Show: HARDBALL Date: June 21, 2016 Guest: Nicholas Confessore, Amy Klobuchar, Alice Stewart, Michelle Goldberg, Tara Dowdell
STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Campaign in crisis?
Let`s play HARDBALL.
And good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews.
Tonight, is the Trump campaign in crisis? Yesterday, Trump fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, a slew of new polls shows him falling behind Hillary Clinton anywhere from 5 to 8 points nationally, and today, we`re learning just how far behind Trump is in terms of money.
According to Federal Election Commission filings, Trump started the month with just $1.3 million cash on hand. Compare that to Clinton. She`s got $42.5 million, a huge gap there. Trump has fewer than 70 paid staff total. Clinton has 10 times that number. And as NBC reported earlier this week, Trump has spent zero dollars, no money, not a single cent in battleground states. Clinton meanwhile, and her allies, they`ve poured in over $20 million.
Today, Trump downplayed concerns about his finances.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I understand money better than anybody. I understand it far better than Hillary, and I`m way up on the economy when it comes to questions on the economy.
But we have a party that -- I mean, I`m having more difficulty, frankly, with some of the people in the party than I am with the Democrats because they`re just -- they don`t want to come on. They will probably eventually come on.
Honestly, if they don`t, it`s just fine. I can win it either way.
If it gets to a point, what I`ll do is just do what I did in the primaries. I spent $55 million of my own money to win the primaries, $55 million. Now, you know, that`s a lot of money, I mean, by even any standard. I may do that in again in the general election.
MATT LAUER, "TODAY" CO-HOST: You just said...
TRUMP: Excuse me, Matt. I have a lot of cash, and I may do it again in the general election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was Donald Trump on the "TODAY" show this morning, "The New York Times" Nick Confessore writing today, "Donald Trump enters the general election campaign laboring under the worst financial and organizational disadvantage of any major party nominee in recent history, placing his candidacy and his party in political peril."
Nick Confessore joins me now. Also with us from Washington, D.C., former RNC chairman Michael Steele. He`s also an MSNBC political analyst.
So Nick, you wrote the story. You looked at the numbers. You say Donald Trump is in the worst shape financially and organizationally of anyone who`s come through this process, this primary process.
What does it mean? Paint a picture of what we`re looking at. What does this mean?
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, "NEW YORK TIMES": It`s not a campaign right now, Steve. It`s more like a traveling production of "Hamilton," right? It`s a crew to run the stage. It`s some people back home to run the accounts. He doesn`t have people on the ground in these states. He doesn`t have offices in places like Nevada and New Hampshire.
He is way, way, way behind. He has the amount of money that you would normally see in the accounts of a competitive race for the House of Representatives, not the White House.
KORNACKI: So what -- this is a guy who is -- I mean, we see the mega- rallies. What, he pays to rent out an arena. He pays to get himself down there. That`s what he needs the money for. He gives a speech, and that`s basically what this campaign is, what we see on TV?
CONFESSORE: Exactly. Exactly. I mean, his rallies are his campaign. And look, it got him through the primary, right? He got this free media, earned media, from coverage of those rallies. He had a message that penetrated, that got through all the bubble that crowded out, you know, dozen contenders. I`m not sure it`s going to work in a general election against a single candidate who has plenty of money of her own.
KORNACKI: Yes, so what about that, Michael Steele? Look, Donald Trump -- you know, look at numbers and you say this is not -- this is not supposed to be what you`re able to compete with in a general election. Then again, he just went through the primary process doing this and winning.
How do you look at it?
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think I look at it in both ways. I mean, I really appreciate what Nick spelled out in his piece tonight. I think he`s right on. I think it`s more of a problem for the party than for Donald Trump, in some respects.
You know, if this were any other candidate, this would be, Oh, my God, hair on fire time for the campaign. But it`s not any other candidate. It is Donald Trump, and he has done this very differently.
Donald Trump is sitting there, and he`s thinking to himself, I`ve spent the least amount of money to get where I am. And even after the worst four weeks that I could possible have, I`m still only down, by the most, 8 points. And oh, by the way, on the economy, I`m ahead of her.
So his logic in looking at this is not in the same space that traditional political operatives and campaign officials and personnel would be. I mean, he`s looking at this through a very different lens.
And the question for the party is, how do you kind of marry up the two, where you can put in place those underpinnings of traditional structures because you`re going to need that for the Senate races. You`re going to need that for the down-ballot races. And more importantly, you`re going to need that to raise the bigger money for the party to be effective, while at the same time Trump be as much as what he`s been doing as before.
KORNACKI: Nick, let me ask you about that because I`ve been wondering about this because I think if we a had this conversation a year ago, all the experts would say -- if you described the campaign that Donald Trump was about to run for the next year, all the experts would say there`s no way you can win the Republican nomination running this kind of campaign. He went out there and he did it.
