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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 9/12/2016

Guests: Dana Loesch, Andrew Sullivan, James Carville, Boris Epshteyn, April Ryan, Carolyn Ryan, Megan Murphy

Show: HARDBALL Date: September 27, 2016 Guest: Dana Loesch, Andrew Sullivan, James Carville, Boris Epshteyn, April Ryan, Carolyn Ryan, Megan Murphy

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

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

Well, last night, 84 million Americans watched the greatest Long Island drama since "The Great Gatsby," and there was a winner and there was a loser. I called it last night. Clinton hit Trump for his refusal to release his tax returns, for stiffing his business associates, for his birther claims and his attack on her, Hillary Clinton`s, looks and stamina.

Well, playing to his fans, Trump today declared victory. "Well, now they`re saying that I not only won the NBC presidential forum," he tweeted, "but last night the big debate. Nice." That was Trump, "nice."

If last night was nice, what`s horrible? On Fox News this morning, Trump gave an excuse for what he knew was a bad night.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I thought it went really well. I mean, I had some hostile questions, but that was OK. You watched the last four questions, he hit me on...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boom, boom, boom!

TRUMP: ... birther. He hit me on a housing deal from many years ago that I settled with...


TRUMP: ... with no recourse and no guilt. I was asked about my tax returns, which I`ve told about 500 times. So it`s -- you know -- but you know, I think I did -- I think I really did well when we were asked normal questions. I think I did really well in answering those questions, but those questions are not answerable in a positive light.

I had a problem with a microphone that didn`t work. I don`t know if you saw that in the room, but my microphone was terrible. I think -- I wonder, was it set up that way on purpose. My microphone -- in the room, they couldn`t hear me. You know, it was going on and off. I don`t want to believe in conspiracy theories, of course, but it was much lower than hers and it was crackling. And she didn`t have that problem.

That was, to me, a bad problem because if you have a bum mike, it`s not exactly good.


MATTHEWS: Well, Hillary Clinton piled on, of course. Let`s watch her.


HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Anybody who complains about the microphone is not having a good night.


MATTHEWS: Well, later in the day, at a rally in Raleigh, Clinton celebrated her performance.


CLINTON: Did anybody see that debate last night?


CLINTON: Oh, yes! One down, two to go.


CLINTON: And he made it very clear that he didn`t prepare for that debate.


CLINTON: You know, at one point, he was kind of digging me for spending time off the campaign trail to get prepared. But just trying to keep track of everything he says took a lot of time and effort.


CLINTON: And I said, yes, you know what? I did prepare. And I`ll tell you something else I prepared for. I prepared to be president of the United States!


MATTHEWS: Well, Donald Trump`s holding his first rally since last night`s debate. He`s in Melbourne, Florida, right now, and we`ll hear what he has to say about last night`s fiasco. It should be fascinating because he`s got to cover a lot of ground tonight.

We begin with the simple question, which candidate is sounding like he or she won? James Carville is a long-time Clinton political adviser and an MSNBC political analyst. Dana Loesch is a radio host and the author of "Flyover Nation." And Andrew Sullivan, my pal, is a contributing editor at "New York" magazine. Anyway, thank you all.

James, last night -- I was blown away by it. I thought it was not a hard one to call. I thought it was a shutout. And I don`t get it, quite. Just, can you -- I know you have your alliances and your hopes for what was going to happen, but what do you think happened to Trump last night? He didn`t come in there prepared to fight, even. I don`t know what he was up to.

JAMES CARVILLE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he was not prepared. And he was not prepared in the basic sense, like the cutaways. You know, as I said last night, you know that the camera`s going to be on you the whole time. I mean, it looks like no one told him that.

And his campaign said he didn`t prepare, and I think that`s what happened. One candidate sat there and prepared and did her homework and was told to, you know, watch your reaction shots and everything else. And the other candidate decided that he was going to wing it and just got tired and was just in over his head.

I mean, look, there are two more debates to go. You know, I`m sure that he can rectify it. He can do better. He`ll surely listen to the people that tell him, You need to be more prepared. And I think his reaction today has not been helpful at all. I mean, it`s kind of whiny and...

MATTHEWS: Well, the microphone deal.

CARVILLE: ... you know, whining about the microphone and everything. He just should have said, Look, I`m going to do better next time. You know, President Obama lost the first debate to Romney in 2012 and just came back.

But I mean, I think it`s a simple question of one candidate being ready and prepared and another candidate just not having any preparation. And it just showed the whole night.

MATTHEWS: Well, tonight -- actually, today some time already, Donald Trump suggested there was at least one thing that could change at the next debate. Let`s watch him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So going into the next debate, what are you going to do differently? Anything that you`d like to do differently?

TRUMP: Well, I may hit her harder in certain ways. You know, I really eased up because I didn`t want to hurt anybody`s feelings, but -- so I may hit her harder in some ways.


MATTHEWS: Dana, I think that does make a certain amount of sense. Meaning, if you lose a fight within the box -- in other words, your normal debating methods and limitations, Marquess of Queensberry rules, you say, I`m going to go in the next time without those rules. We`re going to have extreme fighting next time.

Do you think that`s what he should do the next time, go extreme, personal?

DANA LOESCH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think, yes, that`s maybe what he should do every -- every time. I mean, that`s kind of what he`s known for, right? That`s how he got through this particular primary.

I thought he started the debate off strong, the very first half. He kept to policy. He was way more specific with different proposals, I think, almost than he`s ever been. And then somewhere along the middle, I think he let her get to him. She got under his skin, and it showed.

MATTHEWS: It looked to me like she pivoted to the personal. And I don`t mean nasty personal, but she would hit him where he really is sensitive that he -- he presents himself, and he may well be, a self-made billionaire, but when he got that -- you know, that grubstake, and she claimed $14 million from the old man, that really bugged him. And he couldn`t seem to stop reacting to those personal shots about his taxes, about stiffing his suppliers.

