll asking you about this thinking though. What is the purpose -- I hate meetings? I`ll admit that. I hate them. I think meetings are the biggest waste of time. Tell me what a meeting is going to accomplish. Both sides go in with some posture and come out with the same posture. They go in with the idea we`ll come out united or they don`t. Nothing is going to happen in the meeting. And then they`re going to say, you know Donald, I never knew you before. I think, I like this Donald inside this meeting. Or Donald says, you know what Paul Ryan, you`re really a leader. I never thought of you this way. And that`s nonsense. This is a ritual. What`s its purpose? Katy.

TUR: I do think that there is some benefit here. I don`t think that either of these folks Ryan or Trump running or the Republican Party leaders really know each other. And I think there`s some benefit to sitting down in the room and having a face-to-face conversation just man-to-man. Will this change things? Will this suddenly mean that Donald Trump is going to be accepted by the Republican Party after this meeting. No, I don`t think so. There`s still a lot of work to be done. And that work is not going to be done, as you said, in an office. It`s going to be done on the campaign trail.

Do they feel comfortable with Donald Trump in his stump speeches? Do they feel like his tone has progressed enough to where they feel comfortable having him as or supporting him, endorsing him as the nominee? Do they believe his values are their values? Is he towing the line of the Republican party or is he trying to bring the party down in order to usher in a Donald Trump era of politics. It remains to be seen. But I do think at the very core of it, they don`t know each other at all and there`s some benefit to sitting down in a room with each other and just having pleasantry conversation.

MATTHEWS: Let`s agree to disagree on that. Anyway, thank you Katy Tur. There will be a meeting. I`m not sure anything is going to change anyway.

Seven Eastern right now. I`m being joined here, as I said by the Trump convention manager and everything else, Paul Manafort. He`s the big star inside that campaign. Earlier today NBC`s Hallie Jackson asked Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee what he`d say to those in the party who think Trump`s tone hurting their chances in November. Let`s listen to him.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R) TENNESSEE: What I`m saying is an evolution in the campaign. And I saw that certainly last week. I saw that with the foreign policy speech that was given. I saw that on Sunday morning actually on "Meet the Press" that it seems to me that the campaign is evolving in a little different way. So what I`ve been saying to people who, you know, who so quickly say negative things is let`s chill.


MATTHEWS: Let`s chill. Anyway, that`s new language. Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post. And Steve Schmitz, a Republican strategist who was the senior campaign strategist for the for the McCain campaign, also the Palin campaign, I must mention, back in `08. Both are MSNBC political analysts. Let me go to Eugene first. Eugene, I`m skeptical. And by the way why would you want to join the Republican leadership club? Their losers. He probably hates these people. They look down on him. They voted against him on almost every primary.

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I mean, look Trump has a point. He did win. He beat them. He beat all these guys in the primary. And you know from experience that the nominee is the nominee. The nominee is basically in charge.

MATTHEWS: He calls the convention shots.

ROBINSON: in the expected thing is that the party falls in line. So that`s what Trump expects. Now, he`s kind of a special case.

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t like being treated special. He wants to be treated like any other boring Republican nominee.

ROBINSON: But from the point of view of ideological conservative in the Republican Party and some others, he`s not a real conservative. It`s very difficult for them to fall in line.

MATTHEWS: You`ve Artie said though Gene, this is a Republican party, not a conservative party. I`ve never heard anybody say that in 40 or 50 years.

ROBINSON: He`s got precedent on his side as far as I`m concerned.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Steve Schmidt, does anybody in that room know who was supposed to do the genuflecting? Is Trump supposed to come in and genuflect to Paul Ryan? Or is Ryan supposed to say -- and turn over his sword and say, "buddy, buckaroo you just won the whole thing. You`re running the convention, you`re the head of the party, you`re the boss. Give me my orders. What`s going to happen in that room when neither guy except the other guy power?

STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: A couple of thoughts. Donald Trump arrives in Washington no so much as winner as a conquer of the Republican establishment. And now an occupier of it. We`ve seen in recent years sometimes occupation can go south after the conquering business has been taken care of. Donald Trump needs a unified party. This isn`t about these two men becoming friends. It`s about aligning interests. Paul Ryan doesn`t want to be the minority leader. He wants to be the Speaker of the House. He doesn`t want compromise his House majority potentially on a candidacy that some speculate could lose by double digits. By a candidate who lacks the discipline, lack the control to fix the demographic problems that he has in the race. And Paul Ryan --

MATTHEWS: They don`t look too bad, Steve. Did you see the new numbers tonight? Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida they are all very close.

SCHMIDT: The numbers in those states where this is going to be fought out very close race. You look inside the numbers and look at his unfavorable levels with women voters, that becomes disabling if he doesn`t fix it. He has a lot of time to fix it. But nobody should be confused about the necessity of him having to fix it. And another thing that Paul Ryan said, he has used an imperfect word. He said Donald Trump inherited. He didn`t inherit, he won.

But Paul Ryan is right about this sentiment. Donald Trump is now a steward. He`s a trustee of one of the greatest institutions in the history of western civilization. The third oldest political party in the world, the Republican Party, which has done much for the expansion of human dignity, labor and freedom. The party of Lincoln and Eisenhower and Reagan and giants of American history and Donald Trump needs to demonstrate an appreciation for that duty, for that obligation, for that burden he now carries into a general election.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you so much. You seem like the high priest of the Republican party when you speak that way, but I accept your right to do so, my friend. It did seem so high priestly the way you gave us the serious venture upon which he has launched.

Here is what Hillary Clinton said going back to the real politics. Here`s the kind of stuff you`re not supposed to say when you go into a state. It`s her march statement about coal miners. And she made it in West Virginia. It could well be hunting her as you watch the returns tonight in that state.


CLINTON: I`m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as a key into coal country. Because we`re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business. Right, Tim. And we`re going to make it clear we don`t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories.


MATTHEWS: Steve, you don`t have to take that out of context. She said that in Ohio but she was talking about West Virginia, really. We`re going to close a lot of those coal miners and get them out of work. That`s an amazingly dangerous statement to make as you go into a primary or a general.

SCHMIDT: It`s an amazingly dangerous statement. And Chris, it has implications not just for West Virginia but of course for Kentucky. But clearly for Pennsylvania and Ohio which are states that could tip the balance in the electoral college. It`s the condescension that comes through here to these working-class voters in the states whose life has been built around this industry. They don`t view themselves as victims. They don`t necessarily view themselves as needing the hand out of federal government. What they want to do is be able to practice their profession, to practice their craft and to do so without the burdensome hand of the federal government. So politically she`s in dangerous territory on this.

MATTHEWS: Eugene, why doesn`t she make a statement like if I get elected, it`s a lot of hedge fund operators out of business. Put a lot of equity boys on Wall Street, not making the money they were making. If she sounded more like a Democrat --

ROBINSON: Yeah right.

MATTHEWS: That would sound good to most people.

ROBINSON: I think the Bernie Sanders people would be listening. They would hear a message like that. It was --

MATTHEWS: There`s never been a dishonest coal miner.

ROBINSON: Hillary Clinton is not putting coal out of business. Natural gas is putting oil out of business. And putting coal I do business.

MATTHEWS: Fracking.

ROBINSON: Fracking is putting coal out of business. And she was acknowledging that reality, but she did it in an awkward way. And a potentially damaging way.

MATTHEWS: I think it`s a problem. Anyway, there is that liberal wine and cheese condescension that people in the rural areas can tell. They don`t like it. They sense these are the elite that live in the big city and make money. Instead of taking coal out of the ground.

ROBINSON: Eight years ago she seemed to have the opposite. She connected with those people in West Virginia.

MATTHEWS: One thing helped.

ROBINSON: Of course. You are running against a black guy from Chicago with a middle name from Hussein.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. I think we caught onto that one. Anyway, thank you Eugene and Steve. The guys will be back with us throughout tonight. The guys, is that all right. Still ahead, we count down the poll closings. Coming up in West Virginia, as I said, AT 7:30. Can Donald Trump win over the Republican establishment? I think he already beat them. Much more on his upcoming meeting. And I don`t like them. With speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders on the hill. This will be a ritual meeting. I want to know who comes out the boss.

Up next, the gender gap. Can female voters, especially Republican female voters get in Donald Trump`s column? We`re going to jump pretty fastly here. It`s a focus group of women, moderate Republican women basically. They voted for Mitt Romney, all of them, in 2012 that`s the last time around. Where do they stand now? Is it just an age development here, age differences? It`s fascinating stuff. Casey Hunter did a hell of a job on this and you`re going to learn a lot. This is a special edition of hardball the place for politics.



CLINTON: I was talking to doctors and nurse practitioners and patients and I have to tell you, it just brought tears to my eyes. People who are getting health care for the first time in years. People who are dealing with problems that they just had to ignore. People who feel healthier, more productive like they can put in a good day`s work because they now have the treatments that they deserve and need to have.


MATTHEWS: That`s a live picture from Hillary Clinton talking about health care, child development, education, real down home close to the person concerns of hers, not theory. Anyway, she`s holding a campaign event there tonight in Louisville. Anyway, Kentucky holds its primary one week from tonight and Clinton is looking for a big win there from Sanders. She`s spending some money down there in the bluegrass state which tells you everything. National polls consistently show Hillary Clinton ahead with women in head to head match ups with Donald Trump. Among Republican women, there`s a deeper internal conflict over the presumptive Republican nominee. NBC news gathered a focus group of Republican women. Who were also voted Mitt Romney back in `12. There was a clear divide over whether Trump was acceptable for their party. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you look at Donald Trump, talk about organized. They say he sleeps four hours a night. I just feel like he will be a worker bee in that office sitting there at 2:00 in the morning trying to figure out things.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump is not a Republican. He came out this weekend and said he`s willing to raise taxes. Raise minimum wage. Those are things that are not Republican.