What Michael is saying -- has Donald Trump exposed sort of the -- we sit here and repeat all the time, you need money for voter outreach, you need money to sort of, you know, get people to the polls, organizationally. Is that overrated?
CONFESSORE: It could be, but I don`t think it is. Here`s why. Look, right now, he is polling close to the natural floor for a Republican presidential nominee. If you get in the race and get the nomination, that 45 percent of the vote is yours.
It`s the next 5 percent that`s hard to get. It`s expensive to get. It`s not a bunch of primary voters who are highly motivated, who are paying attention, who are engaged in the battle for the soul of their party. It`s regular voters and different voters, people who might vote in November. It costs a lot of money to find them, persuade them, turn them out. It costs hundreds of millions of dollars to do well, and right now, he does not have it.
KORNACKI: All right. Well, meanwhile, the campaign to dump Trump at the Republican convention next month seems to be gaining at least a little bit of traction. According to "The Washington Post," nearly 400 delegates have now signed on.
One of the movements leaders, Kendall Unruh, a delegate from Colorado, warning of a week of turmoil in Cleveland, saying, quote, "Short term, yes, there`s going to be chaos. Long time, this saves the party and we win the election. Everything has to go through birthing pains to birth something great. We`re going to go through the trauma of the birthing pains, but the reward will be worth it."
And today, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker said he agreed with allowing delegates to vote their conscience at the convention. According to the AP, Walker said, quote, "I think, historically, not just this year, delegates are and should be able to vote the way they see fit."
And a new CNN poll shows many Republicans may agree with that. Among Republican and Republican-leaning voters, 51 percent say they would prefer to see Trump remain the candidate, 48 percent say they want someone else.
So Michael Steele, this is...
KORNACKI: I hear you laughing there. Let`s just lay out what they`re trying to pull off here, though.
STEELE: Oh, Lord have mercy.
KORNACKI: What they`re saying is -- they`re saying the delegates right now are bound to vote for Trump. Some are still bound to vote for Cruz. They`re saying, Change the rules. Let the delegates show up...
STEELE: Ain`t happening.
KORNACKI: ... and vote for every name they want. Not a chance, you`re saying.
STEELE: Are they high? I mean, seriously, stop it. Just stop it. Look, if the -- if 48 percent of them want someone else, then give us that someone else. They can`t even agree on who that someone else is.
So let`s just focus on putting on the best possible convention we can to elevate Donald Trump to a competitive position to win this November.
Having said that, the RNC, Reince Priebus, the leadership of the party, the last thing they need is a revolt among delegates on the floor during that week. This idea that there may be chaos in the beginning, but we`ll all rally around and win in November -- what are you smoking? That`s not how this plays out.
Donald -- you think Donald Trump is just going to sit by and let you do this? You think he`s just going to let his -- his delegates are going to sit there and go, OK, go ahead, take the nomination away from the guy who`s gotten the most electoral -- votes than any other Republican in the history of the party?
The reality check has already been done. This is where we are. Now the question is, how do we support the party, how do we support the nominee and how do we get this train out of stalled position it`s in and moving forward to victory this fall? That is going to be hard enough without all the other crazy added on top of it.
KORNACKI: Well, and Nick, and even if Michael`s right, and I think he is - - I don`t think this probably has much of a chance of working, but the potential there for the people who want to still stop Donald Trump, still make it difficult for him, to mar that week in Cleveland for the party. That seems real enough.
CONFESSORE: Look, the obstacles are not technical or legal, right? It`s political, right? The Rules Committee could come out there on the first day of meeting and change the rules and unbind the delegates. They could do all kinds of things, if they want to.
I do think that as the weaknesses of the campaign become apparent and if they failed to be fixed, there is more and more imperative to reconsider Trump. I don`t think it`s likely, but these are delegates for the Republican Party. These are not necessarily Trump loyalists or Trump boosters. They have not signed a suicide pact with Donald Trump. What they want is a winning candidate.
KORNACKI: Who could it -- who could it be? Because, I mean, that was what...
KORNACKI: That was what tripped up the "never Trump" movement in the primaries. They didn`t have...
STEELE: Who`s that person?
CONFESSORE: I agree with you. Look, the hard part of "never Trump" is never Trump or never any candidate doesn`t really work unless there`s an alternative -- you know, pro a candidate. Who is the alternative person who steps in? And they tried to do that, and it`s always failed. And I think they have to have a pol to rally around. It`s got to be a person.
KORNACKI: ... hey, if you`re in this congressional district, vote for Kasich. If you`re in that one, vote for Cruz. If you`re in a third one...
KORNACKI: ... you know, put a weird sign on the ballot.
KORNACKI: I mean, it made no sense.
STEELE: It made no -- and it still makes no sense. And so if this person exists, whoever they happen to be, why don`t we hear themselves? Why don`t we hear their voice right now articulating out there in the desert, the political desert, for all to come and follow them? That person doesn`t exist because that person, A, can`t defeat Trump on the floor at the convention, and B, likely will not defeat Hillary Clinton in November.