Every time she hit him on his personal business practices that seemed to smell a little bit or undercut his image, he just couldn`t resist giving it three or four minutes.

LOESCH: Yes, no, I agree with you on that. And I`m not a Hillary supporter by any stretch of the word. But I do think that next debate, and the debate after -- I mean, first off, he can have a bad debate. I mean, remember back in October of 2012, Mitt Romney won that debate against Barack Obama by a landslide, but we`re not saying President Romney right now.

So he could still have a good two debates, but he has to not play into the emotions of it. And he cannot let her...


MATTHEWS: How does he go after her -- if he goes after her personal life, what went on with her with Bill, what all the whole thing about Bill...

LOESCH: I don`t think he needs to touch her personal life.

MATTHEWS: Well, what do you mean by -- well, you said you agree he needs to get to be more extreme. What do you mean?

LOESCH: Oh, I think he needs to go after her policies. He didn`t even mention Benghazi last night. He didn`t mention the Clinton Foundation last night. There were -- I mean, if he wants to get into the personal, I think that`s fine. I think character is on the line.


LOESCH: But he doesn`t even need to go all the way back to the `90s.

MATTHEWS: Just one time here, what did Hillary Clinton do wrong or fail to do in the Benghazi episode? What was it that you folks think was the evil here?

LOESCH: The -- "us folks," meaning?

MATTHEWS: Well, the critics of Hillary Clinton on Benghazi. What is it exactly she did wrong or failed to do or...

LOESCH: She wasn`t forthright with it. She wasn`t forthright with it.

MATTHEWS: Wasn`t forthright...

LOESCH: I mean, first off, think about this. She had Chris Stevens, who had been reaching out repeatedly...

MATTHEWS: OK, so that...

LOESCH: ... asking for security increases. We know this for a fact.

MATTHEWS: ... the issue? So that`s the issue?

LOESCH: That`s one of the issues, yes.

MATTHEWS: Oh, one of -- OK, what`s the heart of it? Because I have a hard time figuring out the heart of Benghazi. I assume it is dereliction of duty. They`ve accuse her at the night he was threatened, the fact that...

LOESCH: Right. I would think -- I would think it`s dereliction of duty.

MATTHEWS: ... the night he was killed, that she didn`t go to his aid. So what is the heart of it, why you keep hitting on it? What is the heart of this charge?

LOESCH: I think that you nailed it just there. I think it`s a dereliction of duty and...

MATTHEWS: And you have evidence that she failed to do her duty that night, she failed to try to save him. You have evidence of that.

LOESCH: And she failed to prepare for it.

MATTHEWS: You know. You have evidence she failed to try to save him. You have evidence? Because I`m looking for it. Where is it?

LOESCH: There was in -- Chris, there was information that came forward...

MATTHEWS: What? Tell me it now.

LOESCH: There`s all -- I am, but you keep going, Tell me it now.

MATTHEWS: Go for it.

LOESCH: I`m trying to. Chris Stevens had repeatedly requested increases in security...

MATTHEWS: I said that night.

LOESCH: No, even before then.


MATTHEWS: No, that night. Tell me what she did...

LOESCH: ... countries leaving and...

MATTHEWS: ... to demonstrate her dereliction...

LOESCH: ... even having fire sales on...


LOESCH: ... barricades and every thing else. He wanted money just to get barricades, and that wasn`t cleared. So I mean, that should have been brought up. Yes, I would have liked to see that.

MATTHEWS: But you don`t have a point about her failure that night.

LOESCH: I think that lack of preparation...

MATTHEWS: OK. No, you keep going back.

LOESCH: ... is all about that night. I think you`d agree with me.

MATTHEWS: OK. Anyway, late night -- last night, Donald Trump seemingly made a vague reference to Clinton`s past marital problems. Let`s watch that.


TRUMP: I was going to say something extremely...

LESTER HOLT, MODERATOR: Please, very quickly.

TRUMP: ... rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, I can`t do it. I just can`t do it. It`s inappropriate. It`s not nice.


MATTHEWS: Well, today, Trump explained why he restrained himself.


TRUMP: When she hit me at the end with the women, I was going to hit her with her husband`s women, and I decided I shouldn`t do it because...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that`s what you were talking about.

TRUMP: ... her daughter was in the room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that what you mentioned, you know, I had something I could bring up, but I didn`t want to bring it up?

TRUMP: Yes, having to do with her husband...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many people thought that...

TRUMP: ... and all of the women.

TRUMP: Yes, they sort of thought that was it. And I didn`t feel comfortable doing it. I think I did the right thing. It`s not worth a point. I didn`t feel comfortable doing it with Chelsea in the room. I think Chelsea`s a fine young lady. I didn`t like doing it with Chelsea in the room.


MATTHEWS: By the way, Donald Trump is arriving -- we see his plane there. He`s just arrived down in Melbourne, Florida. He will be addressing his group down there. We`ll get to that when he hits the hot points tonight. I`m sure he`s going to try to make up for last night.

Andrew Sullivan, it`s great to hear from you tonight. And I wonder why Trump would pull the old Nixon thing of, I haven`t brought it up, but people thought I should have, or I should -- I was going to be not a gentleman, but I`ll be a gentleman -- I think if you`re going to be a gentleman, you have to be a gentleman and not brag about not being a boor.

But why would he want to get into marital fidelity as an issue? Why would he choose that baby?

ANDREW SULLIVAN, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: But Chris, he thinks, I think, that the way that she treated the women that her husband had dalliances with or sexually harassed undermines her credibility as a defender of women`s issues.

Now, I think that does have some traction on the right, but I certainly don`t think it does anything to win over the kind of people he needs to win over right now, basically, you know, college-educated white-collar people who used to vote Republican and are wavering about him. I don`t think that -- I think it would be terrible for him to do that.

So I think he made that decision and then tried to make himself seem virtuous. But if he does it next time, I think it`s going to backfire really badly.

