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Hardball With Chris Matthews, Transcript 8/5/2016

Guests: Cornell Belcher, Ed Goeas, Colleen McCain Nelson, Francesca Chambers, Valerie Plame, Gary Johnson, Bill Weld

Show: HARDBALL Date: August 5, 2016 Guest: Cornell Belcher, Ed Goeas, Colleen McCain Nelson, Francesca Chambers, Valerie Plame, Gary Johnson, Bill Weld


Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Hillary Clinton was endorsed today by a veteran national security official, but it was the language he used describing her opponent, Donald Trump, that`s most shocking. Michael Morell, the former acting CIA director, praised Clinton as highly qualified for the presidency. His other reason for backing her is what he called his alarm over the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency.

Morell said Trump is not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security. Morell went on to suggest that Vladimir Putin sees Trump as exploitable. Quote, "In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation," close quote.

Well, pointing to Trump`s temperament has become a major theme of the Democrats this year.


HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons!

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I think the Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president. I said so last week, and he keeps on proving it. I think I was right and Mitt Romney and John McCain were wrong on certain policy issues, but I never thought that they couldn`t do the job.


MATTHEWS: Well, today the Clinton campaign debuted a new ad quoting conservative critics of Trump. The message -- Trump is too dangerous to be president.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he governs consistent with some of the things he said as a candidate, I would be very frightened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s been talking about the option of using a nuclear weapon against our Western European allies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not somebody who should be handed the nuclear codes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to ask yourself, Do I want a person of that temperament in control of the nuclear codes? And as of now, I have to say no.


MATTHEWS: Well, NBC`s Hallie Jackson`s in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where Trump is expected to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan tonight. I`m also joined by Republican strategist and MSNBC analyst Mike Murphy and Valerie Plame, a former covert CIA officer, who`s a surrogate now for Hillary Clinton.

Valerie, thank you for coming on tonight. I guess I want you to just take the time now to talk about...

VALERIE PLAME, FMR. COVERT CIA OFFICER: Thanks for having me, Chris.

MATTHEWS: ... the issue of nuclear weapons and how the president of the United States has the nuclear football, the codes for using -- to deciding on whether to launch those missiles, which hasn`t been done since the days of Harry Truman when we had the two bombs over Japan.

What do you think about Trump as a commander-in-chief in the nuclear age?

PLAME: The notion of Donald Trump having his fingers on the nuclear button is absolutely terrifying. It`s August now, people are at the beach, but I think they are sort of seeing this through the clouds of their vacation.

His temperament simply is not up to it. As has been said, he`s a man who is provoked by 140 characters. That is not the sort of temperament you need.

You have about 12 minutes when you -- as the president, when you are warned that there`s a possibility of an incoming nuclear attack. Within that time, you have to determine if it`s accurate and how to respond. Do you absorb the first attack or do you launch on warning, is what it`s called, which is you immediately give the signal and our nuclear weapons arsenal is launched?

And Trump time and again on this issue and so many others has shown not only his ignorance but his rashness.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he has an itchy trigger finger?

PLAME: I think he hasn`t really thought much about it, Chris. He sort of answers on the fly. In an old interview, he said he learned -- he could learn everything he needs to know about the whole -- our whole nuclear posture in an hour. So there -- you know, he`s such a good negotiator.

And I -- he has said so many things, you never know what his statement is, except that maybe it`s kind of true in his head at that moment. They include, as I think in your interview, that he said first of all, Well, you know, sort of, so what if other nations get nuclear weapons. I think he was referring to Japan. He didn`t take off the table the idea of using nuclear weapons in Europe.

It is very important for the president to be very careful of how they speak about either the use or non-use of nuclear weapons. He clearly thinks he`s smarter than anybody else, including Vladimir Putin. And I agree with Morell`s assessment that he is, in fact, an unrecruited asset of Putin. Putin is far craftier than he is and is obviously manipulating Trump for his own purposes.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about something we all wonder about occasionally. We know the president carries the codes with him, that it`s called the nuclear -- football. Can he declare a launch just by his own say-so?


MATTHEWS: He can. And if, the secretary of defense says no, what happens then?


MATTHEWS: What happens?

PLAME: Well, you know, of course, the Constitution says, as you know, that only Congress has the power to declare war, but there`s no question that the president and the president alone has this incredible responsibility of declaring nuclear war.

There have been cases, notably when Nixon in the waning days of Watergate, when I guess he was drinking a little too heavily, that the secretary of defense and secretary of state sort of quietly put out the word to the nuclear command control that, you know, the orders needed to go through them first.

It`s not very clear. It`s not made public exactly how that goes. But the possibility of an accident is already so high. Do you want to put it in the hands of someone like Donald Trump?

MATTHEWS: Well, this afternoon, Donald Trump tried to flip the script, you might say. He called Hillary Clinton unhinged and unfit to be president. Let`s watch.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Unstable, Hillary Clinton lacks the judgment, temperament and moral character to lead this country.

She`s a dangerous liar! She`s really pretty close to unhinged. And you`ve seen it. You`ve seen it a couple of times. But people in the background know it. The people that know her know it. And she`s, like, an unbalanced person.