KORNACKI: But what about -- Michael, the point Nick`s making, though -- if Donald Trump starts to look stronger, if the polls start fighting (ph) before the convention, yes, I`m sure that`s going to bring about a lot more unity. But what if (INAUDIBLE) replacing Cleveland? And what if they`re a couple days out, and you got polls showing him getting clobbered still? What`s the mood going to be like at that convention?
STEELE: Well, I think the mood -- the mood is going to be a good mood, if that`s the case. But here`s the rub. And I think this will be interesting to watch, Steve, over the next couple of weeks. The battle between Corey and Paul Manafort was settled. And Donald Trump settled it yesterday.
Donald Trump is clearly making a conscious decision to move his campaign less from the "Let Trump be Trump" mindset into this idea that, I need the structure. I need the organization. I need to be more of a presidential candidate.
That will now be the rest of this campaign. And if he`s successful and the numbers begin to settle, which they possibly very well could, then you`ll hear and see something very different. But it starts and ends with Donald Trump. He started that decision yesterday. Let`s see how it plays out.
KORNACKI: All right. Michael Steele, Nick Confessore, thanks for the time.
And coming up -- on the attack, Hillary Clinton goes on the offensive against Donald Trump on the economy. She`s calling him the king of debt. Can she cripple Trump now before he regains his footing after that campaign shakeup? Or can he withstand the criticism?
And the path to victory. Brand-new numbers from the biggest battleground states showing just how tight the race is in the key swing states, Trump needing to turn blue states red if he wants any chance of winning. I`ll show you how it`s looking for him. There`s a couple of surprises there.
Plus, this Tuesday evening, the HARDBALL roundtable is coming here to tell me something I don`t know. That`s the easiest assignment in the world.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
KORNACKI: There are some new numbers out today on what characteristics Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have in the minds of voters. Let`s take a look. When it comes to who`s a strong and decisive leader, 47 percent say Trump, 43 percent say Hillary Clinton. When it comes to who has the temperament to serve as president, Clinton has a big advantage there, 56 to 32 percent over Trump.
But as to who is more honest and trustworthy, well, Trump is ahead there, 45 to 37 percent.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You might think that because he has spent his life as a businessman, he`d be better prepared to handle the economy. Well, it turns out he`s dangerous there, too. Just like he shouldn`t have his finger on the button, he shouldn`t have his hands on our economy.
When I was working on this speech, I had the same experience I had when I was working on the speech I gave about foreign policy and national security. I`d have my researchers and my speech writers send me information, and then I`d say, Really?
CLINTON: He really said that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Just a few weeks after her tough critique of Donald Trump`s foreign policy, Hillary Clinton is out swinging again. In the all- important swing state of Ohio, Clinton this afternoon torched Trump`s economic plans and his business record.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Liberals and conservatives say Trump`s ideas would be disastrous. The Chamber of Commerce and labor unions, Mitt Romney and Elizabeth Warren, economists on the right and the left and the center, all agree Trump would throw us back into recession. Alexander Hamilton would be rolling in his grave!
Now, maybe Donald feels differently because he made a fortune filing bankruptcies and stiffing his creditors. There is a difference between getting tough on trade and recklessly starting trade wars.
Trump ties are made in China, Trump suits in Mexico, Trump furniture in Turkey, Trump picture frames in India, Trump barware in Slovenia. I`d love for him to explain how all that fits with his talk about America first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And Senator Amy Klobuchar is a Democrat from Minnesota. She supports Hillary Clinton. Senator, thanks for joining us. Well, let me start -- the topic today is the economy. We have a new poll out today, and this jumped out at me. This is in that CNN poll today. The question was asked, Who do you trust more on the economy? And look at this, by an 8- point margin there, Trump 51, Clinton 43.
Does that say more to you about Donald Trump or about Hillary Clinton?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Well, I think, first of all, as you know, Steve, being the math guy that you are, there are, in fact, other polls that we`ve seen, when you look at the pure numbers, Hillary has been gaining. She`s 5, 6 points ahead nationally in a number of polls now.
And I think this is the beginning of this campaign from her perspective. A few weeks ago, foreign policy. She basically tore him apart talking about the things that he was proposing and what would that mean to America`s position in the world. And today, it was the economy.
And because she`s been in a primary, this is the time to lay out her plans, which she`ll be doing tomorrow. But what`s key that she did today, I think she made it clear, $30 trillion in debt he would add to our nation`s debt in just 20 years, how he himself has called himself the king of debt, how he doesn`t even respect the full faith and credit of America. He said he`d negotiate it.
And she even cited Ronald Reagan, who said our reliability and credibility are key to our economy. Then she moved on to his tax policies, you know, more -- who gives more to the top 120,000 than 120 million American.