MATTHEWS: I wonder whether -- let me go back to Dana on that one because, you know, right or wrong, you know, nobody knows anybody else`s marriage but the people in the marriage, is my sense. They`re all their own worlds.

But going after the wife for the husband`s behavior -- and that`s what it`s going to look like, no matter how well he tries to blame her or say she did certain things to abuse the women who made charges against her husband. It always seems like you`re blaming the victim. That`s the way most women look at it.

And why would that benefit Trump if he were to bring that up?

LOESCH: I think, Chris, when you have a candidate who`s running a campaign partially on a war on women, you go back to what Hillary Clinton had said about those women during -- I was a child when all of this was happening. I was watching all of this in elementary school. But I remember seeing all of this in the news, and I remember specifically Hillary Clinton and surrogates going after some of these women.

And so when you`re talking about a war on women and you are -- you know, your husband, for instance, with the Monica Lewinsky situation -- now, you have someone who`s an intern and you have someone who`s the commander-in- chief -- this is a person who is intelligent, who has a lot of influence, recognizes that he has a lot of influence, bears some responsibility there. To excuse his culpability in that particular situation...

MATTHEWS: But she never did that.

LOESCH: ... and in others...

MATTHEWS: But she never excused him.

LOESCH: I think looks disingenuous.

MATTHEWS: But she never excused him.

LOESCH: Well, when she did it, Chris, she did attack the other women, what did she call them? She called them bimbos. So I just -- I think that that makes her look to a little, to certain people, disingenuous, and I think that needs to be taken into consideration.

MATTHEWS: James, here -- let me get back to the politics of this and not the personal wrong or right or whatever. We all know the -- I always like the way you talked about the Clinton thing, you called it an itsy-bitsy sex thing, whatever it was. But the -- you never denied the truth of it, you just said it wasn`t the most important thing on the planet.

And I just think that`s -- we`re going to go back into that area which cost the Republicans all that political (INAUDIBLE) in the `98 election. They went for impeachment. They overcharged him. They could have maybe done a censure resolution or something, but they went for impeachment. They got it through the House, failed in the Senate.

And all it did was hurt them politically, almost to the point where Gore could have won that election. Anyway, what`s the politics of going after the Clinton issue?

CARVILLE: OK, first of all, since the Gennifer Flowers thing, Bill Clinton has won two presidential elections, Hillary Clinton has won two Senate elections. She`s now the nominee of a party. She was overwhelmingly confirmed as secretary of state. I mean, if you want to talk about old news, that`s more like ancient news.


CARVILLE: And I mean, it`s -- and here we are, you know, talking about 2016. And look at all of the Clinton accusers. Well, where is Bob Livingston today? Where`s Denny Hastert today? Where`s Ken Starr today? Where are all of the people that accused Bill Clinton, you know...

MATTHEWS: Newt Gingrich!

CARVILLE: I mean, I think a country -- Newt Gingrich...

MATTHEWS: Newt! You forget Newt!

CARVILLE: I mean, you just go through the whole list of them, you know, and everybody understands what happened...


MATTHEWS: James, how did you become so lucky? How did you become so serendipitous that every main charger, including Ken Starr, has been somewhat blemished by history since...

CARVILLE: I got lucky because -- because any -- because the hypocrisy of going after him, when all of these people -- I mean, what Ken Starr did was, he didn`t pursue these allegations of sexual misconduct there at the university. He lost his job. Look at what happened to Denny Hastert. He`s going to jail.

I mean, these are some -- and these people were all so self-righteous. They couldn`t get over the fact that, Oh, my God, someone had consensual sex...

MATTHEWS: OK, on that point, James...


CARVILLE: ... the whole country fall apart.

MATTHEWS: Look, I don`t knock anybody, and some people have been divorced and had good second marriages and people have all kinds of lives...


MATTHEWS: But Dana, if Trump goes after Hillary on any of this area, it seems to me he will then have to play defense on his life situation.

LOESCH: Yes, I don`t think he will.

MATTHEWS: That just ain`t going to work -- isn`t going to work.

LOESCH: I don`t think he will. I think that was just, like, one of his -- his just, you know, offshoots. I`m not going to speak for him...

MATTHEWS: But Gennifer Flowers is going to sit in the first row and make goo-goo eyes...

LOESCH: That was funny! Come on! Politics is theater. Everybody who`s assembled on this panel is well aware politics is theater.

MATTHEWS: Sure, but what kind of theater do you want?

LOESCH: James is a master of it! So don`t shake your head.

MATTHEWS: No, I`m not -- I make no moral judgment. I just thought bringing up the name...

LOESCH: But I think it was...

MATTHEWS: ... of Gennifer Flowers raised the issue.

LOESCH: I don`t -- I don`t think that -- see, I don`t even think that we need to focus on the personal. I don`t think we need to focus on that personal information of the `90s...


LOESCH: ... because her record -- you know, Chris, you asked me about Benghazi. She had lied that it was a terrorist attack in e-mails...


MATTHEWS: Just trying to get to the...


LOESCH: That`s enough! You have enough current!

MATTHEWS: No, no. It`s not enough. I think the focus has been to sort of inferentially to say that, somehow, she cost the ambassador`s life when he was on a mission that he chose to take that night, and the situation at that facility was never secure. And the charge to me, which would be damning against Hillary, if it were ever proven true, or (INAUDIBLE) be true, was that she failed to do everything she could to save him when the signal came that he was in danger, that he was under attack.

That`s to me the heart of it. And I think your -- people on your side have kept trying to insinuate that somehow...

LOESCH: Well, Chris...

MATTHEWS: ... she didn`t respond and try to save him.

LOESCH: ... you have to admit, why would -- why would she -- answer this, though. Why would she in classified e-mails that were released, and maybe the methods of which we may not agree on, but it came out nonetheless -- that show she was telling the parents that it was...

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s...

LOESCH: ... a protest from a video...

MATTHEWS: OK, I think you`re still trying to...

LOESCH: ... that she knew well and clear that it was a terrorist attack?