MATTHEWS: Well now a PAC supporting Hillary Clinton is stoking the fires. They`re out with a new ad that show some of Trump`s most contentious comments about women over the years.


TRUMP: because nobody respects women more than Donald Trump.

TEXT: Really?

TRUMP: She came to my wedding. She ate like a pig.

TRUMP: A person who is flat chested is very hard to be a ten. OK.

TEXT: Does Donald Trump respect women?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see, so you treat women with respect?

TRUMP: I can`t say that either.


MATTHEWS: There you got it. There`s nothing like video tape to bring back the past instantly to the present. I`m joined right now by Tina Brown. Of course, the great CEO of Tina Brown Live Media and Scottie Nell, is a Republican strategist and Trump campaign surrogate. Thank you both for coming on. I just want to start with a possible interpretation of Trump. When he does the fun things in the rallies, you explain this to me, he just starts attacking the media, for example. I hear him saying they`re a bunch of liars and he goes into a great stick over that thing. I ignore it completely. I know he knows people in the media, he knows who they are. He may have judgments about people. I think it`s for crowd.

I think it`s red meat to throw to the conservatives. I don`t believe a word of it. He shows up on our shows because he wants to be there. He does not come off as hostile when you talk to him on the phone or whatever. He`s not hostile to us. So I don`t know whether women can be that discerning, if that`s the right word to say. He says these terrible, ludicrous, awful things but you know deep down he`s not a bad guy about women. I think that would be a harder thing to buy than I`m buying. What are your thoughts? Does he mean it when he says things about Rosie O`Donnell? Which are viciously physical. When he was after Carly Fiorina, viciously physical. Are these statements that should be listened to or ignored? What you think, ignored or listen to? What would you do?

SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SURROGATE: I would ignore them. I think the majority of Republican women do. Because the question you have to ask yourself, Chris, does Mr. Trump have a problem with women or does the Republican Party have a problem with women? I mean you have to remember, the Republican Party has not won the majority of female voters since 1988 and they only won it by one point at that point. And prior to that it was Ronald Reagan one in both of his election and reelection, because that was because he took great public steps. Like putting Sandra Day O`Connor on the Supreme Court.

So this is an inherited problem that Mr. Trump is having to deal with. But if you look at the numbers from the recent primaries, 57 percent of the women voted for Mr. Trump in New York, 55 percent in Connecticut, 50 percent in Maryland, 54 percent in Pennsylvania. He has relatively high numbers with Republican women in the primary whence they go in to vote. As opposed to Hillary Clinton, considering she`s a female from party, a Democratic party that supposed to be the party for women. She also has high 58 percent of Democrat women don`t like her. So her numbers are actually more concerning than necessarily Mr. Trump`s.

MATTHEWS: Ok, let`s just take some of those numbers. Hold on there. The latest NBC News online poll asked if the election held today, which candidate would you choose? Well we showed that Hillary Clinton beats Trump there head-to-head by five points. It`s worse for Trump when you break it down by gender. With women voters Clinton beats Trump by 19 points, 56-37. That`s a serious bit of a problem for this. Let`s aggregate this for us Tina. Is it part the Republican Party? Historically Democrats have done better among women voters. They just do.

TINA BROWN, CEO, TINA BROWN LIVE MEDIA: I love the point we just heard, which is that, of course Republicans have had a real problem with women for the last 10 years really. They never stop ignoring women. Even when they`re not insulting them or making insane comments about abortion or their bodies or what they should do with their healthcare.

MATTHEWS: Why did that happen because more women voted for Nixon than Kennedy back in `60? It`s not always been this way.

BROWN: I have absolutely no idea why.

MATTHEWS: You don`t.

BROWN: I actually don`t understand why Republicans regard half of the electorate as people they can --

MATTHEWS: But they do. Let me suggest that apart from the abortion issue --

BROWN: What amazes me though is that Trump, given that fact that they don`t said value with them, it kind of doubles down or makes it worse. This is extraordinary to me that he would do that. Because he doesn`t have to do that. Because actually he`s on record in his own company. He`s really not so bad. He does promote women and put his daughters into the business. He`s actually not reviled by the women who work for him. So he had no reason --

MATTHEWS: What`s his reputation in New York? You`re a New Yorker. What`s his reputation personally?

TRUMP: I`ve never really heard that Trump is a huge misogynist. In fact, it was rather a surprise to me. He`s obviously he has his bad boy, you know, big swinging -- I won`t even name it -- thing that he does. But I`ve never seen him as one of the world`s biggest misogynist that until he got on to the podium.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at the latest focus group. These are women in our focus group that say, one of them says she doesn`t support Trump but she`s not going for Clinton either. Listen to this interesting person here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will most likely not vote for Secretary Clinton. The reason for that is while I think she`s a safe choice, I would be okay with her as president. As a woman, I don`t think she represents my interests, but as somebody leading this country, I do think she`s safe. Donald Trump, to me, is very unpredictable.


MATTHEWS: I think that`s so true. That`s my analysis of this election with all the other factors out there in play. Hillary is a safe sort of centrist Democrat. She`s typical of most Walter Mondale, go back to. They`re all very similar. She`s not much different from Obama, a little hawkish. With Trump, it`s a big risk. I want to ask, Scottie, how does Trump satisfy women and men that he`s not risking it and not do something different.

HUGHES: I think you`ll see it, Chris. Because he`s going to lay out who actually he would appoint. I think conservatives across the board would agree. Mr. Trump appointing a Supreme Court justice by far would be much better in our interest than anyone that Hillary Clinton would put up for it. So I think that`s why you`re going to see him continue to announce potential nominees for that as well as other cabinet positions.

MATTHEWS: So you`re running against Hillary? You`re doing what the other side is doing. You`re running against Hillary Clinton. You just did it there. You couldn`t just sate something good about Trump`s decision for the Supreme Court. You had to make it relative.

HUGHES: Well, I did because right now we have to. And it`s working. You look at West Virginia exit polls are showing almost 50 percent of Bernie Sanders supporters say they would vote for Trump over Hillary. And it`s on issues like the economy and national security that people are considering when they decide who they`re going to vote for president. And that`s across both genders, not just male or female.

BROWN: Once again, I`m absolutely astonished how he doubles down on his own weaknesses in a sense. Frankly when at a point when he tweeted about bringing in advisors and so on, he just brought in Chris Christie to be ahead of his transition. Chris Christie is really famous as a bully. One of the things that women do not like our bullies. And I have to say that one of the things that Hillary is good with is bullies. She sat there for 11 hours in the Benghazi hearings. And she was bullied and badgered and she got stronger and stronger.

MATTHEWS: So put in. We have live-action here. It`s Hillary Clinton in Louisville talking about Trump. Here she is.

CLINTON: I mean a house divided against itself as Abraham Lincoln said, cannot stand. We can`t be scapegoating and finger pointing and blaming and demeaning and degrading and insulting our fellow Americans. Do we have disagreements? Yes, that`s in the DNA. That`s healthy. There are lots of different ways to achieve our goals. We set our goals and then we have a good back and forth about how we achieve them.

You don`t do that by denigrating people. Demeaning people. That is not what we are. And it`s time that we said enough. We`re willing to have good political debates, but enough with the hate rhetoric and the insults and let`s --


MATTHEWS: That`s Hillary Clinton in Louisville. This is powerful. This is a powerful problem. I was out with J.C. Watts, African-American guy, Republican guy from Oklahoma, a big football hero and all that, very popular fellow. He said don`t believe that sticks and stones will break my bones and but names will never hurt me. They do. And using words like rapist to describe Mexicans and going after Muslims the way he`s done by saying were going to ban them from the country. And saying that presidents from Africa. I mean, this kind of stuff is hateful. But if anybody said it -- how could a guy whose president talk like that? Or does he stop talking like that.

HUGHES: That was a primary. He had his goal. He obviously accomplished it

MATTHEWS: So he stopped calling those names?

HUGHES: Mr. Trump is going to be Mr. Trump. And you have to realize -- I love that you brought the word bully. What Mr. Trump is he`s a bully to all of those who have been bullied by others. And Hillary Clinton is probably the biggest bully on the block. She says she wants this healthy conversation and discussion, yet, that`s only with people she agrees with and is on her side. There is nobody that`s more bully then a conservative female voice out there. There is nobody that`s more trash than their voice, their opinion right now. And Mr. Trump stands up for that.

MATTHEWS: I agree with everything you just said. I just don`t think you gave me a good rebuttal to what Trump says.

HUGHES: I just said let Mr. Trump can answer his own words. I would necessarily use them, however, he did what he accomplished what he needed to do. Which was achieve all of the media all their attention on him.

MATTHEWS: The ends do not justify the means.

HUGHES: He`s number one the nominee.