Hillary`s central role in making Iran the dominant Islamic power that they are today in the Middle East proves that she is totally unfit to lead.


MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Hallie Jackson. Now, Hallie, it looks to me like operationally there, he`s translating from some other language. Who`s reading him those words? I mean, he has words like "unhinged" on a card in front of him. He`s got words like "unfit," and he`s looking down and reading them, trying to get -- so somebody in that campaign has decided to...


MATTHEWS: ... script him with this, you know, tit for tat, if you will, with Hillary. Your thoughts. Why is he doing this, and who`s telling him to read that script?

JACKSON: Well, look, first of all, look at the language. Chris, you`re talking about the language that he`s using. It`s language that the Democrats use against Donald Trump.


JACKSON: So it`s a bit of the "I`m rubber, you`re glue" defense. And for Trump, he apparently believes that this is going to be an effective line of attack.

But I`ll tell you something. It is more disciplined than we have seen with him. He comes out on stage, and instead of talking about polls or the latest media narrative, he is hitting Hillary Clinton and he is hitting President Obama.

He also called, by the way, Clinton the "queen of corruption." You know whose words those were, Chris?


JACKSON: Maine governor Paul LePage, who said it at his rally yesterday. Donald Trump liked it, said it caught his imagination. And look, he`s unveiling this today.

I bring up LePage because LePage said this week that he had a talk with Donald Trump about being more disciplined. Coming from Paul LePage, that`s kind of interesting. But I do think it shows that Trump knows he needs to be more on message.

And I will tell you this. He is telling his top advisers, Donald Trump, not only, A, that he knows what he`s doing, that B, he knows what he has to do, and that is continue to go after Clinton and make sure that the spotlight stays on her. I think that that is what you are going to see tonight here in Green Bay.

After this, what we expect is an endorsement of Paul Ryan, which is also significant for Trump. It is a backtrack for him. That is something that we rarely see from this candidate.

MATTHEWS: Mike Murphy, I can`t wait to hear from you, but I just want to presage what you say. This is like -- when you bring wild ideas from LePage to Trump, you`re sort of hauling coal to Newcastle, as the Brits would say!


MATTHEWS: There`s plenty of wild ideas already. He`s stocking up on them from LePage! This is really a wild week.

What do you make of this? Because you know -- you once said to me -- I asked you, what was the heart of darkness about this guy, what is the real reason you won`t back him, and you said his absolute ignorance of foreign policy. Go on.

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. No, look, I`m no Trump defender, and I can`t vote for him. I don`t think he has the judgment or the training to be commander-in-chief. And the way he`s, like, you know, out shopping for crazy things to say, like it`s open mic night or something, is a troubling sign.

That said, I think we`re going a little too far on the nuclear button stuff. I don`t think Trump would be madly jabbing at the desk, trying to launch our deterrent. I think it`s a more everyday problem that he does not understand foreign policy and his impulsive "fly by the seat of his pants" style...


MURPHY: ... could get him into all kinds of foreign policy trouble. He`s already been the first president in decades to try to destabilize the NATO alliance, which is one of the foundations...


MURPHY: ... of our whole strategy. And I don`t think he understands nuclear deterrence, which is all about the threat of nuclear weapons, rather than the use of them. So you know...

MATTHEWS: Yes. They`re not like cinderblocks or building materials. You don`t have to use them to have an effect.

Look, back in March, guys, I asked Trump about using nuclear weapons. Let`s watch what he actually said.


TRUMP: Look, nuclear should be off the table. But would there be a time when it could be used? Possibly.

MATTHEWS: OK, the trouble is, when you said that...

TRUMP: Possibly.

MATTHEWS: ... the whole world heard it. David Cameron in Britain heard it. The Japanese, where we bombed them (INAUDIBLE) They`re hearing a guy running for president of the United States talking of maybe using nuclear weapons. Nobody wants to hear that about an American president!

TRUMP: Then why are we making them? Why do we make them? I`d be the last one to use the nuclear weapons.


TRUMP: ... sort of like the end of the...

MATTHEWS: Can you tell the Middle East we`re not using a nuclear weapon?

TRUMP: I would never say that. I would never take of my cards off the table.

MATTHEWS: How about Europe, we won`t use it in Europe?

TRUMP: I`m not going to take it off the table for anything.

MATTHEWS: You might use it in Europe?


TRUMP: No, I don`t think so, but I`m not taking...

MATTHEWS: Well, just say it, I`ll never use a nuclear weapon in Europe!

TRUMP: I am not taking cards off the table!


MATTHEWS: Valerie, here`s the question. You`ve been in intelligence. You know what we -- weapons we have. You know how we think and what deterrence is all about. What would be the advantage in terms of telling the Europeans, who are all our allies, that we might use the weapon over there, the nuclear weapon, in Europe? What would be need to keep that on the table?

PLAME: Well, you know, sometimes, even a blind pig finds the acorn. And Trump actually hit it right on. What`s the -- why do we have nuclear weapons if we`re not going to use them, which is the broader existential question of our whole nuclear program. I am a firm believer that now nuclear weapons in the 21st century do not make us safer.