MATTHEWS: ... infer that she was derelict of duty, and I don`t think there`s evidence of that. Anyway, she put in 11 hours defending herself. I don`t have to do it.

Here`s Donald Trump now (INAUDIBLE) Andrew respond to this as the first responder here, the first firefighter. Let`s go. Here we go. He`s not making -- we want to catch his -- we assume he`s going to talk directly about last night.


TRUMP: Oh, wow! Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you. Wow! What a group!


TRUMP: And we have 12,000 people outside that still can`t get in. We`re going to get them out on the runway. We`ll put them out on the runway! We have 12,000 people outside. It`s incredible. They`re coming in. Look at this. Oh, we are going to win Florida so big!


TRUMP: Going to be amazing. This is a movement like they have never seen before! Never.


TRUMP: Last night was very exciting, and almost every single poll had us winning the debate against crooked Hillary Clinton big league, big league!


TRUMP: She is as crooked as they come. And I`ll tell you what, check our -- we put them out today, almost every poll. So that was an exciting evening for me, folks. That was an exciting evening.


TRUMP: And it set the all-time record for debates and maybe television. Who knows? Look at this crowd! Look at this! This is amazing! Unbelievable!


TRUMP: Unbelievable. Oh! I`ll tell you what. Is there any place more fun or safer to be than at a Trump rally, right? Right?


TRUMP: We`re going to take on the special interests, the lobbyists and the corrupt corporate media -- right back there. They are corrupt as you can get.


TRUMP: You know, the single weapon that Hillary Clinton has -- I mean, she couldn`t even pass her bar exam in Washington, D.C. She failed it. The single weapon that she`s got is the media. Without the mainstream media, she wouldn`t even be here, folks, that I can tell you. She wouldn`t even be here. She would haven`t a chance.

So we`re going to create a new government that serves you, your family and your country, and it`s going to be the kind of government that you`ve been looking for for a long time.


TRUMP: You know, I was in the plane, and I came in and we said, Wow, but we do have these crowds elsewhere, but they said the fire marshal closed us down, won`t let 12,000 people in. But then when I looked at this, I said, Now I understand. Where`s the fire marshal? Fire marshal, let `em in, please, OK? Let `em in. Let `em in, fire marshal!


TRUMP: Let `em in. Our country is filled with so many amazing people, people who lift us up and inspire us. And by the way, I have one of them here. Where`s Rudy Giuliani? Rudy! Rudy!


TRUMP: We love Rudy. Look at him. Look at him. He`s a good man.

We lost one great person in a heartbreaking accident on Sunday. Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, and he was some pitcher. He died at the age of 24.

I just spoke to Jeff, the owner of the team, who is heartbroken. It`s a huge loss for the state, for the entire sport of baseball, and for all of the Americans who are so inspired watching him play at 24, just about as good a pitcher as there ever was at that age.

So, we send our deepest condolences to his wife and family during this very painful time.

Our country also lost one of our truly great American icons, the king, the king, Arnold Palmer.


TRUMP: I was always very proud to call Arnold my friend. He was a truly great man. His legendary accomplishments on the course are well-known.

His fearless style of play, his love of the fans and his working-class charm made him an icon to legions of Americans. His accomplishment off the field was probably even greater, including his charity work and all of the thousands of lives that he`s made better. Arnie was a symbol for America, and he will be sorely missed.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Andrew Sullivan.

Andrew, you know history like I do. And I was always impressed by the fact that Richard Nixon could slam the hell out of Jack Kennedy, until he was in the same room with him in a debate, and he just couldn`t do it.

Then, when he got out of the room with him, he would start slamming him again. Trump could not be Trump last night. Why can he be Trump now? What is it that turns him away from taking on Hillary when she looks him in the eye?

SULLIVAN: He`s lived in a bubble in which he is the supreme leader for a very long time, a very rich person. He`s never actually had a one-on-one with an equal, having to give and take, having to accept this other person has as much legitimacy as he does.

He just hasn`t had that in his experience, because he`s been his own boss and running his own empire for so long. So, when that happened, he can`t handle, just as his braggadocious belligerence when he`s away from people suddenly evaporates, like it did in Mexico, when he actually has to confront people.

He`s a classic egomaniac, in the sense that he`s never had to deal with equals or peers. And he`s also a classic bully, which is that, up front...


MATTHEWS: Well, why is he afraid of Hillary when he faces her in debate like last night?

SULLIVAN: Because he knows that she knows more than he does.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go back.

Are we going back to that?

Let`s go back to Trump for a second.

TRUMP: For 90 minutes, on issue after issue, Hillary Clinton defended the terrible status quo, while I laid out our plan, all of us together, to bring jobs, security, and prosperity back to the American people.


TRUMP: For 90 minutes, she argued against change, while I called for dramatic change. And we have to have dramatic change. We have to get rid of Obamacare. We have to strengthen up our depleted military. It`s in such bad shape.

We`re going to do a lot of great things, folks. November 8, you have to get out there and vote.


TRUMP: You know, you have seen all the polls.

And if you look -- I don`t just mean the debating polls. Those were things of beauty, one after one, "TIME" magazine, places don`t even like me, although I have been on the cover of "TIME" a hell of a lot lately, I will say this.


TRUMP: But Drudge -- Drudge is -- first of all, he`s a fantastic guy

But Drudge, it was 80 to 20 percent, Trump, 80 to 20.


TRUMP: But, more importantly, when you look at the different polls, we`re up two nationally in CNN. Most importantly, you look at the states. We`re leading in Florida.


TRUMP: We`re leading in Ohio. We`re leading in Iowa by a lot. We`re leading in North Carolina.


TRUMP: We have states that don`t normally think in terms of Republican, which is us. It`s us. Don`t call us anything. It`s just us.

You know what it means? It means common sense. It means bringing civility back to our country. It means law and order and protecting our police and being very careful with everybody else.