MATTHEWS: What you just said I don`t agree with. The end doesn`t justify the means. Tina Brown, more time next time and Scotty Nell Hughes, thank you. Up next, can Donald Trump whoa Capitol Hill. Will hear from a former GOP congressman about whether Paul Ryan can get on aboard the Trump train and is that a good thing for Trump? You want to be in that club. Remember Groucho Marx? I will never join a club that will accept me as a member. And just under an hour ago to go before polls close in West Virginia. This is a special edition of HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`re back in this special early edition of HARDBALL. Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, has said to have breezed through another round of primaries tonight. But the stakes remain high as the party leadership, such as it is, remains splintered. But what about rank-and-file, real Republicans. Steve Kornacki is back at the big board with a look at what the Republican voters think of their presumptive. Now Steve, tell us about regular, real, cloth coat Republicans. Not the rich guys, but the regular voters out there.

KORNACKI: Let`s talk about these Republicans who voted in primaries and caucuses this year. One of the things you hear from conservative leaders who don`t like Trump, you hear this point over and over again. They say this was a hostile takeover. More than half of the Republicans didn`t actually vote for him. We ran the numbers and take a look. As of Indiana last week that`s true. Donald Trump when he factored in Indiana last week and won 40.2 percent of the all the votes cast in primaries and caucuses. So yes, more than half had not voted for Donald Trump.

However, what they leave out when they tell you that stat is the context. Take a look at this. Four years ago, Mitt Romney, when he got to that same point that Trump was at with that Indiana win last week, where he clenched the nomination. When Mitt Romney clenched the nomination four years ago. That`s when Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich got out of race. What share of the vote had Romney won? He won 41.5 percent, basically the same. In the fall by the way, Mitt Romney got 93 percent of all Republicans to vote for him against Hillary Clinton. Party unity was not a problem for Mitt Romney. He got basically the same share of the Republican vote on his way to clinching the nomination. How about this? Four years earlier, John McCain, what share did he have when he clenched the nomination? He had 39.9 percent. He was under 40. He still managed to get 90 percent of the Republicans in the fall. So think about that. Mitt Romney, 41.5 percent, he clenched the nomination. John McCain, 39.9 percent. What was Donald Trump`s number? I was going to be dramatic. It was over 40. He did better than McCain, almost as well as Romney. So if you`re looking at his path to the nomination you want to hear that he didn`t get a majority, it`s true. Neither did those guys.

MATTHEWS: Wow, anyway, thanks Steve. In today`s Wall Street Journal Fred Barnes, the great columnist, wrote the following, "Mr. Trump for all his political ingenuity doesn`t understand the situation he`s in. He has captured only one of two wings of the Republican Party. He won the presidential wing by locking up the GOP nomination. But there`s also what I called the congressional wing led by Mr. Ryan it shouldn`t be taken lightly. Even by a triumphant Mr. Trump. While that`s Fred Barnes.

As Trump has said to meet later this week with top Republicans in both the House and the Senate, could he make amends with House Speaker Paul Ryan. Or even should he? With me now is former U.S. Congressman Tom Davis, a Republican from Virginia. And April Ryan from the American Urban Radio Networks.

Thank you both. I want to start with Tom Davis. You know, I guess the question I raised earlier is not a bad one which is this, Trump comes to town like Mr. Trump comes to Washington. Is he coming as the boss or a job seeker, which is it? I think Ryan is treating him like a job seeker.

TOM DAVIS, (R) FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMEN: It`s a bit of both, Chris. They need each other at this point. He`s not going to win without buy in from the congressional wing of the party. If these two continue to be at odd, it will be a complete meltdown in November for the congressional wing of the party. So ultimately their destinies are intertwined. They are going to come to some agreement. Trump can`t win without them, but they can`t win if they don`t close ranks behind him.

MATTHEWS: What do they want him to do, change? He is who he is. And if they`ve watched him for all this past year running for office and winning the Republican Party. Beating the people that vote for them by the way. They don`t like what they see Do they want him to say I didn`t mean that. I believe something else. That`s what they`re really asking for it seems to me. A different Trump than they`ve seen. Or else they`d be going along with him.

DAVIS: I think that`s right. We`ve seen illusions with some of other candidates that have endorsed saying that Trump is a different guy behind closed doors. They don`t really know Donald Trump. All they see is the public persona which has beating the heck out of congressional Republicans. Who by the way, Congress has a 15 percent approval rating. That`s really not strong bargaining power going into this.

MATTHEWS: April, whatever you think of Donald Trump, he has great success for a living putting buildings up all across the country. I was on an airline today coming in from San Francisco, there`s another Trump Hotel. That`s a whole another thing he does.

That would be a lot for a person to hold a string of big-time hotels. He`s done all this. He`s put the buildings up. He`s dealt with the unions. He may have deal with some pretty tricky customers in New York and other place. He knows how to do it. These guys on Capitol Hill never done anything. They don`t know how to build or do anything. They know how to get elected in small congressional districts. Not knocking it, but now they`re going to tell him how to build this country. I don`t get it, where they`re coming from. He ain`t going to change for them. He`s who he is. Are they going to change for him is my question? Is Mr. Ryan, your cousin, is he going to do something about this or not? Just kidding.

APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: I wonder if he is my cousin actually. No, the Trump brand is amazing and we`ve got to give him that. The Trump brand is all over the place. But you have to also remember that the Trump brand is now moving into a territory that`s unchartered for the Trump brand, presidency of the United States. Donald Trump because of that brand, that big brand and that`s one thing that Donald Trump said, if you don`t have anything else, you have your name. The name is branded. There`s the arrogance that goes with the brand. Because he`s not going to want to lose. So what happens is Congress understands they have funded projects to help build cities. Donald Trump and Congress it`s a bit of something in common, the funding piece. But when it comes to trying to be president, Donald Trump has changed a little bit when it comes to understanding I have to not look at the small picture now, each state, state-by-state. I have to go to a broader spectrum. I have to use the RNC and their data to my advantage. I may have to go into their camp a little bit and do what they say. At the same time the Republicans have to dance. Both of them are dancing a dance that they`ve never danced before with one another. Trying to work it out for the sake of unity for the party and for the sake of Donald Trump being branded as president of the United States.

MATTHEWS: I`ll get back to you more time next time. I think that April asked a good question about the brand. What is the brand of the Republican leadership? We`ll have to figure that out. Thank you, Tom Davis. Thank you, April Ryan.

When we come back, the HARDBALL roundtable will join us as we look ahead to the general election. These numbers are amazingly close. Amazingly close in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and our own NBC poll across the country. It`s only five-point spread that`s margin of error stuff in a country that is very much divided down the middle. Just about 45 minutes to go before polls close in West Virginia. Have an interesting result there. Bernie could win there. This is special edition of HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL for this special early addition of HARDBALL tonight. The new polls we reported at the top of the hour show a close race in three battleground states. Of course we know where they are. Clinton leads Trump by a single point in Florida. That`s a peck. She`s ahead a single point in Pennsylvania where I think the election will be decided, by the way, 43-42 there for Hillary over Donald.

And it shows that Trump has a three-point lead Clinton in Ohio with 43-39. I`m surprised he`s not doing better in Ohio. Polls have shown Clinton underperforming compared to other polls. This may be an outlier. This must be taken seriously because it`s NBC. That shows a five-point spread for Hillary. By the way not insurmountable. Nothing like the 13-point thing that was wash around last week. Anyway in interview with NBC news today, Vice President Joe Biden said he expects Hillary Clinton will win the nomination and the White House.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You bring up the next president were all anxious to see.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Who she is. I feel confident that Hillary will be the nominee. And I feel confident she will be the next president.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined now MSNBC Eugene Robertson, The Washington Post, former New York City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, as well as Evan Siegfried, a former aide to Rudy Giuliani. Make what you will of those numbers. I think they give Trump a certain bounce. A quickness in his step as he goes to see Paul Ryan. Guess what, I`m within the margin of error in all the states that matter, Mr. Speaker.

EVAN SIEGFRIED, FORMER AIDE TO RUDY GIULIANI: It does. It`s great shot in the arm especially after coming off basically clinching the nomination and having this big public fight with the Bush`s, the Graham`s and the Paul Ryan`s. In the conservative wing of the party is turning around and saying we don`t want you. What these numbers are showing is that the American people are really dissatisfied in the direction the country is going. And it`s also showing that there is an enthusiasm gap for Clinton. The Clinton campaign should be very worried about. In January Trump had a rally in Massachusetts where his supporters stood outside in the subzero temperatures for over eight hours to go see him. They`re willing to stand up come hell or high water to go vote for him.

MATTHEWS: I think I figured that part out by the way. I think there`s a certain thing going on there. You know what, is ready to go from support to endorse now? These gradations are new to me by the way. I support but I don`t endorse.

SIEGFRIED: it`s not a difference. It`s not even a distinction. Hasn`t quite yet endorse. Christine, Mme. Speaker

CHRISTINE QUINN, FORMER NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER: Thank you, these numbers I think they`re not really comparable at the moment because you have a nominee and used have somebody who still fighting a primary so they`re not really apples to apples numbers first of all. Second of all --

MATTHEWS: So you don`t believe these numbers are close.

QUINN: -- No, and second of all, this poll at this time four years ago had Romney beating President Obama.

MATTHEWS: Well he was beating them then.

QUINN: But didn`t at the end. All that matters is the end.

MATTHEWS: who is going to do better in the six months of campaigning? Trump will like it more. He will enjoy the campaign more than Hillary.

QUINN: That doesn`t mean he`ll be better.