But he`s -- he`s just saying whatever comes into his mind in the moment, and you know it. I mean, he can change at a whim. He hasn`t -- he simply -- just like your other guest, Mike Murphy, said, he simply does not have the knowledge, the background, nor the discipline to even learn about this, to understand what`s the difference between nuclear use, our nuclear deterrence policy and how you speak about these things responsibly without the rest of the world leaders having their hair on fire over this.

MATTHEWS: Let me get back to Hallie on this because...

MURPHY: By the way...

MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Michael, then Hallie.

MURPHY: No, just everything to Trump is tactics. Everything is negotiating a parking lot deal. So he`s confusing nuclear weapons with tactics, rather than the strategic purpose of nuclear weapons, which is to freeze a world war. You don`t use nuclear weapons because of the deterrent of the idea.

Nuclear strategy is a big, complicated thing that has gone through a long, complicated debate in our national security establishment, and he`s totally ignorant of any of it. So it scares the hell out of people when he throws terms like this around because it underlines his ignorance.

MATTHEWS: Hallie, back to you. A lot of people, including me, are always hopeful about candidates. We`ve watched people come to the presidency, like Ronald Reagan, who behaved much more moderately than a lot of his critics had reason to believe he would perform once he got there -- people on the left, for example, and center-left.

You know, Reagan turned out to be one of our great presidents, objectively said. People don`t like hearing that, but look at the list.

Anyway -- and then what shatters that with regard to Trump is he got the nomination of the Republican Party and hasn`t changed a whit from the guy out there duking it out with 16 other opponents in the primaries, like he hasn`t adjusted to the fact he`s now the party nominee...


MATTHEWS: ... one of the two people that`s probably our next president. That shatters the idea that he will change if he actually gets inaugurated, doesn`t it?

JACKSON: Here`s just the thought experiment, sort of the thing I would say to potentially rebut that. And that is this. For months, yes, after Donald Trump became the presumptive nominee -- I believe it was May 5, Chris -- he continued to relitigate the primaries, talk about his primary opponents, even when a lot of Republicans felt like, My goodness, why aren`t you focusing on Hillary Clinton for these five weeks, when she was still locked in that battle with Bernie Sanders?

What did Trump say at the time, right up until the start of his own convention? It was, My campaign doesn`t really begin until after the convention. Whether you buy into that line or not, that is some insight into Donald Trump`s psyche and why there are still some who are hopeful, Chris, who continue to have your eternal optimism that perhaps Donald Trump, now that we are out of the conventions and have turned into the general election, could maybe change.

And I will tell you this, too. I think one thing that you hear from folks who come to these rallies, even just people out -- you know, (INAUDIBLE) I crisscross the country talking to people -- one thing that you hear about Donald Trump is, Well, he`s really not going to do that necessarily. That is something that I have heard from some of his supporters.


JACKSON: They know that when they hear this...

MATTHEWS: I know all about that.

JACKSON: ... about -- about nuclear weapons...

MATTHEWS: No wall.

JACKSON: Yes, well (INAUDIBLE) I mean, they say -- well, yes, right. They say, Well, you know -- because here`s the thing. They like what he portrays, what he symbolizes, even if they don`t necessarily agree with the policies that he`s talking about. Potentially for them, it`s a gamble, but they believe it`s a gamble that will pay off.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. You cover him so well, Hallie Jackson. Thank you, Mike Murphy. It`s great having you on. And Valerie Plame, it`s good to have you back, really good.

Coming up -- as Donald Trump stumbles, some Republicans are taking a good hard look at the Libertarian ticket this year. Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld could have a real impact on the ballot come this November. They`re coming to HARDBALL right now.

Plus, inside the newest poll numbers, and it`s a dire picture for Donald Trump. He`s losing ground with virtually every demographic group in our new NBC poll. And among African-Americans, he`s polling at -- get this -- 1 percent. We got all the numbers coming up.

And in a rare back-and-forth with reporters, Hillary Clinton was asked questions about Trump, her e-mail and why many voters don`t trust her. And some of her answers were very revealing, and in some cases disturbing.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with where this presidential campaign has actually landed on the nuclear issue.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, strong economic numbers in July`s jobs report. The economy created 255,000 jobs last month, much more than expected and a sign that the country`s growth rate isn`t as slow as it was feared. Overall, the unemployment rate remained the same at 4.9 percent.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. With the Republicans losing confidence in their nominee, Donald Trump, some on the right and center- right are looking around for other options. And one place they might look is the Libertarian Party.

This year`s Libertarian ticket features two former Republican governors, New Mexico`s Gary Johnson and Bill Weld of Massachusetts. According to our latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, Hillary Clinton leads Trump by 9 points, with Johnson getting 10 percent of the vote and Green Party candidate Jill Stein at 5.

In order to qualify for a presidential debate spot this fall, a candidate must have a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate, as determined by five national public opinion polling organizations selected by the commission on government debates.

Anyway, right now, Gary Johnson has an average of 8 percent supporting him, support -- according to RealClearPolitics polling averages.