MATTHEWS: Andrew, last night, Hillary Clinton had a strategy, which turned out to be very effective, which is to engage a bit on the issues, but quickly pivot to the question of Donald Trump`s business practices, his claims to being an 11-times billionaire, his claims to be self-made, and all in all on his claim to be transparent. She hit him on the taxes.

She hit him on everything, and then finally ended up hitting him on his attitude towards women and the words he`s used about pigs and all that sort of thing.

She got to him, and he never looked good last night. He was sweating. He was going for water like Marco Rubio did. He was physically out of sorts, it seemed, last night.

What is her strength against him? Is it just equality? Is that what he fears? I mean, I`m asking you.

SULLIVAN: Well, I think she had to go personally, because I think he`s been winning this election for the last six weeks. He`s right about those polls. He`s been surging everywhere.

And because -- he`s surging for two reasons. He represents real change to people, I think disastrous, but nonetheless, it`s real change. And he also represents an outsider. So, she is really up against -- and those are two core issues in this election which are in his favor. That`s why he`s been winning this election the last six weeks, until last night.

So, she has to somehow -- she can`t be the change agent, and she can`t be the outsider. So she has to go at his personal qualities to be president of the United States.

And one of the key things is his business record. And the other thing is the way that he has treated people weaker than him, people who aren`t as powerful as him through his career. And he has treated them with cruelty and contempt and derision, in a way that no one who has run for president of the United States in my living memory has done.

And that`s why she had to do that, because, otherwise, Chris, I think she really has been on the ropes. And I hope this turns it around, but I don`t think it will -- has been a decisive victory. I think she`s checked him temporarily.

MATTHEWS: James, you look very healthy, and I`m very happy about that. You have been taking care of yourself, which is very good news for me.

CARVILLE: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: James Carville, you`re always brilliant. Thank you for that.

And, Dana Loesch, keep up the fight. It`s a tough one.

LOESCH: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: And we`re going to continue to watch Donald Trump at that rally. Whenever he says something important, newsworthy, we`re going to go to it.

Coming up: If Donald Trump is hoping to make inroads with suburban women voters, slamming a former Miss Universe winner for gaining -- quote -- "a massive amount of weight" -- close quote -- doesn`t seem to be the best strategy, when you think about mothers and daughters.

We will get to the red-hot flash points exposed last night on gender and, of course, we will get to race. I think gender is going to be the thing we start with next.

And, tomorrow, it`s the return of the HARDBALL College Tour. Boy, do I love this. Look at this. Governor Gary Johnson, who`s getting near double digits, Bill Weld, the former very popular governor of Massachusetts, the Libertarian ticket live from the University of New Hampshire tomorrow night.

I`m going to really get to these folks and see if they are an alternative, or spoilers. Maybe both. We will see.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`re going to keep an eye on that podium down in Melbourne, Florida, where Trump has that big rally down there, 12,000 people, he said, his first big rally, of course, since last night`s debate. And he has got to make up for what happened since last night.

We will be eager, by the way, to hear what he has to say about his performance.

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.

As the candidates clashed over a number of issues last night, the points when Hillary Clinton seemed to land her most powerful punches came when the debate veered from policy and into areas addressing race and gender, especially gender. Let`s watch.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald started his career back in 1973 being sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination.

So he has a long record of engaging in racist behavior.



Well, Clinton also hit Trump hard on past comments he`s made about women. In particular, she mentioned the former winner of Miss Universe, Alicia Machado. Take a listen.


CLINTON: One of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest. He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman "Miss Piggy." Then he called her "Miss Housekeeping," because she was Latina.

Donald, she has a name.

TRUMP: Where did you find this? Where did you find this?

CLINTON: Her name is Alicia Machado.

TRUMP: Where did you find this?

CLINTON: And she has become a U.S. citizen, and you can bet...

TRUMP: Oh, really?

CLINTON: ... she`s going to vote this November.



MATTHEWS: Well, this morning on FOX News, Donald Trump defended hills, calling the former Miss Universe difficult, and, his word, the worst. Here he is.


TRUMP: She was the winner.

And, you know, she gained a massive amount of weight. And it was a real problem. We had a real problem, not only that, her attitude, and we had a real problem with her.

So, Hillary went back into the years, and she found this girl. This has been years ago, and found a girl and talked about her like she was Mother Teresa. And it wasn`t quite that way, but that`s OK, you know.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s OK. She wasn`t quite Mother Teresa. You can go with that, if you want.

Joining me right now for more is Boris Epshteyn, a Trump campaign senior adviser, and we have April Ryan, Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks.

April, my pal, you have an attitude -- I can tell -- and it`s appropriate for this discussion.


MATTHEWS: Because he talks about women and minorities in this case.

And let`s start with the gender thing. Machado was a young -- well, she was still a girl. She was 18. You could argue a girl, a woman, a young woman, at the time that he put her into that fitness center, with the cameras on her, telling her to lose some poundage.

Clearly, that`s a question about how you treat other human beings, I think. Hillary Clinton hit on it hard last night. Your thoughts, April?


Well, here we go. Number one, Chris, here`s the problem. He was a professional contestant, a beauty -- beauty pageant person who basically talked about a woman that he was promoting. He talked about this woman that was not professional to discuss and disclose what her problems were.

Number two, you know, to call her Miss Piggy because she ate, I mean, how many of us have had issues with weight back and forth? And Donald Trump doesn`t seem to be the smallest person as well. No one calls him orange.

And then the next thing...


RYAN: Well, anyway, moving on, because you`re going to have your time to speak.

And then to call her Miss Housekeeping, that`s very stereotypical. It`s very degrading. It`s -- Donald Trump seems to be the person who really wants to deal with women who are trophies, who can stand on someone`s arm.

But there are a lot of other women, particularly the women who he`s trying to bring into the fold of the Republican Party to vote for him, who don`t look like that model size or that pageant contestant.

So he`s got a lot of work to do.

MATTHEWS: What did you make of -- April, what did you make of his -- her shot at him, he likes hanging around these contests?