MATTHEWS: During the primaries we have never gotten into trouble by saying Hillary or Bernie because they both like their first names. The Republicans were Trump and Cruz. We never said Ted. We never talk comfortably like that. So now that we have interleague competition going. We can`t still call Hillary, Hillary and Trump, Trump. We got to agree on first names or surnames.

Robertson: I think we`ll go with surnames. That`s where we`ll end up. About those numbers. There`s a long list of Republican candidates about 16 of them who dismiss numbers that they thought were wrong. All these people supporting -- that can`t be right. This can`t be right. Well 56 percent of the people in the party voted against Trump, yet more voted against you. So I think it`s reckless to dismiss him without a hand. And I think they say something about Clinton`s negatives. Now her negatives are not as high as Trumps but that doesn`t mean they don`t exist. OK, it doesn`t mean they don`t exist.

MATTHEWS: Ronald Reagan said, "Don`t be afraid to see what you see." One of my favorite lines that Trump said, "Don`t be afraid to see what you see." He was talking about doctors reports and bad symptoms. If something is wrong with you. Go deal with it. Don`t ignore those symptoms. But it`s true politics. Don`t be afraid to see what you see, Madam Speaker. He`s doing well it`s a close race according to this polling. We`ll see.

QUINN: Every race should be treated as if it`s a close race.

MATTHEWS: Would you be a better mayor than the other guy?

QUINN: And again as I said, every race should be treated as if it is a close race. I`m for jobs.

MATTHEWS: Where are you on the horses? Are you anti-horse or pro horse.

QUINN: I am for jobs.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. Okay jockeys and everybody else. I want to thank you Christine Quinn, and Evan Siegfried.

ROBINSON: I love that name. It`s a very strong name.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. They`ll be staying with us. We have much more coming up on this special edition of HARDBALL. Including the Trump convention manager Paul Manafort. The first time were getting this guy here. He`s a biggie. Paul is in West Virginia. They said they will be closing in just over 30 minutes now. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL.

Polls in West Virginia will be closing in just 30 minutes now. But first, it was a busy day in Republican politics. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz declined to throw their full support behind Donald Trump. Here they are.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s the nominee of the Republican Party, or the presumptive nominee, via the voters. I respect that and accept it. But that`s not going to change the reservations I have about his campaign or some of the policies that he`s established.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are two-and-a- half months until the Republican convention, six months until the general election. There will be plenty of time for voters to make the determination who they`re going to support.

What every voter`s going to be doing is listening to the candidates, listening to what they support and assessing them on their merits.


MATTHEWS: It`s amazing. You get a little flash look at these guys, and it reminds you of their entire persona, their personalities for the last year. Amazing.

Anyway, Rubio -- I`m not saying that positively. Rubio later said that he intended to live up to the pledge he signed to support the nominee, but he said he continues to have serious concerns about Trump. I don`t know what they mean anymore, these concerns.

Trump has said he doesn`t think the party needs to be unified. On Thursday, Trump will meet with Speaker Ryan and some other Republican leaders in a sort of a ritual of mating (ph) exercise, I guess you could call it. And today, Ryan said he thought it was possible to come to a compromise with his party`s nominee.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Basically, we need to start talking about how do we unify the Republican Party. The point I`ve been making is we shouldn`t just pretend that our party is unified when we know it is not. Look, it`s been one week since the primary effectively ended. It was a very, very bitter, divisive primary. It`s going to take more than a week just to repair and unify this party.


MATTHEWS: That`s Paul Ryan, the speaker, with a very good reporter there, Jerry Seib (ph) of "The Journal."

Anyway, NBC`s Katy Tur covers the Trump campaign, joins me now. My question, Trump comes into this meeting on Thursday, which has been hyped to the roof. Is he coming in as the boss to crack the whip or is he coming in as some sort of job applicant? Which is it?

KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, the party sees him as somebody who`s coming in as a job applicant.


TUR: Despite that. They are coming in -- and they believe that they`re going to...

MATTHEWS: But their guys all lost!


MATTHEWS: Scott Walker was...

TUR: ... read him the riot act and say...


MATTHEWS: Ryan`s guy was Scott Walker.

TUR: But if you`re Donald Trump, you think you`re coming in as the boss. And in a lot of ways, he has the right to say that because -- in most ways, frankly -- because the voters voted for him, and they didn`t vote for Ted Cruz. They didn`t vote for John Kasich. They didn`t vote for Governor Scott Walker or all the establishment folks. They voted for the outsider. And so Donald Trump has the ability to go in there, and the voters behind him, to say, No, they don`t want your way of doing things.


TUR: They don`t want your Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: ... who speaks for the Republican voter today better, Trump or Ryan, nationwide? Who`s speaking for the voter out there, cloth coat, regular Republican, not 1 percenter or whatever, a regular Republican person in Pennsylvania, for example, or Ohio, who votes Republican? Who speaks for that male or female?

TUR: I don`t think the entire Republican Party is completely behind Donald Trump, but I think...

MATTHEWS: Are they behind Ryan?

TUR: I don`t think so, either. I think that they`re frustrated at the way things are in Washington. I think they want a change. I think that a good majority of them ultimately saw that Donald Trump was the one that would probably best be able to do that, in their minds. So I think Donald Trump is closer to the Republican voter than, say, Ryan is at the moment.

MATTHEWS: Katy Tur, you`re great. What a great -- you should write a book about the Trump you`ve covered the last year. I mean, what an assignment, and what a job you`ve done!

We go to Steve Kornacki right now to get the update about -- and Steve`s already told us a lot tonight about the Republican voter out there, not the big shots in Washington who claim to speak for them.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Well, we`re taking...

MATTHEWS: Steve Kornacki.

KORNACKI: We`re taking a look here, Chris, at West Virginia and Nebraska Republicans. How do they feel about their party right now, and then how do they feel about the prospect of coming together and winning in November?

So first of all, in West Virginia, we asked -- Republicans are united now? Well, not surprisingly, 10 percent of Republicans there say this is a united Republican Party right now, most of those, 62 percent here, saying it`s divided. They`ll come together, but still fully a quarter is saying this is a party that`s going to be -- going to remain divided through the general election, a quarter of Republicans in West Virginia saying that.

In Nebraska, look at this. It`s nearly half. Nearly half of Republicans there today say this is a party that`s going to stay divided between now and November. Now, why this is so interesting is because Donald Trump was asked about this the other day, said, you know, Do you need the Republican Party to be united to win in November? He said, I actually don`t think I need to. I think I`m a different kind of candidate than you`ve ever seen, and I can win with a divided party.

And guess what? Republicans are saying they largely agree with that. Look at this, 90 percent of West Virginia Republicans say, Look, in the end, Trump`s probably going to win this thing in the fall, and in Nebraska very high number, as well, over 80 percent. 75 percent, Chris, three quarters of the Republicans who say this party`s going to stay divided -- they still think Trump`s going to win this thing in the fall.

MATTHEWS: Well said, as always, Steve Kornacki.

I`m joined right now by Donald Trump strategist and convention manager, Paul Manafort. Paul, thank you for coming on. You are the man. And I just want to as you about Trump. How you getting along with him?


MATTHEWS: Good relationship?

MANAFORT: Yes, I do.

MATTHEWS: What`s he like in person compared to what he see on the stage?

MANAFORT: He`s what you see on the stage. He`s...

MATTHEWS: Same guy?

MANAFORT: Same guy.

MATTHEWS: I find him a bit different, more subdued.

MANAFORT: Well, depends on the day.


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this. If you had to write the history of this campaign -- and you`re been watching it. You`re a big part of it. Explain it to the young person 20 years from now reading the history book. What happened in 2016 that had the Republican Party regulars -- all of them, Scott Walker, Perry, every one of them, Rubio, Cruz -- they all went down in a ravine. They`re ditched by this one guy that comes in from outside the Republican Party, beats all of them and wins the Republican nomination?

First of all, what is it in the times -- the times -- that allowed that to happen?

MANAFORT: Well, Donald Trump figured out that the campaign for a moderate presidency is different than it`s been in the past. He didn`t put together a traditional campaign. In fact, you know, it`s the first modern campaign in the social media era. He understood how to use earned media instead of paid media. Instead of using 30-second spots, he had -- he had a dialogue with the American people both through his access through the media and through his campaign appearances.

And he also had a vision of what the American people wanted. Unlike saying that he was going to fix things on the edges of a gridlocked Washington that had put the country in angst over the last 20 years, he came in with plan to change everything as a true outsider.

I mean, he was not involved in politics until 10 months ago. And he combined a modern campaign with a vision that not constricted by the conventional wisdom of politics in Washington. Those two things made a difference where he`s going to be now -- already is -- the highest vote getter in the history of Republican primary politics.

MATTHEWS: OK, he fits the times. How does he fit the Republican Party?

MANAFORT: Well, the Republican Party is a composition of the members of the party, and not just the leadership. And he went out there, and again, he was the largest vote getter in the history of primaries. And more to come still. He beat the record by May 3rd.

So he -- he is not just the titular head, but he is now the head of the Republican Party as far as the voters in country are concerned.

He ran everywhere. He won everywhere. And I think tonight`s numbers, as well, show that the Republicans are happy with their nominee. They turned out in two states that they didn`t have to turn out, but they did anyhow because they wanted to support his vision and his plan for America.

MATTHEWS: How much power do these latest numbers we had tonight from Quinnipiac and our poll, that shows him within a point or two in states like Pennsylvania, where he can win the whole thing, if he wins Pennsylvania?

MANAFORT: Well, it...