Joining me right now is the Libertarian Party ticket, former governor Gary Johnson, and his running mate, the well known popular governor of Massachusetts Bill Weld. Thank you both for joining us.

Governor Johnson, a couple things, and then to Mr. Weld.

Are you going to make 15? And is 15 a fair measure of whether you should get in the national debates? Because we all know from Perot`s experience, if you get in the national debates, anything can happen. If you don`t, it won`t. Your thoughts, Governor?


And, yes, we got some serious momentum and we are believing that we will be in the national debates. By all of our analytics, things are picking up dramatically, double in the amount of people that are looking at what we`re saying and what we`re doing. And that`s just over the last three weeks..


MATTHEWS: I think your numbers have stayed -- your numbers have stayed about high single digits for weeks now. Why do you say it`s changing? I have been looking at eights and nines for a long time now.

JOHNSON: Chris, I believe that you think that that`s the case, but from our vantage point, really, it`s ratcheting up.


JOHNSON: And a FOX poll here just a couple days ago at 12 percent.


JOHNSON: Bottom numbers, if you go back six weeks ago, were 6 percent. Top numbers now are 13 percent, so different viewpoint here.


Let me go to Governor Weld.

JOHNSON: Not making it up. Not making it up.


MATTHEWS: No, we can argue. It doesn`t bother me.

Let me Governor Weld, what happens if you`re at 14.9 and you don`t quite make the 15? Is that fair? Is this arbitrary? Can you live with it? Would you walk away and say that`s the way it works?

BILL WELD, LIBERTARIAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, Chris, I`m pretty sure, I can feel it in my bones that we are going to get there. The last 10 days, Gary`s right, it feels different out there. We are getting incoming calls from Republican officeholders: I`m thinking of endorsing you guys. I might -- I`m thinking of announcing I`m going to vote for you guys.

The ice is really cracking. And I think people are coming to realize that the problem in this country right now is not so much an economic problem as a political problem. The monopoly of power in Washington between the two parties is starting to behave the way a monopoly always does, choking off creativity. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Monopoly power corrupts in a strong way.

And the parties almost seem to exist for the purpose of killing each other. And we think that if we drive the car right up the middle of the road, we are fiscally responsible, we`re socially open and inclusive, that describes about 60 percent of the American people, most of whom don`t know who we are.

And when they learn more and more about who we are, I think you are going to see those figures escalate dramatically. Of course, if we were able to pick up some prominent endorsements from Republicans or middle-of-the- roaders or even Democrats, that would accelerate the figures even more.

And if we go into, say, mid-September with 20 percent, 25 percent, I firmly believe anything can happen.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s possible.

Let me ask you about the possibility of being a spoiler. We all know the regular -- what happened to Ralph Nader back in Florida, 92,000 votes, threw it, through Florida, many would argue, to W.

Are afraid on the left that you might take votes away from the left that would throw it to the other side or take votes from the right and throw it to the other side as well, Governor Johnson?

JOHNSON: Well, this is a party that needs spoiling, Chris. Really...

MATTHEWS: Which one?

JOHNSON: Clinton gets elected, Trump gets elected, the polarization in Congress is going to be greater than it`s ever been before.

Our line is, look, elect us, we`re going to be bipartisan, we`re going to hire Democrats and Republicans, all of them Libertarian-leaning, but being able to call out both sides to come to the middle and let`s deal with issues that we can come together on.

It`s a broad six-lane highway down the middle that neither Republicans or Democrats right now are occupying.

MATTHEWS: Who`s the last independent to win a state in presidential history?

WELD: George Wallace.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Can you do that? Can you match his success in any region of the country?

WELD: Oh, sure. Gary is already polling within a couple points of the lead in the state of Utah, other states in that pillar from the Dakotas right on down to the Rio Grande.

He`s very popular out West. We might pick up even, without this tsunami that I`m talking about, some states in the Northeast. But what we are aiming at is winning the whole thing, nothing less. And we think it`s a gradual progression. As people get to know us better, we think we have not only a potentially winning argument, a winning argument, that we represent a mix of policy points of view that represents a majority of people in the country.

The reason they are casting around and befuddled and uncertain is because they are fighting against that thought, oh, I have to vote D, I have to vote R.

MATTHEWS: I understand.

WELD: Mommy and daddy always did.

That`s not true. They can vote for whoever they want. And when they look around and analyze the situation, we think they are going to come our way.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask about foreign policy. Let`s try to nail one thing down.

I have a sense -- and this will maybe surprise you -- it won`t surprise Governor Weld -- I think Hillary is a bit hawkish, certainly by my standards. I think she`s not this president. I think she will be much more hawkish in terms of Middle East, for example. Middle East. I worry about that. I don`t think we need to be more hawkish now.

On the other hand, Trump is a mixed bag, certainly. He came off -- has come off against these wars in the Middle East. He said they`re stupid wars.

Where would you guys be in that? Let`s assume Trump is not a hawk, Hillary is. Where are you guys, Governor Johnson? Are you as hawkish as Hillary?

JOHNSON: Well, I think regime change -- no. No. When it comes to supporting regime change, I think that that`s had the unintended consequence of making things worse, not better.