What was she up to there? Hanging around, was that something about him personally she was nailing there? Let`s face it. It was meant to be what she was saying there.

RYAN: She may have been, but he`s -- you have to remember, he`s also into entertainment.

I have also heard that he likes hanging around rappers or hanging around people who come to his casinos or hotels...

EPSHTEYN: What`s the big deal with that?

RYAN: ... people in entertainment. So, he`s very much into the glitz and the limelight.

But when it comes to real people, it seems like he has a deficit there.


EPSHTEYN: That`s pretty funny.

MATTHEWS: Boris, go ahead...


RYAN: I`m glad you think it`s funny. I`m glad you think it`s funny.


MATTHEWS: This is one of the areas where I thought Donald Trump should have been prepared, because Megyn Kelly went after with whole fusillade against him on this.

Everybody knows what she said about him. She went through the whole Rosie O`Donnell number. And here we are again. I mean, these are familiar points of attack, and he didn`t seem ready.

EPSHTEYN: Look, first of all, as far as hanging out with celebrities, nobody likes to sip champagne cocktails with celebrities like Hillary Clinton. She`s always out in the Hamptons.

MATTHEWS: That was not what she was saying.


MATTHEWS: She was hitting him for hanging around with beauty contests, meaning beautiful young women, of course.

EPSHTEYN: Well, she could also talk about that -- her husband liking to do that as well. There have been plenty of pictures of that out there.

So, I think all of this is a huge distraction from the issues that people actually carry about, which is the economy.


MATTHEWS: Half the country and half the electorate are women. And they care about the way they`re treated.

EPSHTEYN: Of course.

Do you think women care about what Mr. Trump, who owned -- who was an investor and owned a beauty pageant 20 years ago, said about a woman?


RYAN: And the Bill Clinton issue was 20 years ago. The Bill Clinton issue was 20 years ago as well. And that was not Hillary. That was Bill Clinton.


EPSHTEYN: You spoke. May I speak? Thank you so much.

RYAN: You`re welcome.

EPSHTEYN: So, the real issues people care about in this country are the economy. We haven`t had 3 percent GDP growth in eight years. National security, defense. That`s what they care about.

MATTHEWS: He didn`t bring those up.

EPSHTEYN: And if you want to talk -- yes, he did. He did talk about ISIS.

And if you want to talk about treatment of women, Hillary had her lawyer, Bob Bennett, push -- or threaten naked pictures of Paula Jones to bully her into not coming out against Bill Clinton. And we know that.

MATTHEWS: I don`t know that.

EPSHTEYN: They smeared those women. They smeared Gennifer Flowers. They smeared -- tried to smear Monica Lewinsky.

So, if I were Hillary Clinton, I wouldn`t go around and act as if I`m a big defender of women, because her history, just like her history...


MATTHEWS: Anyway, they settled that case and they paid that amount of money.

Let me ask you about this implicit threat by Donald Trump that he might just talk about -- it`s an old Nixonian try -- which is, I could have brought up her -- behavior of her husband, blah, blah, blah, the enabling charge he has made before.

Do you think he should in the next debate go after her, personally, with regard to Bill`s behavior, Bill Clinton? Should he or should he not do that?

EPSHTEYN: If Hillary Clinton continues to go after him personally with made-up charges like this one from a woman who was disgruntled.

MATTHEWS: Made-up? Do you think that she made up the fact -- we have got the video of her in the workout room with him -- with the cameras on her.

EPSHTEYN: She wanted to be in the pageant.

But I don`t want to litigate that issue. What I`m saying is, if Hillary Clinton continues to go after him personally, he is free to go after her history, which is...

RYAN: Chris...



Let me go back to April.

RYAN: Chris...

MATTHEWS: Because let`s watch this merry-go-round, if we get on it.

If we get on the merry-go-round of sex and misbehavior, it`s going to go all the way around 360 degrees.


RYAN: Yes, exactly.

MATTHEWS: It`s going to be about how many marriages he`s had, blah, blah, blah, blah, and nobody is going like it.

RYAN: Ivana vs. Marla. Ivana vs. Marla. And that was played out on public television.

MATTHEWS: Nobody is going to like it.

RYAN: Yes. So, he`s got to back off. He`s got to back off, because I remember watching "Regis & Kathie Lee." Kathie Lee hit...


EPSHTEYN: Why would he back off? Hillary Clinton was the one hitting him personally.


RYAN: ... Marla Maples back when they were having an affair. So, if you want to...


MATTHEWS: I can`t even follow this. You lost me at the turn there.


EPSHTEYN: Yes, I don`t know what you`re talking about. I would love to talk to you about the issues.


RYAN: It was gossipy back then. It was 20 years...


MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s ask the question, very objectively, because you can both play journalists now for a second. You can play referee.

Is Bill Clinton`s behavior as a husband relevant to this presidential election, yes or no?

EPSHTEYN: Hillary Clinton`s behavior...


EPSHTEYN: ... and response to that behavior is relevant.

MATTHEWS: Her what?

EPSHTEYN: Hillary Clinton`s behavior and response and her --

MATTHEWS: What is that behavior?

EPSHTEYN: She was an enabler and she bullied --

MATTHEWS: OK. So, it`s relevant.

OK, April, your thoughts. Is it relevant, their marriage?

RYAN: It all depends ho the question is asked. If the question is about what Hillary Clinton did staying with her husband, you know, that`s their marriage. Donald Trump has issues, but if it`s something that she did --

EPSHTEYN: What about bullying those women?

RYAN: Wait a minute, if it`s something specifically that she did to the women, that`s the issue. It`s not about -- it`s not about Bill Clinton and his issues 20 years ago.


MATTHEWS: Make the charges when we have enough preparation, all of us, to know whether any of this true.

Anyway, Boris Epshteyn, thank you so much.

EPSHTEYN: Thank you very much.

MATTHEWS: April, you`re my pal, you`re great. And I do watch your -- last night, did you like the split screen? A lot of last night was reaction faces. It`s a new kind of debate with the split screen. And, by the way, you`re right now on a split screen and I`m watching you. By the way, I`m in the larger screen right now.