So she is laying out a clear, clear attack here, which is -- gets to his very credibility. And when you look at those numbers, I it`s important for people to understand how he says he`s going to do to America what he`s done to companies. He`s laid off workers. He`s run companies into the ground. He`s put companies in bankruptcy.
KORNACKI: And, again, yes, you`re correct.
I mean, overall, the polls do show Hillary Clinton leading right now. She`s opened up a pretty steady lead over him in the overall polls. But, again, that question there that I showed was specifically about the economy. I guess I`m curious, when people look at Hillary Clinton, she`s got a pretty long record on the economy at this point; 16 years ago, she got elected to the U.S. Senate.
What does that say when voters are looking at these two candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and, right now, a slight majority are saying, on the economy, Trump is better?
KLOBUCHAR: Again, this is why she got out there today and laid out the criticisms which have been supported, as she points out, by Democratic and Republican economists.
And, again, she`s been in a primary. Now she`s going to lay this out. And when people hear the facts, when they start hearing the numbers, what he`s done to these companies, what he`s done to people that have worked for him, that he`s been involved, as she pointed out today, 3,500 lawsuits in 30 years, his opposition to any kind of immigration reform that I believe would spur innovation that`s made this country great, you look at facts and the facts are on her side.
And I think she did a great job, just as she did with foreign policy, in laying out what a Donald Trump presidency -- most memorable line for me was when she said, he`s been careless in his words, careless in what he`s done. That`s his choice, but now it`s America`s choice about whether they want this guy as president. And when they hear the facts, Americans will respond.
KORNACKI: All right. Amy Klobuchar, senator from Minnesota, supporter of Hillary Clinton, thanks for the time.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
KORNACKI: All right.
And with me now, Harold Ford, who is a political analyst for MSNBC, former Democratic congressman from Tennessee and a visiting professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Policy, and Eugene Robinson is also a political analyst for MSNBC and a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post." Both of those resumes put mine to shame.
So, Harold Ford, let`s start with you. That poll number, that really jumped out at me today, because we have, yes, overall, Hillary Clinton has taken a pretty steady lead in the polls over Donald Trump. I would have assumed, without looking at that poll question today, that she`s winning on the economy, and she`s not.
HAROLD FORD, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It speaks to the anxiety and unrest across the country with voters, Democrat and Republican.
Bernie Sanders` success in the Democratic primary also, you could draw some comparisons. People are looking for something different, something that will shake up the system, that will go after big business in a way to force them to give and to treat middle-class workers and everyday workers and give them a fair shake, treat them better, give them a fair shake.
I thought Ms. Clinton was good today. But I would add one or two things. I think, when you take him out, you also have to lay out what you would do and how you would do it differently.
When you talk about him, you have to talk about the people he`s laid off. I thought the most effective part of Mrs. Clinton`s presentation today was to talk about where he makes all of these products that he sells, that he peddles in America.
Nothing, none of it is made in America. How do you make America great again if everything you`re selling to America is made outside of this country? You call him a hypocrite and you ask him point blank, how can you do this? How can you oust people from their homes during the housing crisis?
How do you not pay people fair wages? How do you lay people off during tough times? When you say all these things, Mr. Trump, about making America great again, how you understand the art of the deal, what you understand is how to make yourself more money.
She`s got to make that point more crisply and then follow up with how she`s going to make our lives better here in the country and how she`s going to empower and raise the wages of middle-class workers across this country.
KORNACKI: And, Eugene, what Harold is describing is basically the playbook from 2012, what the Democrats did to Mitt Romney. They turned his business record against him. They made him look out of touch with the working man.
I wonder, though, when you look at Mitt Romney and you look at Donald Trump and the their basic personality, their basic bearing, very different sort of instinctively appeal I think they have with voters. Does that kind of attack, does it stick against a Donald Trump?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the situations are slightly different.
Romney was Romney. Trump -- when you look at Donald Trump, I think what Hillary Clinton is doing is trying to go at his strength. As you noted from that poll, he`s rated higher than she is on the economy, because people perceive him as at least a good businessman, at least a successful businessman, whatever else he may be, right?
And so she`s going at that strength and trying to turn it into weakness. I think that is probably a smart thing for her to do at this point in the campaign. But I do agree with Harold that at some point, and I think as soon as she can, she also needs to give a more optimistic, forward-looking vision of what she will do with the economy and how she sees the economy developing, and how she sees Americans` lives getting better.
KORNACKI: And what about this idea, Harold, too? We look at these polls. And, yes, she`s ahead right now. Trump has a -- the last few weeks have been the last few weeks from hell for Donald Trump. He`s still only down about five points nationally. We`re not talking about -- this is not Reagan-Mondale yet.
FORD: Look, to Gene`s point, and to what you`re saying, he`s speaking -- he`s an outsider.
He has succeeded in making himself anti-establishment. Here`s a guy who was the establishment. As he said, he`s now running a campaign where not only is he outside of the establishment. He`s trusted, it seems, in some ways as a person who can shake the whole thing up.