MATTHEWS: What`s that say to Paul Ryan when he greets him? He can`t greet him as some contender. He`s got to greet him as the guy that won the fight for the nomination.

MANAFORT: Well, Donald Trump`s whole candidacy from the time he started has been filled with myths by the media that he couldn`t -- he was not a serious candidate. He never could break...

MATTHEWS: Did I say that?

MANAFORT: He never could break...

MATTHEWS: Did I ever say that?

MANAFORT: Well, you probably did.

MATTHEWS: Go back and look. No, why don`t you look it up.

MANAFORT: All right, well, if you say you didn`t, I believe you.

MATTHEWS: No, you don`t have...


MANAFORT: But they also said he couldn`t break 30 percent, he couldn`t break 40. He`d never win a one-on-one race. He never would get 1,237 by June 7th. Well, that -- they were right, and he got it by May 3rd. But the point is, you know, they`ve been wrong all along. And now when they say he can`t win, they`re just making it up.

And today`s polls in three battleground states show that his -- his reach, at a time when the party still isn`t united, is still significant to the point that he`s running even in two states and ahead in a third, three states that Hillary Clinton has to win.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk strategy. Two things, the meeting on Thursday and the convention itself. Let`s cut (ph) ahead to the convention because it`s more fun, all right? We`ve had exciting conventions, but they`ve always been trouble, like `68 was one hell of a Democratic convention, but you had riots in the streets, police riot, the whole routine. We know all about it. It didn`t help the party. They lost the general.

Are boring conventions better for parties to win elections, or divisive exciting ones? Or can you have a positive, exciting election?

MANAFORT: I think you can have a very positive, exciting...

MATTHEWS: How do you -- how do you do that?

MANAFORT: Well, Donald Trump understands media. He`s a television star. And he`s connected with America.

MATTHEWS: Are you going to have, like, features on Monday and Tuesday night, like -- sort of like "Apprentice" shows, some kind of -- how are you going to use television Monday through Thursday in a week when a lot of people like us -- we use the convention. We cover it. But then we just talk among ourselves most of the time.

How do you guys come up with a compelling television for four nights?

MANAFORT: Well, I`m going to Cleveland on Thursday and Friday. We`re sitting down with the RNC leadership running the convention and we`re going to begin talks -- to start talking about that. We have some ideas, but we want to listen to the RNC.

MATTHEWS: You`re going (ph) to have to break some eggs, though, right?

MANAFORT: I don`t think we have to break any eggs.

MATTHEWS: Reince Priebus is going to give us an exciting convention? Come on!

MANAFORT: Donald Trump is going to give you an exciting convention..

MATTHEWS: OK, how? What do you do? Do you have movies?

MANAFORT: We`re going to put a program together. It`s not put together yet. We have...

MATTHEWS: A reality show of some kind?

MANAFORT: This is the ultimate reality show. It`s the presidency of the United States. And so it will be a program where we will be talking to America about not just Donald Trump but the Republican Party. And we`ll put it in ways that we hope will be entertaining, but more important, informative.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at your candidate here. Trump spent the weekend attacking both Clintons over Bill Clinton`s past behavior. Everybody knows the story. Here`s how Trump`s going at it. Let`s watch.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: And I`m saying to myself, but nobody in this country, and maybe in the history of the country, politically, was worse than Bill Clinton with women!

She`s married to a man who was the worst abuser of women in the history of politics! She`s married to a man who hurt many women. And Hillary, if you look and see a study (ph), Hillary hurt many women, the women that he abused. She was an unbelievably nasty, mean enabler! And what she did to a lot of those women is disgraceful. So put that in her bonnet and let`s see what happens, OK?


MATTHEWS: Is he on solid ground there? I don`t know this story. He talks about how Hillary Clinton was not just an enabler but she went out and silenced or humiliated woman who had been accused of being involved with her husband. Do you have any facts to back that up? Does the candidate? Facts.

MANAFORT: The point he`s trying to get at...

MATTHEWS: No, it`s not. He said there -- he said Hillary Clinton did nasty, terrible things to these women who were alleged have a relationship with her husband. Did she or did she not do that?

MANAFORT: He`ll be talking about those in the campaign.

MATTHEWS: Does he know what he`s talking about?

MANAFORT: He definitely knows what he`s talking about.

MATTHEWS: How do you know?

MANAFORT: Well, I believe in him.

MATTHEWS: Oh, you just believe what he says is true.

MANAFORT: No, we`ve talked about things, and I think...

MATTHEWS: So he has told you stuff that suggests that he knows about the Clintons and their back -- unreported behavior that he will now bring out?

MANAFORT: We have talked about the hypocrisy of Hillary Clinton playing the female card and his willingness to expose that card for what it is.

MATTHEWS: Why is it hypocritical on Hillary to be hitting the female card, as you put it?

MANAFORT: Well, because -- his point is that if she were not a woman, her appeal as a candidate...

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, that`s...

MANAFORT: ... for a lot of reasons...

MATTHEWS: That`s just rhetoric.

MANAFORT: It`s not just rhetoric.

MATTHEWS: But what is this thing about Hillary Clinton be married to somebody who`s an abuser of women? How do you make that case?

MANAFORT: Well, stay tuned.

MATTHEWS: You got a case?

MANAFORT: Stay tuned.

MATTHEWS: Have you heard his case?

MANAFORT: He -- we have things that we`ll be talking about in this campaign where we will not be letting her get away with playing the female card.

MATTHEWS: Doesn`t it scare you that in 1998, Bill Clinton not only defeated the attempt to remove him from office but did very well in the congressional -- you know all this, 1998.

MANAFORT: But this isn`t...

MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton, because of the way she dealt with this terrible situation and the strength she showed, it probably helped her, in a way, get started as her own political -- in her own political role. It never works against the Clintons. They seem to be very good at coming back at their critics, at their attackers.

MANAFORT: The Clintons have never run against Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: You smile.

MANAFORT: It`s going to be a good campaign!

MATTHEWS: Well, who`s his running mate? What kind of running -- are you going to have a Christian conservative running mate? They`re all out beating the drum out there now for a Christian conservative. Tony Perkins says you must name an evangelical to be Ronald Reagan`s -- Ronald Reagan...

MANAFORT: Everybody`s got a opinion. There`s only one that counts.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. You`re a very confident fellow. Paul Manafort. Please come back.

Coming up, much more on Trump`s battle with the Republican insiders. We`ve got Robert Costa of "The Washington Post" with us with new reporting on that. Plus, Steve Schimdt`s coming here. And Ann Coulter`s going to be with us right here.

Anyway, and at the bottom of the hour, polls will be closed in West Virginia and we`ll have our projection in the primary between Hillary Clinton -- that`s at the half hour now. It`s coming up quick.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`re now just 15 minutes away from the polls closing in West Virginia. When we come back, new reporting on the Trump campaign from Robert Costa of "The Washington Post." Plus, Ann Coulter will be here.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL as we await the first results from West Virginia coming in at the half hour. Donald Trump is set to meet with White House -- actually, speaker of the House Paul Manafort -- Paul Manafort -- Paul Ryan this Thursday, a week after Ryan said publicly last week that he hasn`t -- wasn`t ready to endorse the Republican nominee for president.

Well, "The Washington Post" reported yesterday that Trump ally Ben Carson is playing a key role in mending fences with Ryan, the speaker, and that Carson has also requested his own meeting with the speaker in advance. He`s sort of an advance man on this meeting. The meeting will come after a spokesperson for the Trump campaign said that Ryan was unfit to be speaker and after Sarah Palin called for Ryan`s defeat in the Wisconsin primary this summer.

I`m joined right now by MSNBC political analyst Robert Costa of "The Washington Post," Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, as well as conservative columnist and author Ann Coulter, who`s got a new book out, "In Trump We Trust." That comes out this summer. We`ll have you on when the book comes out, Ann, if you wish.

Let me go to all three of you in this order. What is the nature of this meeting? I don`t like meetings. I don`t know what they accomplish. But they seem to have a ritual value, Robert Costa. (INAUDIBLE) continuous meeting, so this doesn`t excite me or threaten me.

Is Trump coming in as the job applicant to seek the approval of the Washington big shots, or is he coming in as the boss? Which is it?

ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Based on my reporting -- and I`ve spoken to people close to Ryan and close to Trump -- they hope to come to some kind of consensus on what the party`s principles are and whether there can be agreement on that moving forward. And by that I mean there`s not going to be a heavy discussion on policy. This isn`t about litmus tests. This isn`t about whether they can agree on immigration and trade. It`s whether they can have unity.

MATTHEWS: But Trump has been speaking now for a year on what he thinks of policy. Don`t they pay attention? Don`t they have transcripts? Why -- Ann, you`re laughing. Why do they have to ask -- obviously, they didn`t like what they heard and they want to hear something else, Ann.

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, "IN TRUMP WE TRUST": No, I think you`re absolutely right. I think it shows that Trump is being unbelievably gracious. He doesn`t need to have this meeting. He is the party. He`s the heart and soul of the party. And I mean, I think he could have just said, Hope he comes aboard. We`re going to have a lot of fun. But if he doesn`t, oh, well.

So no, I think it`s very nice, but I don`t think he would waste a lot of time on these meetings going forward. He has a general election to run. But the people are with him, and there`s no point in meeting with all these generals without armies.

MATTHEWS: Ann to tease your book, what`s the best line in your book? I know you remember it. What was the best line you wrote in your book, "In Trump We Trust," that`s coming up?