RYAN: I see you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next, we`re going to step away from the debate for just a minute, because today we learned and heard the big bombshell accusation that Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey knew all about Bridgegate as it was happening in real-time. That`s what one of Christie`s former top aides testified to under oath in court today.

Well, there`s always the truth and not the truth, but apparently, this guy had the nerved to say it under oath. That`s serious business.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

A former top aide and a one-time ally to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in court today for the prosecution against two former Christie aides over the George Washington Bridge scandal made some testimony. The official, David Wildstein, who is the prosecution`s main witness, testified in detail that he informed Governor Christie`s, he informed him of the plot to close that George Washington Bridge as it was underway on September 11th, 2013, during a 9/11 memorial event.

According to Wildstein, Christie was happy and even joked about the traffic jam on the bridge. Christie has insisted to this day that he was not aware of the scheme as it unfolded.

Steve Kornacki is an anchor and reporter for MSNBC.

Steve, you`ve been on this case from the beginning. Up until now, it was, we have hard evidence that he knew. Now, we know what the evidence is, the testimony of Wildstein himself. But he`s involved in a plea bargain.

Is he credible?

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that`s the question here. And look, they have also, the prosecution and defense is going to -- the defense, I should say, is going to bring out his political past as sort of a political dark arts specialist. And they`re going to -- they have already put this story out there that they got him to admit under oath, that when he was I think 21, 22 years old, he stole Senator Frank Lautenberg`s jacket before a debate to try to get into his head.

They`re sort of saying, this is his character as a political was a political operative, and that Bill Baroni, the guy who helped bring them into the Port Authority knew about this. So, ultimately, there`s a fact that he`s got a plea deal here. He has testified under oath already. He said, look, I hope to avoid jail time by cutting this. So, the question is, will the jury ultimately listen to that.

MATTHEWS: When you listen to the testimony as to what the governor overhead and how he responded, was it incriminating. Did it seem like he agreed enough with the plot to be part of it?

KORNACKI: Well, that`s the question here. So, there`s two elements of it. One is there`s this conversation that takes place. This is basically day three of the lane closures. The pictures you`re seeing, we`ve seen the pictures before. Wildstein is now saying, here`s the conversation. Me and Baroni are talking to him and we tell him what`s going on and the governor`s joking with us about it, so he understands.

The other thing that Wildstein testified, though, is that Christie`s campaign manager at the time, remember, Christie`s running for re-election as governor, he said he told Christie`s campaign manager before the shutdown what was going on and the campaign manager`s response was, what`s your cover story?

MATTHEWS: What drives me in this thing, what I find fascinating, his original response to the charge that he was involved, the governor said, yes, I`m the guy that put the cones out there. Reaching away and pushing himself away from the act of doing it, to the point where he was saying, I didn`t do that, which opened up the question, did he know about it?

KORNACKI: And so and what he --

MATTHEWS: He wasn`t denying knowing about it at the time, he was denying putting the cones out personally.

KORNACKI: Yes, and what he`s acknowledged -- when it`s come out before, supposedly when this conversation took place, he tried to say, yes, he might have said something to me and I didn`t understand.

MATTHEWS: Well, that was always a good -- I don`t remember, I didn`t understand is a good way of pleading the Fifth.


MATTHEWS: But anyway, we`ll see -- he seemed, I can`t believe the governor is out there campaigning hard last night as part of the surrogate role he had. I don`t know how he can do that and at the same time worry about this stuff.

KORNACKI: Yes, imagine if he had been the VP candidate.

MATTHEWS: This has Bill Clinton ability, to be able to compartmentalize.

Anyway, Steve Kornacki, it`s your story. You`re the one that got this.

KORNACKI: There were some other people.

MATTHEWS: A few got this.

Up next, we`ll see how Trump and Clinton fared last night based on the HARDBALL rules on how to win or lose a debate. Who broke the rules last night, who paid for it? Where do the candidates follow our playbook and when do they flame out. And that`s ahead.

We`ll check this whole thing against the way you do a debate.

And you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Last week, we debuted our HARDBALL rules for how to win or lose a debate. And tonight we ask how Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump stacked up against those rules in their first face-to-face confrontation last night.

And with us for, that is -- well, the roundtable itself. Carolyn Ryan is senior editor for politics at "The New York Times." And Harold Ford is former U.S. congressman and an MSNBC political analyst. And Megan Murphy is Washington bureau chief -- boy, the heavyweights -- for Bloomberg.

Rule number one is that one-liners work even if they`ve rehearsed. A well- time zinger can effectively shut down an opponent`s attacks. Last night, we saw that Hillary Clinton came equipped with an effective rebuttal to Donald Trump`s assertion that she lacks the stamina, actually the looks, he said, needed for the job.

Here`s how he turned the tables on Mr. Trump.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.




MATTHEWS: She had a ringers ready out there in the audience or not, they jumped for that. Maybe they were told ahead of time that this is the big one. But it was.

HAROLD FORD, JR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: She was ready. I think one of the more -- another effective line was when she talked about preparation for the debate and preparation to be president. I thought her line against him on taxes really would appeal to independent voters and moderate voters, those who are still undecided. How can you appeal to teachers and police officers and other law enforcement agency workers if you don`t pay your taxes yourself? You said zero for veterans, zero for homeland security.

And, finally, when she talked about race. You look at the number she`ll have to generate amongst African-American and Latino voters. I thought it was a strategic way to go after it.

And I`ve got to tell you, Trump never stood up for 90 minutes and practiced. You could tell. He was good the first 20, 25 minutes. I don`t care how old you are, how good you think you are, you got --

MATTHEWS: We`ve all noticed that in previous debates, he`s always better anyway, jump on this one. Rule number two, show your heart.