So, I think Mrs. Clinton has got to recognize that. I think that some of the things we say against him, and I`m a Democrat, are going to be taken seriously. But there are a number of people out there who say, you know what? I`m willing to shake it all up if that`s him.
You have got to take him apart. And at the same time, I didn`t the use the word -- Gene used the right word. You have got to portray an optimism.
And when you listen to Trump, he doesn`t sound optimistic. He sounds like someone who can shake things up and he`s done things for himself . You have got to make him out to be the person who will only do things to help Donald Trump.
And what you`re going to do is make America better for everyone. And that`s a challenge. I think Mrs. Clinton is certainly up to it, but the rhetoric and the narrative has to be wrapped more around that and has to align itself more than that -- with that, other than just a kind of blind and kind of random attacks on him. He loves that. He`s succeeded. He`s succeeded with that in the primary.
You have to have a coherent, cohesive and strategic way you go after this guy. And today was a good start. But we have got to get a little bit at that.
And, Gene, to more, look, we have had Hillary Clinton go after Donald Trump pretty brutally on foreign policy and the economy today. Tables are going to turn a little bit tomorrow. Sounds like Donald Trump has a big speech. He`s saying he`s going to go right after the Clintons.
And this sort of back and forth, attack vs. attack, is -- that`s a style of campaigning. That`s the only way Trump knows how to campaign. And he`s quite good at it. Look what he did in the primaries.
So, again, she has to do that, but she has to also throw in the twist. She has to frame that optimistic vision and convince Americans that their life will be better with Hillary Clinton as president.
And that`s something Donald Trump can`t do. He`s the angry president, the angry candidate. The optimistic candidate, all other things being equal, ought to win.
FORD: Her husband created 23 million jobs as president. She`s got to show over a period of time how many jobs he`s not created, how many jobs have been lost because of the way that he`s managing.
To your point about 2012, there`s no doubt. The Obama campaign did a splendid, an overwhelmingly splendid job of showing Donald -- I mean showing Mitt Romney to be the kind of businessman that was uncaring to everyday workers.
That`s what you have to do. That`s the kind of connection you have to make I think if you`re Mrs. Clinton. It was a good start today, but it`s got to get sharper and it`s going to get better, because, to Gene`s point, if there`s anyone that understands the back and forth, the attacks in the campaigning who has done well with it, it`s Donald Trump.
That`s not the game we want to play with him. We want to keep him on his heels. And today was a good start, but we have got to do better.
KORNACKI: All right, Harold Ford, Eugene Robinson, thanks for the time.
And still ahead, the Rust Belt battle. Donald Trump wants to run the table in the industrial states, hoping to turn some longtime blue bastions red. We are going to show you where he stands in those key battlegrounds.
This is coming up next.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening.
U.S. officials confirm North Korea tried to launch a medium-range missile. Indications are that it failed. It is not the North`s first attempt.
Thousands of firefighters are battling 20 large blazes burning across the Southwestern U.S. Nearly 800 homes have been evacuated outside of Los Angeles, where two wildfires merged into one.
And searing heat continues to bake the region, where dangerously high temperatures remain mired in the triple digits -- back to HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: All right. And welcome back to HARDBALL.
So, we have talked about what a rough few weeks it`s been for Donald Trump`s campaign, the big shakeup yesterday. The campaign manager out. New leadership now taking charge in that campaign.
So, what`s the damage?
Well, let`s go and take a look at three key battleground states. And before I show you the numbers, brand-new numbers to tell you about, let`s put this in perspective. If you took the 2012 electoral map, Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney, and you started out where it finished in 2012, if Barack Obama -- excuse me -- if Donald Trump could win Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida this year, and everything else stays the same from four years ago, that would be enough. He would be president.
So, with that in mind, let`s check in on those three states. It`s good news, bad news for Trump. We`re going to give you the bad news for Trump first. It`s very bad news. Look at this. The state of Florida, new Quinnipiac poll out there today, Hillary Clinton opening up an eight-point lead.
This is a state that Barack Obama barely carried four years ago. The margin was about a point. It`s exploded to eight points. So, if you want to say it`s been a bad few weeks for Donald Trump, how bad? Your answer is Florida. He`s now close to 10 points behind in an absolutely huge, pretty must-win state for him.
At the same time, though, remember, we said Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio. Well, those two industrial states there, look at this, Ohio still dead even, Clinton 40, Trump 40 in this new Quinnipiac poll. Again, Barack Obama won this state narrowly in both 2012 and in 2008. It had gone Republican before that.
And look in Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton clinging to a one-point lead there, 42-41 over Trump. There is some good news, some encouraging news for Trump, despite all of the terrible headlines, self-inflicted wounds over the last few weeks. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, at least in the Quinnipiac poll, he is competitive right now.