COULTER: I`m writing it right now.

MATTHEWS: So you don`t have the best line yet.

COULTER: But I might -- but I might quote you. You were right about Manafort. You and I think maybe one other person TV were the only ones in media who were not utterly contemptuously dismissive of Trump.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, let`s go back to Steve -- I`m not contemptuous because I`m trying to figure him out. I think he`s a mixed bag, like most people are, and I`m trying to figure him out.

Steve Schmidt, this meeting -- what do you make of this meeting? I mean, Washington loves this stuff, a meeting. They go behind closed doors. They come out, what, holding hands. They go in angry, they come out happy. Is it there`s a value in this meeting when you all know, we all know they`re going in and they`re coming out the same way? Your thinking? That`s my thinking.

STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, the Republican voters all across this country spoke, and they let it be known their absolutely contempt for the Republican establishment and the elected Republican leadership in Washington, D.C. So Donald Trump arrives at this meeting as a conqueror of the status quo Republican political order over the last generation.


SCHMIDT: Now, this meeting is important, because I think there`s an open question.

Can a party led by Donald Trump, the Republican Party, can it survive? It`s the majority party at the governor level, at the U.S. Senate, at the House level, at the state legislative level. And it`s a conservative party. Not all of Trump`s positions are conservative.

And he has a pragmatic reason to try to everything he can to try to come out of this meeting with unity from the speaker, from others, who say we don`t agree on evening. But what Trump needs to do to be able to win this election, he`s got to have a unified Republican Party.

He`s got to do well with independents and he`s got to pick up his fair share of conservative working-class Democrats in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio and Michigan in order to be able to win.


MATTHEWS: The numbers show he`s getting close.

Anyway, the Trump campaign confirmed to NBC News that it released -- well, I do rely on the prompter -- a video attacking Clinton over Benghazi. The video uses interviews with the families of the victims. It looks a lot to me like swift boating.

Anyway, it contains elements that may be offensive to some viewers. I have to say that. But here it is.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She lied to me. She told me it was fault of the video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said we are going to have the filmmaker arrested who is responsible for the death of your son.

QUESTION: So, she did say to you that Benghazi attack was caused by protests?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know why that`s funny.


MATTHEWS: Well, we all know how editing works.

Robert Costa, having Hillary Clinton -- whatever you say about any of this, and I think it`s problematic, but, anyway, having her laughing like mad at a tragedy which cost the life of an actual friend of hers, Chris Stevens, the ambassador, as well as the other Americans, I think that is what is it is, editing and it`s malicious.

But is this thing going to work?

COSTA: My sources close to Trump tell me that Trump has dozens of these videos ready to go on different fronts regarding Secretary Clinton.

And they are often hard-hitting, incendiary images, audio blended together. This is the Trump campaign style. On one hand, they are trying to reach out to movement conservatives like Paul Ryan in official Washington. But when it comes to social media, Instagram, they`re playing at a lower level and trying to really incite voters and get conservatives excited who may not have been.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I don`t buy the idea that the end justifies the means. But sometimes it accomplishes the end. The means does.

And I have seen this with Dukakis in `88. I saw it with John Kerry. You can destroy an opponent with a good ad campaign.

Anyway, thank you, Robert Costa, Steve Schmidt, Ann Coulter.

Please come back for your book, Ann.

Up next, we are going to get our first look at the race in West Virginia. Polls there will be closed at the bottom of the hour. That`s the half-hour coming up in about three minutes. We will have our projection on that race very, very quickly now.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`re now just moments away from the polls closing in West Virginia. We are going to have our first projection in just a minute.

Eugene Robinson is with us, however.

Gene, it seems like Hillary Clinton, the former secretary, has to keep playing this sort of rear guard against Bernie Sanders. She couldn`t put him way.


Look, she had anticipated that it would be all over by now. She would be able to give her full attention to the general election campaign. She clearly can`t, even though the math says she`s overwhelmingly likely to win the nomination.

The fact that he`s kept winning primaries -- we don`t know what is going to happen tonight, but he was favored going in. The fact that he keeps doing well, the fact that he keeps drawing thousands and thousands of people to rallies...

MATTHEWS: There`s nothing like it.


MATTHEWS: Have you ever seen a loser do so well? Really, a guy who is not probably going to win has got tremendous crowds for him and money.


ROBINSON: Well, exactly and a lot of passion, a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of excitement.

And those people will still be around. After the convention, those people will still be there. And she needs to win them, not just their grudging allegiance, but she needs to win their support and some of that enthusiasm for her going forward.

Look, the Democratic coalition has to turn out in not just respectable numbers, but in quite good numbers, if she`s going to win. That`s the way the math works.

MATTHEWS: And they also want to keep young people who are wild for Bernie Sanders in the party. They`re not necessarily in the party.

ROBINSON: Yes. They`re not necessarily in the party.

Bernie has -- he`s activated a lot of political enthusiasm among folks who wouldn`t necessarily be participating at all this year if not for him. And so you want to keep those people involved. You want to keep them excited. And you want to get them out to vote.

And as you know, it`s difficult to get young voters out to vote.

MATTHEWS: I see tradition about to play its role.

Remember all the conventions we have been to over the last 20 or 30 years. The guy who gives the best speech is never the nominee.

ROBINSON: Never. Never, ever.

MATTHEWS: Jesse Jackson gave a couple barn burners. Mario Cuomo.


MATTHEWS: Again, it could be Bernie Sanders could bring down the house on Monday or Tuesday night and then Hillary gets the nomination. It`s so Democratic.

ROBINSON: Well, that`s what happens. That`s what happens in the Democratic Party.

MATTHEWS: And Bernie will get his hour on the stage.

ROBINSON: Well, yes. He will get his hour on the stage. And he will get his influence over the platform too. He has already brought her to the left. He will bring the party to the left.

MATTHEWS: The speech he gets to give is his speech, though. That`s where the power comes. He can say anything he wants before an audience of tens of -- 20 million, 30 -- a lot more than that, probably.

ROBINSON: Exactly. Exactly.

He`s really created a movement here. And he`s appealed to people in a way that a year ago, a year-and-a-half ago, no one would have said that Bernie Sanders was going to be a political rock star.


MATTHEWS: You know what the senator said to me one night? I was interviewing him after one of the debates.

He said, a year ago, you would have treated me as a fringe candidate.


ROBINSON: What you would have been, Bernie.

MATTHEWS: I mean, fringe is about right.

ROBINSON: That`s right. That`s right.

MATTHEWS: He didn`t identify with the party.

ROBINSON: And it didn`t turn out that way. A lot of things didn`t turn out the way we expected this year. And that`s one of the big things that didn`t turn out.

That would be the political story of the year if not for Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: I wonder whether Hillary can do -- Hillary Clinton can do anything about student loans, because there`s something that is a near and present reality to young families.

You`re 22 years old. You get out of school. You owe $150,000, $150,000, and you`re paying 8 percent on it.

And Bernie says I can help you with it. Hillary says what? It`s going to be a challenge for them to keep those people upbeat.

ROBINSON: Yes, that whole question of how do young people get a start in life these days with the economy where it is.

MATTHEWS: Failure to launch when you have that pack on your back.

ROBINSON: Really hard. Really hard.

MATTHEWS: And if you go to med school or law school, it just grows, the amount of money you have to pay.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, here it is.

It`s now 7:30. It`s getting there. And the polls are closed in West Virginia now.

Now NBC News can project, when all the votes are counted in West Virginia, Bernie Sanders will be the winner of the West Virginia primary, the aforementioned Bernie Sanders, the projected winner over Hillary Clinton in the state of West Virginia.

On the Republican side, no surprise here, Donald Trump`s the projected winner in West Virginia tonight. The presumptive Republican nominee is adding to his delegate totals and getting closer to that magic number of 1,237, the majority.

But let`s talk about the Democrats, Gene.

We were just talking about Bernie Sanders, who has won another one. He could win four this month.

ROBINSON: Right. He could sweep May, essentially. This could be a very good month for him.

MATTHEWS: Oregon, Kentucky, he could do well.

ROBINSON: Yes. So, the optics, the atmospherics are -- I was going to say not ideal, but they`re just bad for Clinton.

She will win go into California. Presumably, she will win California on June 7. But to have a whole month of potential losses for somebody who is supposed to be the Democratic...


ROBINSON: ... is not a great look.

MATTHEWS: You`re an editor. You`re an editor.

Tomorrow morning, the major newspapers like "The Post" have to put a headline in, probably somewhere above the fold, she wants West Virginia. They say she had said -- made a mistake a couple weeks back saying in Ohio that the coal mine is going to be closed, the coal miners will be out of work.

How big a role does that play? Will that be said that that`s when she stepped in it?

ROBINSON: Well, I think that will certainly be mentioned, but maybe in a lower graph.

I think, if I were editing the story, it would lead with Bernie Sanders` victory and then it would try to take a big picture of the Sanders campaign and look ahead toward the rest of the race and the fact that he`s consolidated this sort of movement support throughout the primary season that is not going to go away, that is there and that is something that she has to deal with, even if she is the eventual nominee.


We`re going to go to Steve Kornacki for full analysis.

What just happened, Steve?

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the how in terms of how Bernie Sanders wins this thing in West Virginia tonight, a big factor here are voters who actually support Donald Trump coming out and voting for Bernie Sanders in this primary.