We are at war with ISIS. It`s a war that we will see through to its conclusion, but involve Congress in a declaration of war. How is it that we move forward, and just skeptical from the very beginning that if we are going to put boots on the ground, if we are going to drop bombs, if we are going to fly drones, that it have a strategic objective. Currently, by doing all those things, we have made things worse, not better.


MATTHEWS: Governor Weld, do you agree with my proposal that Hillary is hawkish and you would be less hawkish, perhaps? I`m asking you.

WELD: Oh, no, I agree with that.

Having said that, we do believe in maintaining and demonstrating military supremacy in both air and naval power. You got to do that to help have a stable world out there. We do believe in constructive engagement. We do believe in cultural diplomacy, use of soft power. So, we are not stay-at- homes.

We are actually -- we`re the only free traders still left in this race. The other two have abandoned free trade, which is the cornerstone of the world order these days. I think in a way we are the only non-isolationist ticket still out there.



MATTHEWS: We would love to have you back. We will have you back. I think we have got a couple points here about a more moderate foreign policy than we have seen from Hillary, at least in her voice, and more free trade, because Hillary has buckled to the anti-trade crowd.

I think she`s a free-trader, but she has buckled. And you guys haven`t buckled.

Look, thanks. It will be interesting if you do make the 15 percent cut. That will be one heck of a debate. And I`m not sure, based upon all the polling today, who is going to win.


MATTHEWS: But go ahead, your thought. Last word. I hear it from Governor Weld.

WELD: Well, just having us here on your show, Chris, this will push us over 17. So, thank you very much.


MATTHEWS: We have delivered -- we have delivered bumps for lesser causes.

Thank you so much, Governor Gary Johnson and Governor Bill Weld, who I know very well.

Up next: inside the numbers. The new polls are dire for Donald Trump. And if things continue, the Republican Party could suffer badly this fall, don`t you think? And what, if anything, can Trump do to turn things around, if he wants to turn things around? This temperament thing is a question. And what is he up to? And why is he screwing around?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


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

The 19-year-old who allegedly stabbed an American woman to death in London and injured five others has been charged with murder and five counts of attempted murder.

The U.S. Central Command says airstrikes against al Qaeda`s branch in Yemen killed three militants. It says the group is a threat to the region, the U.S. and beyond.

And they look pretty tiny, but the heaviest baby panda twins on record were born Thursday in a nature preserve in China, weighing more than six and seven ounces each -- back to HARDBALL.


QUESTION: Is that concerning at this point in the campaign?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, it`s very, very early. And I think we`re going to do very well.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Donald Trump says that, in spite of what the new polls are saying, it`s still too early. But Hillary Clinton`s cutting into his base of supporters and Trump needs to rebound fast if he has any chance to close the gap and make this a race.

According to our latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, Hillary Clinton has a strong lead among women, of course, and a growing advantage with African- Americans, a growing advantage, and white voters with college degrees.

Meanwhile, Trump`s lead among men has been erased. In July, he led Clinton by seven points. Now she leads him by one point. That`s all men. Clinton is also closing in on Trump with white voters. Trump led Clinton by 13 points in July, but today is only five points ahead.

And his lead among white voters without college degrees has also slipped. He`s still ahead. Last month, he led the former secretary of state by 22 points in this group, but Clinton has cut Trump`s lead down to 13. So, he`s still ahead among white men who have not gone to college.

Anyway, joining me right now are two people who know the numbers.

Cornell Belcher is a Democratic pollster. Ed Goeas is a Republican pollster.

What do you think of these, Cornell?


MATTHEWS: When you`re losing your last redoubt, white men who didn`t go to college, isn`t that a problem? Not losing them, but lose the advantage?

BELCHER: It is a problem, but I don`t want Democrats to celebrate too soon.

When you look at the numbers, she`s moving in line at 41, 42 percent among whites, sort of -- I would call it sort of the ceiling if you look at what Obama got and you look at what Kerry got.

What`s problematic for him is that he`s not running up the score among white voters. There`s almost no way a Republican can win if he`s not running up the score like Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney got 59 percent of whites, right? So he outdid Reagan. He has no way if he`s not running up the score with whites, and you are seeing whites...


MATTHEWS: And he`s not running against Barack Obama either.

BELCHER: He`s not running against Barack Obama, no.

MATTHEWS: It`s not a racial divide there, such as it is.

Ed Goeas, you are always good. It`s very hard to find you about two days before an election.

(CROSSTALK) ED GOEAS, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: It`s getting harder. It`s getting harder.

MATTHEWS: When I`m trying to make a prediction, I can`t find you anywhere.

But go ahead.

GOEAS: Well, and I think you can`t predict at this point.

We are in all new territory in terms of the data. We have never had two nominees for the party over 50 percent in terms of their negatives, unfavorability. And what was interesting is both of them started off at 55 percent. If you look at the average of all the polls today, Hillary`s at 52 percent unfavorable, he`s at 58 percent unfavorable.

These numbers are fairly baked in. I think what a lot of the people that are looking at movement every day on the polls are underestimating is that they both have a ceiling, they both have a floor. And her ceiling is maybe a little bit higher than Trump`s. His floor is a little bit lower. But there is a point...