But the bad news for Trump, he has fallen far behind in Florida, Florida with a big, big number of electoral votes there. That`s a state he dearly needs if he`s going to hit 270.
Some battleground polling updates for you today.
And now let`s bring in our panel to talk more about this.
And joining me, we have MSNBC political editor Beth Fouhy, and Jonathan Alter, an MSNBC political analyst and columnist for The Daily Beast, as I continue to complete my sprint. That was supposed to be more seamless.
That could have gone worse.
So, Beth, good news, bad news for Trump. Look, the Florida numbers are really, really bad for him. At the same time, you look in the Industrial Midwest, and you say he`s got some chances there.
BETH FOUHY, SENIOR EDITOR, MSNBC.COM: Well, it`s really his only chance.
Let`s face it. We know that he`s done best among voters who are blue- collar, struggling economically. So, that`s his base. He has got to do well there. And if he`s even sort of seeing a softening of that support in those places, it really is hard to see how he gets to 270, particularly with that bad number out of Florida that you pointed to.
Jonathan, it`s funny. Like, every four years, you have kind of got to wait until the day after the election to find out what the big story of the election was. But when I look at numbers like that, look, it`s one poll. Maybe we will see other numbers that tell a different story.
But I start to say, different parts of the country may be reacting very differently to these candidates in this campaign than they have in the past.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
Trump`s base is actually in the South. The solid Republican South is holding. The industrial Midwest and Pennsylvania is where he wins the election. This is a wakeup call for Democrats, who in the last few weeks, because Trump has been doing so badly, have been getting pretty confident that Hillary is going to win.
This is very likely to be a close election. We will probably look back on June as the low point for Trump. If he picks a good running mate, has a successful convention, he`s going to be very competitive in the fall.
The fact that after the weeks he`s had, the beating that he`s taken, that he`s even in this very reputable poll in Ohio and Pennsylvania is very significant.
KORNACKI: And, Beth, what about the idea here that the Trump campaign -- we have heard this so many times, the pivot. It`s a cliche to say it.
KORNACKI: But it was interesting today. After that shakeup yesterday, after Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager, was out, Hillary Clinton gives this major speech today going hard after Trump.
The Trump campaign responded today like a major general election campaign would, something we haven`t seen before.
FOUHY: Right. Yes, they actually put out some opposition research against her.
But think about the things we didn`t see. We didn`t see a whole raft of surrogates going on TV, out on Twitter to talk about the speech. You have Amy Klobuchar here on your show talking about how great Hillary did.
We don`t ever see that with Trump. He doesn`t have the similar sort of apparatus out there to go and like reinforce the message. So, we will see tomorrow. Steve, we`re going to see him do this big speech about Hillary Clinton. He advertises on Twitter today.
The question is whether it`s going to be debunking her or policies, or is he going to call Bill Clinton a rapist? I mean, that`s where we`re going to see whether the pivot is actually holding, whether he`s going to run a more professional operation, whether he`s going to temper his dialogue a little bit, or if he`s going to be the Trump that we have always known, where he`s actually gone after Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton on personal issues, not on policy.
KORNACKI: What are you looking for tomorrow in this Trump speech?
ALTER: Oh, I think he will go right at the Clintons.
He`s indicated that. I would be amazed if he doesn`t use crooked Hillary in a lot of his lines about her. That`s red meat for his base. The people who are for him are showing no signs of being peeled off of him.
He can basically say anything, and they are sticking with him. The question is whether he can grow, grow that base. And the way for him to do that is twofold, to keep the heat on the Clintons, and he will go personal, and also to exploit this lead he has on the economy, because a lot of voters are responding, hey, Donald Trump, he creates jobs.
For all of his problems, maybe he`s not as rich as he says, maybe he`s been bankrupt, he creates jobs. Hillary Clinton has not. She started today to go back at that. But I`m not sure that there was a clear takeaway from that speech. She laid kind of a template. Now she has to drill in with very specific things.
For instance, Trump is on record saying that -- quote -- "Wages are too high."
By the end of this campaign, the Clinton folks needs to make sure that every single voter knows that Donald Trump says that. They have to say that like 1,000 times between now and the election with their paid media, their free media. They`re not quite focused enough yet.
KORNACKI: Right. OK.
Jonathan Alter, Beth Fouhy, thanks, as always.
Made the trip over here, didn`t fall off stage. I liked it.
Anyway, coming up, back to our big story of the night, Clinton on the attack, Trump`s campaign going for an overhaul. The roundtable is coming here. They are not.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: She`s getting her money from the Wall Street guys and all the special interests. And I really don`t -- I`ll be honest, you know, I`ve never raised money before for this because I`ve never done it before. I think I would be very good at it.
As far as I`m concerned, I`d be very happy to continue to self-fund. You know, I have --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to continue to self-fund?