There`s a couple of theories about why this might be happening. One reason could be is, there is a Democratic primary in West Virginia tonight for governor. There`s no Republican primary for governor.

So, what you might have here are independents who want to vote for the Republicans in the fall, want to vote for Trump in the fall, but they want to have something to do with this race for governor. They come into the Democratic primary, vote in the race for governor and while they`re at it, they vote against Hillary Clinton and they vote for Bernie Sanders.

We`re finding that 40 percent of Sanders voters tonight in West Virginia say that if it`s a choice in the fall between Sanders and Donald Trump, they`re voting for Donald Trump. They are not voting for Bernie Sanders.

The other thing we can tell you is just, in terms of what this means to the national race, Bernie Sanders is out there saying, look, if I get on a winning streak, if I run the table here, I can still catch Hillary Clinton in the pledged delegates.

Little bit of a reality check here on what he is up against. He`s down 295 pledged delegates coming into tonight. We know he`s won West Virginia. We know Hillary Clinton will still get delegates. If this is a good night for Bernie Sanders, he probably takes 19, let`s say, of those 29. We don`t know for sure yet. But let`s say it`s about 19-10 split.

That would be a good night for him right now. Means he gains nine. It means he would come into the night down 295. He would come out still down 286. This is a proportional system. This is the biggest problem you have if you`re Bernie Sanders to make up that kind of gap, even when you`re putting wins on the board. You`re barely cutting into that kind of a lead.

MATTHEWS: And how much of this is the pattern that we have seen in previous elections, Steve, where once we know who the winner is going to be, a lot of people do -- it`s not buyer`s remorse entirely, but they like to sort of show their attitude, their point of view.

Are you voting for somebody? We saw this with Kennedy vs. Nixon, I mean, Kennedy vs. Jimmy Carter. We saw it with all the -- it seems to be a pattern.

KORNACKI: Well, we saw it eight years ago on the Democratic side.

Four of the final six contests in 2008, Clinton vs. Obama, they were won by Hillary Clinton. One of the reasons too is just also it is geography and demographics. Just West Virginia, Kentucky, these states right here, these all look like Bernie Sanders states too.

It`s also sort of the luck of timing for him. We`re coming to states that are just sort of naturally his. But, yes, at the same time, too, there doesn`t seem to be any indication that voters in these states are saying, yes, time to get in line. Let`s get behind Hillary. Let`s show some unity here. Sanders could put up six, seven wins down the stretch.

MATTHEWS: Yes, it looks like it. Anyway, let`s -- thanks, Steve, Steve Kornacki, always brilliant.

Let`s bring in NBC News political director of the moderator of "Meet the Press," Chuck Todd.

Chuck, this thing, we keep talking about it, and I know we use -- I hate talking like we`re South African. We talk about ethnicity and race al little time. But the African-American vote has been so strong for Hillary Clinton, and when it`s not there, she doesn`t do well, it seems.

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": All right. And you can`t help but go back eight years ago.

When the African-American vote wasn`t there, who did well? Hillary Clinton did. I think what is interesting here is, we now have proof, right, of sort of these states. And you can`t help but wonder, does gender and racial identity matter here a little bit?

It seemed to matter. Hillary Clinton did just better in states that didn`t have a large African-American vote back in 2008. This time, she`s the stand-in. She`s getting all the African-American votes. So, now none of that -- I think it`s proof that none of that vote for her eight years ago was for her.

It was anti-Obama. And I think what we can safely say is, it`s probably just as likely that a lot of the Sanders vote tonight, while a majority of it is pro-Sanders, there`s probably a good chunk of it that`s simply anti- Hillary.

MATTHEWS: But what is that? Is that just a sort of nasty what? I`m trying to figure out what that is exactly. You hear it on the Republican sides.

TODD: Guess what? I think a lot of people are going to sit here and say it`s all race-based. There are some people that are going to say it`s race- and gender-based.

I would to think it`s a little more sophisticated than that, but I think that some of the more -- you can`t ignore that aspect of it. OK?


MATTHEWS: Is it white people not voting for Hillary Clinton because what, that she identified with Obama?

TODD: She`s identified with Obama or it could be on gender lines.

Let`s not ignore that aspect here when you saw -- when we saw exactly what happened in these same states eight years ago. You just can`t ignore it. It`s a factor. Is it the factor? No. I don`t think it`s the factor.

You can`t ignore the fact that Barack Obama only got less than 60 percent of the vote against a convicted felon four years ago in West Virginia. There`s a significant portion of registered Democrats in West Virginia that`s anti-Obama, anti-Democratic Party right now because of coal.

There`s a lot of things going on here. But let`s not pretend that race and gender aren`t playing a role too.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I watch that all the time in campaigns. I have been watching them for so many years, longer than you actually.

And I have to tell you, I looked at where the Kennedy-Nixon race began to change somewhere west of Philly. I saw Joe Lieberman`s influence on the Gore ticket change somewhere west of Philly. Same with Obama. This country gets very culturally and ethnically -- conservative is a nice word for it, once you move west of a place like Philadelphia.


TODD: Well, my concern, though, Chris, this cycle it is...

MATTHEWS: Until you get to California.

TODD: ... is that I think it`s worse now on both ends of the spectrum. OK?

I think that there are fewer and fewer people that live in neighborhoods that are mixed politically. OK? There are fewer -- that`s -- you`re right in what you`re saying in history, but there are fewer swing congressional districts than ever before. There`s fewer swing counties, I believe, than we have seen before, this self-sorting that`s taking place, the idea that political party is now a cultural identifier as well. Right?

When political party became a cultural identifier -- and that didn`t always used to be. And I think it`s becoming a little more of a cultural identifier. And, look, that has ramifications going forward. That`s why governing is so hard.

That`s why it`s hard for an elected official to compromise, because they get punished for doing it, because they`re breaking their -- quote -- "cultural norm."

Look, I think that this is a larger problem that both political parties have to deal with.

MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you, talk about the different worlds we live in.

Gene, Saturday, I was with my family up in Pennsylvania, not overwhelmingly, but pro-Trump. That doesn`t surprise people , but accepting him, and then sometimes positively, except for one of my brothers, who is my favorite bellwether. I can always tell who is going to win if I watch him.

Then I go out to the Leon Panetta Institute yesterday with people like Mark Shields and J.C. Watts and Gloria Borger. And that place is all nervous about Trump. They`re very nervous about him. So, this country does learn in sort of cantons.


I don`t think we`re Switzerland.


MATTHEWS: Seems like that.

ROBINSON: But I get the point.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, again, Bernie Sanders is the projected winner of West Virginia. Just happened now.

Let`s bring in bring in NBC`s Kasie Hunt in Washington.

Kasie, I loved your focus group. I thought it was very interesting among regular unhyphenated Republican women who were -- who vote Republican. We don`t spend enough time with those people, actual voters who are not part of the power structure. That was great.


It was a really interesting hour that I spent. And thanks to the participants that spent this time talking with us.

I think it was very illuminating, in so much as this is a group of people that Donald Trump -- or, rather, the Republican nominee should be able to count on. Right? The people that we talk to have been members of the Republican Party. They vote in Republican primaries, Northern Virginia, of course, a little bit of a unique area geographically.

It`s different from some other swing places, maybe Charlotte, North Carolina, or Raleigh, North Carolina for example. People are part, in some ways, of what goes on here inside the Beltway.

But, at the same time, I thought it was really interesting that they essentially debated among themselves. And I hardly had to moderate the discussion at all from that perspective.

And you had two people who were older women, who were very, very much supportive of Donald Trump and very much bought into the policies he`s been selling in this primary. Then you had three younger women who didn`t. One member was undecided. I asked her, I said, you know, what would it take for Donald Trump to convince you to vote for him? And she said, he has to change his border wall policy and he has to change, you know, the policies on the Muslim ban. She said that was unconstitutional. The other two jumped in and defended her.

MATTHEWS: It sounds like why the Clinton campaign will be running very tough ads against Trump and what he`s said about the wall along the Rio Grande and what he said about Muslims in the hope to get younger Republican women to come over. It sounds like they have -- you probably not intentionally done it, but have highlighted the targeting they`re probably going to do.

Let`s bring in right now, Kristen Welker. She`s covering the Clinton campaign tonight in Louisville, Kentucky.

They`re not going to take another loss I guess. They`re going to make sure they win having lost tonight in West Virginia. It looks like they`re putting some serious effort into Kentucky next week.

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS CORRESONDENT: That`s absolutely right, Chris. And I just spoke with a Clinton campaign official moments ago who said essentially that. That, look, they were bracing for a loss in West Virginia, and they`re going to put a lot of resources into Kentucky. They want to limit the amount of losses that Secretary Clinton has in the month of May.

And they`re up with ads here. That`s a real shift in her strategy. She didn`t put campaign ads up in West Virginia or Indiana, a state which she also lost. I asked, are they going to put ads up in California, in New Jersey? And they say that they`re thinking about it.

So, they are clearly more aggressively focused on this primary, Chris. And Secretary Clinton just left here this venue in Louisville a short while ago where she was rallying voters. But, of course, as you and Kasie were just discussing, she`s also very focused on the general election. Today, she released an ad here in Kentucky, which really could have been used in the primary or the general, essentially arguing that she`s the toughest candidate, the one who has the most experience, the best person to head to the White House.