MATTHEWS: Can`t we elect somebody we like? Is that allowed anymore?


GOEAS: That`s a real question for the upcoming election.

MATTHEWS: Pennsylvania`s where I`m from, and I check in once in awhile with different people I know up there.

And when you say them -- they are down on Trump, which I think people in my family, some of them are, not all of them, are down on him -- I go, well, what about Hillary? And they will go, no, I`m not going to vote for Hillary.

Where are those people going to be?

BELCHER: But that`s the fluidity of it. And that`s why she hasn`t put this race away.

And, again, if you look at where he`s underperforming, those aren`t people who have been voting Democrat, right, Chris? I mean, you look at a lot of those Reagan Democrats, those are people who have not been voting Democrat. So, do they vote Hillary or do they sit home? And I think it`s really impacting...

MATTHEWS: What about the guy we just had on? Will they go to Gary Johnson, a Libertarian, I mean, a real Libertarian?


BELCHER: We are in uncharted waters.

I don`t believe that a third party is going to get -- Ross Perot was a phenomenon. I don`t think a third party is going to...


MATTHEWS: Can he make 15?

BELCHER: If he gets 15 percent, all bets are off. I don`t think he will get there.

GOEAS: I don`t either.


MATTHEWS: Well, Bill Weld would be a hell of a debater. I would put Bill Weld in a vice presidential debate and figure he would be the favorite, because he`s smart.

GOEAS: We talk so much about the negatives.

To put it in perspective, only 3 percent of the country like both of these candidates. Usually, it`s about 30 percent. Thirty percent dislike both these candidates. Usually, it`s only 10 percent.

That kind of puts it in perspective of what type of race this is going to be and why it`s such uncharted waters.


MATTHEWS: Will this be the lowest rated, the lowest watched inauguration in history?

GOEAS: Well, more importantly, what not many people are talking about right now is that independent voters have a 60 percent unfavorable on both of these candidates. They may decide by the end of this campaign a pox on both your houses, I don`t like either one of you, I`m not going to vote.


MATTHEWS: That usually hurts Democrats.

BELCHER: Well, not necessarily, Chris, because, look, Barack Obama didn`t win independents in 2008 or 2012.

But take a state like New Hampshire, where a large swathe of that group is -- they`re independent voters, right? And you see the polling numbers where he`s down 15 points or so in New Hampshire, because independent voters, particularly independent women, are breaking from him.

They have got -- he`s got to win back some of those voters. And it is having a total down-ballot when you look at Ayotte`s numbers as well.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at some of the ethnic stuff here.

Clinton`s advantage among African-American voters over Trump is growing, believe it or not. There`s still room for growth there. In July, she led by 77 percentage points.


MATTHEWS: Look at these numbers, 84-7. Now she leads him 90 points, by 90 points, 91-1.

I have grown up -- the African-American vote, back before the `60s, was about 2-1 Democrat. Then it became 90-10 Democrat. And now it`s just unbelievable. I don`t know who those 10 percent are that aren`t voting.

BELCHER: Well, they`re going to -- well, the Republican Party is going to have to start listening to smart guys like this, because here`s the problem.

You can`t win a national election if you`re getting 1 percent of the support of African-Americans. You can`t win in Ohio. Look, look, what George Bush did in Ohio. George Bush actually competed in Ohio, got, what, double digits in Ohio.

If a Republican can get 15 percent, 16 percent support in Ohio, a Republican can win Ohio. You can`t win Ohio with 1 percent support.

MATTHEWS: Well, a new poll out of Georgia, which is an interesting state, shows Hillary Clinton with a four-point lead over Donald Trump. The last Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia? Bill Clinton in `92.

I would say Utah is another crazy situation.

GOEAS: One of the things we are seeing right now, is you are seeing that there are some blue states that are looking much closer and then some red states that are looking much closer.

MATTHEWS: Which blue state`s closer right now?

GOEAS: Well, not this week`s polling.


GOEAS: But if you look up until this week, you look at Michigan, you look at Pennsylvania, you look at Wisconsin, they are certainly within the margin. But you also have Missouri.


GOEAS: You have Texas -- no Texas. You have Georgia. You have Utah.

Utah`s a whole different thing. We did a poll of Utah, and Trump`s negatives in Utah was at 67 percent, but Hillary`s was at 73 percent. No one was getting on the ballot over 35 percent. That`s where Gary Johnson ought to be spending his time right now.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, he does well, according to them, out in the West, the Plains states and the Mountain states. You remember how George McGovern did better out West, because he was a Westerner, even though he was on the hard left?

BELCHER: What`s so important about Georgia is, look, in 2008, we actually did -- the Obama campaign, we actually polled in Georgia, and it actually was close. But it was so expensive. We would have to pull out of another state to go there.

She is -- the Clinton campaign is now talking about sort of going down somewhat in Virginia and Colorado. Guess where they can now spend that money? In a state like Georgia. She has the ability to expand the map.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about how this race can change. We have seen horrendous terrorism, this Catholic priest up in Normandy serving mass, saying mass, and then having his head cut off.