TRUMP: I may.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Donald Trump on ABC News this evening, talking about the possibility of self funding his campaign through November. Now, for his part, Trump is trying to hit the reset button on his campaign after that major shake up yesterday. In an effort to short up support with evangelical voters today, Trump told a group of faith leaders that Clinton`s religious faith deserves more scrutiny.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We don`t know about Hillary in terms of religion. She`s been in the public eye for years and years, and yet, there`s no -- there`s nothing out there. There`s like nothing out there. It`s going to be an extension of Obama but it`s going to be worse because with Obama, you had your guard up. With Hillary, you don`t. It`s going to be worse.
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KORNACKI: I`m joined by the roundtable. Alice Stewart is a Republican strategist, formerly with the Cruz campaign. She attended that Trump meeting we were showing you earlier today. Michelle Goldberg is a columnist with "Slate". Tara Dowdell is a Democratic strategist and a former contestant on "The Apprentice". That show suddenly did very well into this campaign.
KORNACKI: Alice, start, you`re there today. We just played that clip. That`s getting a lot of attention. Nobody is quite clear where this came from or exactly what he wants. But it sounds like he`s calling into question Hillary Clinton`s faith.
How did you hear that? How did you read that moment?
ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I will say, I think it`s not proper in any context to question other person`s faith. We don`t know what`s in their heart. But let me just tell you this -- the meeting today he had with a thousands evangelicals was the perfect step for him to take in terms of securing that vote. He spoke from his heart. They needed to see the man, who Donald Trump is.
KORNACKI: Was he talking about his own faith?
STEWART: He talked about the importance of supporting Israel. He talked about his commitment to nominating conservative Supreme Court justices. He talked about the need to protect civil liberties. And that`s important. And a key takeaway, a lot of those people in that room, they will vote for him.
But in terms of right now, in terms of showing their full support, they have more leverage by with holding their full support of their congregations or their organizations by making sure that Donald Trump follows through what he`s saying now and that`s what we -- the takeaway was today. Those people will vote for him. The key now is for Donald Trump to continue making strides like he made today and confirming that what he is saying today, he will do as president. He really great progress on that front.
KORNACKI: What about you? How did you walk into that room and how did you walk out?
STEWART: Well, he has similar speech last week, Faith & Freedom, in Washington, where he talked about his commitment to protecting religious liberty, life, marriage as well issues that are important like Supreme Court justices.
And the key is, these are things now that he`s saying. He needs to follow through and as we move further down the general election calendar, there needs to be reassurance that that`s exactly what he`s going to do. He`s going to do what he say he`s going to do and follow through with that.
And he`s making the right steps. These were things that I wanted to see as a conservative. And the people in that room need to see it.
And the key right now, he knows they will support him but in terms of knocking on doors, making phone calls, they need to see more of what they saw today. And he made great strides.
KORNACKI: And, Michelle, we can see these in the polls. He`s winning the evangelical vote right now. Republicans are supposed to. The question is, does he get close to 80 percent or is he stuck down in the high 60s?
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, SLATE: He`s winning I think really disaffiliated evangelicals, which are not necessarily the people who are connected to the congregations run by the people who are in that room today, right? He`s winning a lot of people for whom being born again or evangelical is a cultural marker, but who don`t have a lot of deep ties to the churches and certainly don`t have deep ties to the traditional Christian right which overwhelmingly lined up behind Ted Cruz.
You know, a lot of the rise of Donald Trump has shown that religious right, which was such a powerful force in our politics ever since Ronald Reagan has really lost a lot of its influence and is now in a somewhat kind of abject position vis-a-vis, Donald Trump, right?
KORNACKI: What do you think? You`re talking about that division there, the sort of rank and file you`re talking about, cultural evangelicals. What --
GOLDBERG: But I`m not talking about the rank and file. I`m talking about people who would say they are evangelical again for whom that`s kind of a marker of cultural conservatism but who maybe don`t go do church, you know, or who go to church a couple of -- you know, every other month or something.
KORNACKI: What are they hearing from him that do you think these leaders aren`t?
GOLDBERG: Well, I think that for a lot of people, for them, evangelical is just kind of a proxy for a broader conservative identity. Whereas for the people for whom, you know, who have kind of a very intense theological, you know, kind of theological background, those people overwhelmingly lined up behind Ted Cruz. They are grudgingly going over to Donald Trump.
But, I mean, think about what he said at this meeting today. He basically told them, don`t pray for your leaders, which is -- you know, an injunction to the New Testament to pray for your leaders. He said basically, defy the bible and instead focus on my aggrandizement, right? He said, don`t pray for your leaders, instead, pray for me to get elected. That is such a profoundly unbiblical statement and the fact that they`re not really in any position to withhold their support because, you know, they hate Hillary Clinton that much.
That like I said, it`s how abject, the rise of Donald Trump has left the leaders of the old religious right.
KORNACKI: Tara, you have seen him up close and personal in way that none of us have. Putting, imagining him talking to a skeptical audience. How is he trying to make the sale on a room like that?
TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, clearly, he was trying to distract from his own personal religious affiliation because there`s no personal religious affiliation, which is why he spent a lot of time talking about Hillary Clinton versus talking about himself personally. He cannot quote scripture. In the time that I spent on "The Apprentice", there was never any, I pray -- I prayed -- some of my cast mates, we prayed together. Donald Trump was never part of any of that because this is not true to who he is.
So, he has to talk about, you laid out a laundry list of the things that he talked about and they were all policy prescriptions that he`s saying he`s going to back. But none of them were personal because when he did try to speak personally, he said Two Corinthians.
So, I think that he was probably prepped and scripted and he stayed and talked about what he could talk about, not anything personal because it`s not there.
KORNACKI: All right. We`ve got to squeeze in a break, but the roundtable stay in here. We`re going to pick this up when we come back.
We`re also going to look at the convention fever -- people coming down with cases of that these days. That`s ahead. Preparations underway for both the Democratic and Republican conventions. Could we see some star power this year like we`ve never seen before?
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
KORNACKI: Hillary Clinton went after Donald Trump on his economic plan and business record today. Now, he`s responded. Here he was on ABC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Clinton said of you just today that just like he shouldn`t have his finger on the button, he shouldn`t have his hands on our economy. Were you watching?
TRUMP: I was not watching. I heard what she said. I built a great, great company. It`s worth tens -- I mean, it`s just a very, very valuable company, some of the greatest assets in the world, including with what we`re sitting on right here.
She has a bad temperament. She would do so badly with the economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And HARDBALL is back after this.
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KORNACKI: We`re back. No you don`t need to adjust your TV. We just took a quick trip back to time to watch the cast of the blockbuster musical "Rent" perform at Bill Clinton`s second nomination, the 1996 Democratic Convention.
This year in Philadelphia, Democrats looking to do the same thing. "Politico" reports Democratic operatives have reached out to "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda to see if he would perform for their convention, according to political only one of A-list celebrities the DNC has reach out to do jazz up their week in Philly. The Democratic convention kicks off three days after the Republicans wrap up in Cleveland, an event Donald Trump has promised will deliver a more showbiz feel than in years past.
The roundtable`s back with us -- Alice, Michelle, Tara.
This is a quadrennial dilemma, right? They get three, four nights of television. There`s no real drama at these conventions anymore.
DOWDELL: We don`t know about this year.
KORNACKI: Yes -- well, for the Democrats, let`s take the Democrats here. Bernie Sanders and his folks show and up want to stir up trouble, maybe that. Chances are not going to be that dramatic. So, what do they do?
DOWDELL: Well, I think "Hamilton" a great start, I hope it happens, I`m psyched. So, I think that, you know, first of all, from just a pure effective standpoint, I would like to see Hillary Clinton show a little bit more of Hillary Clinton, who she really is.
I`d like to see her take the stage and just take a little bit of -- just kind of step out of a little bit of the script.
KORNACKI: People have been saying this for about 20 years.
DOWDELL: I know. But let me say this. If you`re going to do it, this is the election cycle to do it. I`d like to see her take some big risks at this convention.
KORNACKI: What do you think?
STEWART: I think clearly, by all accounts, Donald Trump has made it clear that it`s going to be an entertaining Republican National Convention. If Hillary wanted to delay the suspense, announce her V.P pick at the convention, that would help generate some enthusiasm.
She certainly has access to more folks in Hollywood that would help entertain. My suggestion, bring Larry David in, and he can be Bernie Sanders and give a speech to a chair like Clinton Eastwood. I mean, there`s many things that can happen.
GOLDBERG: The thing for Trump is who`s he going to get? He can get Kid Rock, right? I mean, there are very few -- there`s certainly very few A- list musicians who want to be within 100 feet of Donald Trump.
KORNACKI: He was saying he`s got these older sports figures who`ve come out and endorsed him, Bobby Knight. He said he was talking about having a sports night, a winners night. So, that might be what he goes for.
GOLDBERG: Get a bunch of aging, retired sports figures. We`ll see how well that does.
DOWDELL: Donald Trump is going to be the star of his own convention. There`s no way he`s taking a back seat.
KORNACKI: I`m curious. I`m in and out sure what it will be. There is a curiosity fact with what the heck will Donald Trump`s convention look like.
STEWART: And the fact that we`ll find out the V.P. pick at the convention, it will add a little drama.
KORNACKI: All right. Well, thanks to my roundtable, Alice Stewart, Michelle Goldberg, Tara Dowdell.
HARDBALL is back right after this.
KORNACKI: All right. My thanks again to the HARDBALL roundtable for their time tonight. Unfortunately, we were out of time for their "tell me something I don`t know" reveals. They told me off-air, though. They were pretty good. But we`ll get to them on-air next time.
That does it for me and HARDBALL tonight. Thanks for being with us.
My colleague Chris Hayes picks things up right now on "ALL IN."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END