And key to her strategy is rallying and reaching out to those women voters that Kasie interviewed. And also, Chris, this is another key part of her strategy we haven`t talked about -- drawing sharp distinctions with Donald Trump over the chaos right now in the GOP, trying to capitalize on the fact that it is a fractured party. So, today, she put out yet another list of conservatives who have broken with Donald Trump. I think that`s a real preview of what we can expect to see as she fights this primary and general election battle at the same time -- Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thanks so much, Kristen.

Let me go to Gene on this.

Gene, I talked about that sort of rough idea that this country turns culturally conservative. Once you get a little west of Philadelphia, just where I grew up, and you see in West Virginia, you see it as you move to Ohio, Kentucky, that strain that went very much to the conservative side of things in the Obama race, and the Gore race, it looks like Trump is working that vain. He`s going to work that Appalachian vain.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. Look, that`s his only path to victory. His only path to winning is to -- you know, Pennsylvania, Ohio, the whole Rust Belt, because you`ve got not just the cultural issues but also the economic issues. That`s where a lot of those people are, whose prospects have dimmed so much over the last few decades and who look toward the future. And they don`t know how they`re going to make it. In retirement, they don`t know how their kids are going to make it.

And they`re angry that the politicians have been selling them a bill of goods. That`s been the way they feel. Trump`s got to get those people. He`s got to get them this massive numbers to win. I mean -- and so, he`ll go after that. You see this interesting sort of, not so much West Virginia, but in south, or North Carolina, other places, you see this interesting urban/rural economy. You know, it`s like cities like Charlotte and Birmingham are really quite liberal places of the middle of really conservative states.

MATTHEWS: Where are they going to go?

ROBINSON: Good question.

MATTHEWS: Yes, let me go to Chuck on this thing. And that is that question about Trump and how he runs his general election. You look at those numbers from Quinnipiac and now, you can call them outliers today, some people are. But the fact is, they do show a contested competition for Pennsylvania, for Ohio, for Florida.

This election, you think -- are you willing to say now, can you say -- let me ask a relative question. Are there signs it`s getting closer than we thought or signs it may blow out?

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: I think right now it`s signs it`s getting more normalized and more competitive.

Look, Republican voters have come home to Trump faster than Republican leaders.


TODD: We saw that in polling three weeks ago, right? The Republican voters are ahead of where the leadership in Washington is. That`s number one.

But I really think the ultimate test is going to be after the convention, right? That`s where we`re going to see what kind of convention. Craig Shirley was on my show earlier today, and he just noted a very simple fact.

You know, we have talked about how divided parties lose presidential elections. Divided conventions also are a sign of losing a convention, you know? And he went through `em right, `68, `80. You`re going to go and thrown in 84 with the Democrats.

Republicans, `64, `76, `92, where the conventions themselves were divisive moments also, where you saw the party was not united. You see that they`re -- well, that sends a message to the general electorate. That sends a message to the chunk of independent voters out there.

You know, one party doesn`t know what it is. One party does know what it is. So, what does Donald Trump -- what kind of unified Republican message can he present at his convention in Cleveland? That -- and where does that -- where did things stand then?

Then I`ll believe this can be competitive ala `04. On paper, generic D, generic R, Chris, I thought this election was going to be the 2004 election all over. I don`t know who would win or lose, but that close, the map sort of reverting back to pre-Obama norms, all of those things. Obviously, Trump creates a whole new situation. And so, we`ll see.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, let`s check back with Steve Kornacki. He`s at our big board with a look at the exit polls. I love this stuff and how Sanders won tonight. Bernie Sanders owns West Virginia.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Although the bigger thing is Donald Trump maybe owns West Virginia. Not only a big win and uncontested on the Republican side, but check this out.

Digging deeper into the numbers on the Democratic side, these are just Democrats, we asked them regardless of who you`re voting for today, who are you going to be with in November. One third of Democrats today in West Virginia say no matter what, I`m with a Democratic candidate. Look at that -- 27 percent say I`m with Donald Trump. And a little more than a third, 36 percent are saying it depends. A couple of different factors.

It`s Trump country in West Virginia, Chris. I think that`s what we`re seeing.

MATTHEWS: Do you put this on Hillary`s map when she tours the country and tries to win 270 or do you skip West Virginia?

KORNACKI: You know, the funny thing is this, when you`re talking about this with Chuck. In `08, she had that winning streak in West Virginia and states like it over Obama. At the very beginning of this campaign, there was talk coming from some people around Clinton that maybe these are states she could put in play.

They`re not saying that anymore. I think this conclusively says she`s not going to be campaigning.

MATTHEWS: And I`m wondering about coal and its impact in Kentucky next week.

Anyway, thank you, Steve Kornacki.

Bernie Sanders, the projected winner in West Virginia, that`s our news tonight. He beat Hillary Clinton.

Much more ahead tonight.


MATTHEWS: Well, the news this hour, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is the projected winner in the state of West Virginia. On the Republican side, presumptive nominee Donald Trump wins the state as well.

This special edition of HARDBALL is back after this.


MATTHEWS: Well, Bernie Sanders is now the projected winner of the West Virginia Democratic primary.

Let`s bring in Republican strategist Steve Schmidt. We`re getting a lot of interpretation thanks to Steve Kornacki here about West Virginia being, although it was tonight and it will be in the headlines tomorrow, Bernie Sanders country it is. If you go into the internals there, it`s going to be Trump`s country. He`s going to get a lot of Democratic votes, maybe a quarter of them, maybe a third.

STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: West Virginia used to be a reliable Democratic state.


SCHMIDT: It`s transitioned to become a monolithic Republican state, in terms of the outcome of a presidential race over the last decade or so. It really represents the change of the DNA, really, of the Democratic coalition away from the working class, blue-collar Democrats of yesteryear, towards the Obama coalition, which is much more left, much more urban, much more liberal.

And so, Republicans have a chance in some of these states -- Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia -- where you have a lot of Scot-Irish descendents, working-class white Democrats running through the Appalachian mountains in this country.

MATTHEWS: Well said.

Let`s bring in the Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, MSNBC political commentator and "Washington Post" columnist Eugene Robinson, and Luciana Lopez.

You know, that`s an interesting thing and I thought it`s interesting. I`ve been working on this project about the early elections in the `50s and `60s, the Kennedy races. And I have to tell you, back then, being a Democrat was great. You talked about unemployment, you talked about jobs, putting people to work, you talked about minimum wage, you talked about Medicare. Now you`ve got to talk about guns, which people don`t want to hear. You talk about how coal is bad for the country and bad for the world. You got to talk about same-sex in a part of the country that isn`t keen on that cultural stuff.


MATTHEWS: Abortion. So, all of a sudden, you`re talking about things that aren`t really well received. In the old days, a Democrat could just say, poverty here, let`s do something about it.

CONWAY: But the Democratic Party moved to the left. I think it never really had a conversation about where the party was going to go. This is not Bill Clinton`s Democratic Party, Chris. That`s obvious.

The centrist, moderate, Southern governor, Democratic governor, who are those? Where are the blue dog Democrats? Where are --

MATTHEWS: Are you happy about this?

CONWAY: I`m thrilled because I think --

MATTHEWS: I though you would be.

CONWAY: No, I`m thrilled because Hillary Clinton is trying to wage right now, quite unsuccessfully, a two-front war. Bernie`s to her left so she`s moving over there when she can. Donald Trump has vanquished 16 opponents, she can`t vanquish one. So, I think he could pivot to a general election and take her on the next 90 days.

MATTHEWS: Luciana, you`re looking quizzically, as if you`ve never seen anybody like Kellyanne Conway. But you have seen her and she has spoken well.

What do you make of that argument?

LUCIANA LOPEZ, REUTERS: Well, I think a lot of this isn`t necessarily about left versus right, so much as insider versus outsider. So much of Trump`s success is from people who look at politicians, Republican or Democratic Party, and say, what have you done for me lately? By lately I mean 20 or 30 years.

That`s why they`re going to Trump. I don`t think it`s necessarily left versus right in this election, I think there are more ways to look at things.

MATTHEWS: What do you think of the next Democratic senator from West Virginia is going to be?



CONWAY: That person`s not born yet. It will be a long time.

MATTHEWS: Gene, I want to talk about the culture of West Virginia, talking about it tonight. The results are in, Trump looks good, Bernie looks good, Hillary doesn`t.

ROBINSON: No, look, a candidate like Joe Manchin can win in West Virginia. That`s the sort of prototypical West Virginian Democrat. He has to be centrist.

CONWAY: Likes coal miners.

ROBINSON: Right, you can`t say such nasty things about coal. You know, as I said earlier in the last hour, I mean, it`s not the Democratic Party that`s putting coal out of business. It`s not Hillary Clinton. It`s natural gas and fracking and large economic trends.

But it`s the Democrats who were in part paying the price.

MATTHEWS: I know. The same with trade and everything, it always is the party that has these positions.

Anyway, thank you, Steve Schmidt, wherever you are, Kellyanne Conway, as always, Eugene Robinson, Luciana Lopez. Thank you. I wish we have more time. But we don`t.

And once again, the news tonight is that Bernie Sanders is the projected winner of West Virginia. He`s going to get the headlines tomorrow. More wins for him, more crowds, more money -- 27 bucks a person. You know, he`s doing it, he`s still in this thing.

You`re watching a special edition of HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, it`s a victory in West Virginia tonight for both Senator Bernie Sanders and for Donald Trump, a loss for Hillary Clinton.

And that does it for me and HARDBALL.

MSNBC will bring you complete election coverage throughout the night tonight.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES", as always, starts right now.