Hillary Clinton last night did make an effort to relate to the audience personally in a personal way I think to get by the $250,000 speeches, too, when she told the story of her father`s small business. It was a story she later connected to her argument that Trump has too often stiffed his contractors that did business for him. Let`s watch this.


CLINTON: My father was a small businessman. He worked really hard. He printed drapery fabrics on long tables where he pulled out those fabrics and he went down with a silk screen and dumped the paint in and took the squeegee and kept going.

I can only say that I`m certainly relieved that my late father never did business with you. He provided a good middle class life for us, but the people he worked for, he expected the bargain to be kept on both sides.


MATTHEWS: Now, you know, she didn`t weave this together. Like a good columnist, she opens with this guy is my regular guy. And she ends up with Donald Trump is the guy that screws regular guys. She put it together.

CAROLYN RYAN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: People want to hear stories and people are hungry to hear what`s in her heart. And it felt like what she did connect this to something bigger that people are questioning about his character. It felt like she was really effective. I think people are still hungry to hear more of her heart, though. There wasn`t another instance in the debate where she did that.

MATTHEWS: She seems too finessed, like Bill Clinton had this problem, too. He looks like the Rhodes Scholar, but he wasn`t always a Rhodes Scholar. He was a kid from the country with a mother who was raising him by herself. And you have to get back to that to win.

MEGAN MURPHY, BLOOMBERG: I got to be honest. I don`t -- the stories about her family I don`t think really resonated with me. I don`t think --

MATTHEWS: Why? Because she`s too elite?

MURPHY: I think, you know, when you look at the sort of amount of money they`ve made people don`t connect her to that upbringing anymore. I think she was far more personal, far more emotive, far more authentic when she actually talked about President Obama and how he felt about the birther claims, and at the end, about women and gender. That`s going to stick in a lot of --

MATTHEWS: You mean she talk about his dignity and had to show his driver`s license --

MURPHY: And how much it hurts him personally as a black man and as a first black president.

MATTHEWS: Well, you may have heard it, but he`ll get even.

Debate rule number three. It`s television, stupid. On this count, voters are often influenced by nonverbal cues, which can distract from the candidate`s message. Many have pointed out that Trump last night was constantly -- it`s not my fault to use this word -- sniffling throughout the debate as if he had a cold. Let`s watch some of that.


TRUMP: She`s in deep trouble. We don`t -- agreement. Is that OK? The agreement`s better. The bigger numbers than ever.


MATTHEWS: Blow your nose. I mean, what is going on with this guy? Was it Al Gore who was sighing?

RYAN: The sighs. They had him watch "Saturday Night Live" so he saw how distracting it was.

I have to tell you that there is a real distraction that comes from watching him. And we actually put a reporter last night into a room and had him turn the sound off on this debate and watch the entire thing in a kind of sealed off.

And you could tell what was going on and Trump was distracting, he was impatient. He was upset. And she was quite happy.

FORD: He hadn`t practiced. You got stand for 90 minutes.

I`m a little fair, I got -- I`m sniffling a little myself. I hope you don`t hear it.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about lawyers because the guys before Hillary Clinton, Al Gore who went to law school, he had the influence of all those -- what do you call, subjunctive clauses, what do you call them? Subordinate clauses and screwing up your English. Fritz Mondale was terrible on debates. Dukakis was terrible.

It seems like the lawyerly mind doesn`t work in debates. Where Hillary Clinton last night used a lawyerly context, she probably (INAUDIBLE) helping her. She had it ready to prosecute and I thought in a charming way. You know why? Because she looked like she was having fun. People like to see a candidate having fun.

FORD: I don`t think there`s -- not only did she look like she was having fun, she understood what was at stake. I mean, the lines about -- I hear your point about maybe not connecting, feeling like emotive, but it had a substantive zing to it. He hadn`t paid his bills. And how can you preach to us if you`re not paying your own bills?

MATTHEWS: Don`t say it`s smart that I don`t pay taxes. The average guy and women`s out there, short form. Who are short form and they know they got to pay taxes.

People out there doing the short form, and they know they got to pay taxes.

FORD: If you don`t pay taxes, the IRS comes after you. I guess they`re coming after him, too, because he got audited 12 times.

MATTHEWS: By the way, he`s been audited so much. I would think that -- if I were her, I`d say, why are you always getting audited?

Anyway, Carolyn Ryan, look at all the Irish guys here -- Megan Murphy and my friend Harold Ford.

FORD: Honorary. Honorary.

MATTHEWS: It`s good to be honorary.

When we return, I`m going to finish with my election diary tonight September 27th as we look forward to the next debates. And there are three more.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Election diary Tuesday, September 27th, 2016.

You know, I keep hearing the lyrics of that old Dinah Washington song side in my head, what a difference a day made, 24 little hours. Well, this time yesterday, it was all question marks, polls tied, Trump beating the spread, Hillary unsure.

Tonight, the earth has moved. Hillary is ebullient, bouncing with the pride of achievement, sure beyond the debate the last night she had the right stuff, the strategy, the confidence, the sure grip of a prosecutor. She her rival red-handed, undercutting him on every point, killing him softly and relentlessly before the largest audience of their rivalry.

And now, we have a different campaign. The wide American public knows that Hillary can do it. Her people know she`s got the stuff. The Trump audience knows their man is beatable. They`ve seen him knocked down repeatedly, hit and floored before their eyes. They will not look at him the same way again.

So, the question this sixth Tuesday until the election is whether Trump, battered and bloodied as he was last night, can bring himself to his feet, can overcome a wide public demonstration that he`s not only beatable but as Senator Elizabeth Warren put it as she could and I cannot, "beatable by a girl".

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

Don`t forget, the college tour continues tomorrow with Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, the libertarian ticket, live from the University of New Hampshire. That`s coming up tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.



CLINTON: Did anybody see that debate last night?


HAYES: The ecstasy and the agony.

TRUMP: My microphone was terrible. I think -- I wonder was it set up that way on purpose?

HAYES: The fallout, the fact-checking and the ongoing fight from the most- watched debate in history.