GOEAS: Right.

MATTHEWS: That`s a religious war. This guy was targeted because of his religion, because he`s practicing his religion, serving -- saying mass.

GOEAS: Right.

MATTHEWS: What happens if that kind of thing continues? Will Trump be able to exploit that? Will the whole thing change between now and November?


GOEAS: Perhaps. Polling this week showed that they were even on handling terrorism, where he had a 12 -- 10-point, 12-point advantage. It`s certainly...


MATTHEWS: That`s because we have had terrorism more recently.

GOEAS: It goes back to, at the end of the day, this campaign`s going to be about the middle class.

And whoever can go to the middle class and say, I`m going to make you safer, I`m going to bring prosperity to you, and I`m going to bring the American dream back within your reach, and this is how we are going to get there, not just...


MATTHEWS: OK. Why doesn`t he do that? Why doesn`t Trump come out with like a three-point program? I`m going to build like you have never seen. I`m a builder, not just high-rise. I`m going to build rapid rail across the country. I`m going to put so many construction guys to work, you won`t believe it. They will be jobs that pay $25, $30 an hour. These are going to be amazing jobs, so many of them, that this country will turn around. I`m going to build like Huey Long built.


MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t he talk and keep the focus on jobs?

BELCHER: I`m glad he`s not, because, quite frankly, that would be message discipline.

And what we have seen from this candidate is no message discipline at all. He`s throwing babies out of rallies, right? So, a lot -- and the movement right now even in the polling is moving, actually numbers moving away from him than going toward her.

And that`s why for Democrats -- be careful here. Let`s not start to celebrate. We won`t have a ten point election, right?

ED GOEAS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It`s not as simple as just message. You have to go back to the 55 percent that were unfavorable towards him before he even got into this race. It was based on personality. It was based on his persona. He has to do it in such a way that he`s giving specifics, not just talking in broad strokes.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thanks so much, Ed Goeas. Thank you, Cornell Belcher. Listen, we will do this again I hope.

Up next, many times, up next, with a big lead in the polls right now, Hillary Clinton today did a rare back and forth with reporters. She was asked about her trustworthiness and e-mail but also about Donald Trump. But at times she was forced out of her comfort zone, it`s been said today.

The roundtable is coming here to talk about it.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Hillary Clinton addressed a rare audience today, journalists, appearing at a conference for the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic journalists, she fielded questions from panelists. She was asked about a recent interview in which she asserted that FBI Director Comey had declared her public comments about e-mail practices as quote, truthful.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I told the FBI, which he said was truthful, is consistent with what I have said publicly. So I may have short-circuited and for that, I, you know, will try to clarify because I think, you know, Chris Wallace and I were probably talking past each other, because of course, he could only talk to what I had told the FBI and I appreciated that.


MATTHEWS: Well, joining me for tonight`s roundtable, Colleen McCain Nelson, she`s a White House correspondent for "The Wall Street Journal", and Sam Stein`s political editor and reporter for "The Huffington Post", Francesca Chambers is White House correspondent for "The Daily Mail".

Thank you all for joining us.

Let`s see if Hillary Clinton walked into more trouble here. Was her answer clear? Did she clarify what she said to Chris Wallace and what the truth is? Did she put it all together or not?

COLLEEN MCCAIN NELSON, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: She did not clarify this, because what Comey said was not that she was truthful in everything she said. What Comey said was that he had no basis to believe that she`s lying in her interview with investigators. So, she said well, she kind of, her word was short-circuited that by saying -- well, I was truthful to investigators and I have been truthful to the public and I have been saying the same thing all along so that all adds up to Comey thinking I`m truthful.

But if you look at Comey`s broader comments, he said that he had no basis to judge whether she`s been truthful with the American public. He said that when he was confronted with her statements about not sending classified material, he said classified material had been sent.

And so, she again offered a very long explanation.

MATTHEWS: Why would she keep saying that Comey had said something that he hadn`t when Comey`s alive and the transcript`s available? Why say something that`s so demonstrably not true? Just let it go.

NELSON: This is a good question. I mean, Comey clearly is not going to weigh in on this and go tit for tat with her on this.

MATTHEWS: But we have tape.

NELSON: He said what he`s going to say.

This seems easy enough to clear up. She knows this question is still out there. She knows she`s going to get asked this question again and again. And it would be simple to say, "I made a mistake."

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, THE DAILY MAIL: I was confused about her answer today because she knew this question was probably coming. She is getting questions today and she did not provide a clear answer on it at all. And over the entirety of this campaign, she hasn`t seemed prepared to answer questions about your e-mails even though she`s had 18 months to come up with answers on some of these things. So, that was -- it was very convoluted answer to the question today.

MATTHEWS: Sam, we all remember, I remember it because I read about it in Joe Maginnis` book the `68 Nixon campaign, the whole strategy was we got the lead, hold on to it, avoid press interplay, because you`re just going to get bad headlines, you know, how that formal thing he did with Ed Brooke and Julia Nixon, where it`s like a pretend debate you never debated. He avoided the press the whole time.

Is she strategically running that kind of a campaign, avoiding a lot of interplay with the press?

SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Well, they`ve called that in football, prevent-defense, is that what you`re saying?


STEIN: Well, if she is she`s been doing that for 240 days now. She`s been that long since she`s held a press conference, although I don`t know what you want to call this. Obviously, she`s a bit averse to taking press questions --

MATTHEWS: What`s the big question she`s afraid of?

STEIN: I don`t know if there`s any particular thing she`s afraid of. I think she is, basically, doing what you said, Nixon which would do, to say I have a comfortable lead, I`m doing good work on the ground. I`m making all the right, why would I want to trip myself up when I allowed Donald Trump to trip himself up?

MATTHEWS: Well, here we are, here, Secretary Clinton was asked about the issue of her trustworthiness. Let`s listen to that.


REPORTER: How would you lead a nation where majority of Americans mistrust you and what extra responsibility might you have to show that you`re up to the task?

CLINTON: Well, let me start by saying, every time I have done a job, people have counted on me and trusted me.

Maybe, just maybe when I`m actually running for a job, there is a real benefit to those on the other side in trying to stir up as much concern as possible.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s not a bad defense, it only will work with your people, though, your side will agree and the other side won`t.

NELSON: That`s right. It`s interesting. She, by and large, has had a very good week. She`s let Donald Trump --

MATTHEWS: She`s the luckiest person in the universe.

NELSON: So, she`s just kind of gotten out of the way of Donald Trump having all of these problems. So, she`s up in the polls, but this -- and not a press conference, but this inner play with press today.

STEIN: At this point, she`s actually bright in respects her polling numbers have gone much better when she`s not actually running for office but holding office.

MATTHEWS: It`s so true.

STEIN: She`s well regarded.

MATTHEWS: Joe Biden keeps going up all the time, by the way. He`s not running.

Round table staying with us. And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know.


MATTHEWS: You can play HARDBALL all week long online. Follow the show on Twitter, Instagram and like us on Facebook. You`ll get access to interviews, behind the scene photos as we hit the road covering this wild presidential campaign of 2016.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Back with the HARDBALL round table.

Francesca, tell me something I don`t know.

CHAMBERS: Well, in honor of the opening ceremony of the Olympics, President Obama is not going to the Olympics this year. He`s never been to one in his presidency. But that`s not atypical for presidents in the United States. In the past, they have not went, if it`s out of the country. It was George Bush who broke with tradition and George W. Bush went to China.


STEIN: I did not know that.

CHAMBERS: I was hoping you didn`t know it. That was the point.

MATTHEWS: Smartest president we ever had hung out with the jocks. Just kidding.

CHAMBERS: Well, he played volleyball. He was hanging out with the volleyball players.

STEIN: Fair enough.

You want mine? OK, Donald Trump doesn`t actually want to kick babies out of his rallies he told us a couple of hours ago that it was all a joke when he kicked the baby out this week.

MATTHEWS: More crying.

NELSON: At the end of the week, where Hillary Clinton has been rising in the polls, we`re starting to see rumblings within her campaign that they`re worried that Democrats could get over confident. I was with Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas yesterday, she implored her supporters, don`t take anything for granted. We have to work to do. Harry Reid said I`m really worried the Democrats are getting overconfident.

MATTHEWS: You know what happens when you tell people not to take it for granted? They take it for granted.


MATTHEWS: Thank you, Colleen McCain Nelson, Sam Stein, and Francesca Chambers.

When we return, let me finish where this presidential campaign has landed.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a place where this presidential campaign has landed. It`s the question of, in whose hands we place control of our nuclear weapons?

Why? Because it`s one issue we can all agree is vitally relevant to our vote, because it`s relevant to the people of this country but to all of those of the planet, present and future. Why? Because the decision made this next president when the vital point cannot be undone by all the future presidents.

Once a nuclear weapon is launched, there`s no taking it back. Once one weapon goes to war, the planet becomes a killing field.

I don`t know why Donald Trump refuses to take Europe off the table in regards to the potential use of nuclear weapons. Who is he seeking to deter? What action is he seeking to discourage by saying he cannot right now imagine launching a missile into the heart of Europe, which our allies would be hurt by such a statement.

But the real concern over Trump`s access to nuclear weapons arises from the temperament issue, one gets the idea that anyone who takes a shot at him will lead to him retaliating, refusing to take a slight he seems forever to hurl back whatever at his disposal, whether it`s a nasty new nickname or some accusations of wrongdoing.

One thing Donald Trump never does is let something go, whether it comes at him from a national leader or anyone along the campaign trail. It is this trait that has aroused many to worry that once in office; once in power, Donald Trump will be the same man he is today.

Well, here is the reasonable suspicion that`s hanging in the air right now. There was one owned hope that Donald Trump once elected he will begin to accept the constraints the presidency, that he would accept the notion he cannot engage in street fighting any more.

What`s dashed that hope has been Trump`s failure to adjust these past few days to his new elevated status as Republican presidential nominee.

The Trump up there on the stage today is no different in temperament and behavior than the guy who went to war politically in all those primaries, he hasn`t changed. So, why would he believe he would change if he was managed to be elected?

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.