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Hardball With Chris Matthews, Transcript 10/4/2016

Guests: Heidi Przybyla, Amy Klobuchar, Terry McAuliffe, John Brabender, Jason Johnson, Megan Murphy

Show: HARDBALL Date: October 4, 2016 Guest: Heidi Przybyla, Amy Klobuchar, Terry McAuliffe, John Brabender, Jason Johnson, Megan Murphy

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Will this be the counterattack?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews, live from Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.

And here we are -- here we are, in fact, 30 miles from Appomattox courthouse, where General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant, thereby ending a Civil War that cost the lives of 600,000 Americans.

Well, tonight, we`re here at Longwood University for a battle in a political conflict between two very different points of view. It`s the vice presidential debate between Indiana governor Mike Pence, Republican, against Virginia senator Tim Kaine, Democrat.

It`s Governor Pence`s test tonight, obviously, to turn the battle from a defense of Donald Trump to an attack on Hillary Clinton. And to do so, he will need to execute a classic debate tactic, the attack from a defensive position. He needs to strike at Hillary, most likely at her weak numbers on trustworthiness, at the very moment she and her running mate are assaulting Trump.

Trump spent the past week battling a former Miss Universe, defending himself against a "New York Times" article on his taxes, and mocking Clinton`s health and even her marriage. Let`s watch.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: She was the winner, and you know, she gained a massive amount of weight. And it was -- it was a real problem. We had -- we had a real problem. Not only that, her attitude.

The news media is now obsessed with an alleged tax filing from the 1990s. I was able to use the tax laws of this country and my business acumen to dig out of the real estate mess.

She`s supposed to fight all of these different things, and she can`t make it 15 feet to her car. Give me a break! Give me a break!


TRUMP: Hillary Clinton`s only loyalty is to her financial contributors and to herself. I don`t even think she`s loyal to Bill, if you want to know the truth. And really, folks, really, why should she be, right? Why should she be?


MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, today, Clinton again knocked Trump on his taxes. Let`s watch.


HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He lost a billion dollars. And as I`ve said repeatedly, that`s hard to do when you`re running casinos. But it demonstrates, I think unequivocally, that he was a failure at this business and he wrecked businesses, and by wrecking his businesses, he wrecked the lives of his workers, he stiffed contractors, and he generally disregarded the wellbeing of the communities.

Someone who is claiming to run for president based on his business success should be judged by that business. And I think what we`re finding out is deeply troubling.


MATTHEWS: Well, Donald Trump tried to turn the attack back on Clinton. Let`s watch him there.


TRUMP: She complains about how I`ve used the tax laws of this country to my benefit. Then I ask a simple question. Why didn`t she ever try to change those laws so I couldn`t use them? The reason that she did not do that is her donors and contributors have used those same tax laws as I did, the same way!



MATTHEWS: For more on this fight coming tonight, I`m joined by NBC`s Andrea Mitchell, "USA Today`s" senior political reporter Heidi Przybyla, and Joy Reid, the host of "AM Joy" on MSNBC.

Andrea, thank you for joining us. Give us a tap (ph) this fight tonight. Give us -- give us a sense of this fight from both ends.

ANDREA MITCHELL, HOST, "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORT": Well, first of all, the Clinton team is feeling really energized. They`re up in two polls now, by 9 and 10 points in two separate polls in Pennsylvania, which is their firewall. She was there today, appearing to suburban Republican women in those bedroom suburbs in Delaware County.

And what they`re going to try to do tonight is to have John -- to have Mike -- excuse me -- have Tim Kaine go after Mike Pence on all of the things that Donald Trump has, they think, messed up on this week, opening up all of these issues, the taxes, as well as, of course, the women`s issues. They think that he can, you know, prosecute that case against Mike Pence.

Pence, of course, they think, will be on the offensive -- on the defensive, but Pence is planning to go after Clinton on her trust, on her reliability, and on those issues you heard Donald Trump bringing up today. So it`s going to be quite a matchup, I think, these two very policy-wonkish running mates taking on the roles of attack dogs.

MATTHEWS: I wonder tonight -- I know in the fight -- watching fighting as I grew up, big heavyweight boxing, I always watched -- the middleweight fights are always the better fights. I think it`s going to be better (ph) that tonight.

Anyway, speaking of polls, a new NBC on-line tracking poll out today shows Clinton beating Trump by 6 points. That`s a pretty strong lead for Hillary Clinton.

We also have new polls from several battleground states. let`s look at those. Clinton leads Trump by 11 in a new poll in Colorado. That`s a big move toward Hillary. And also, Trump`s ahead by 5 in Ohio. Well, that`s where he`s been.

Clinton also leads by 10 in a new Monmouth poll. That`s huge. That is the firewall. Andrea`s right about that. Pennsylvania`s the firewall. That`s where Hillary will probably win, the way things are going, and Trump is not going to win there, the way things are going.

She`s up by 7 also in Virginia, another part of that firewall, and up 6 in one North Carolina poll, although that`s much closer. In Florida, she leads by 5 in a new Quinnipiac poll. That`s another state that`s going to remain close.

Let me go to me other people here (INAUDIBLE) this thing. I think the most predictable thing at 9:00 o`clock tonight, besides the fact it`s going to be 9:00 o`clock, is that Tim Kaine is going to do what Hillary`s been doing, hit him on the taxes, hit him on his treatment of women.

It`s so predictable. Therefore, it should be easy for Mike Pence to predict the attack and counter it. Your thoughts.

JOY REID, HOST, "AM JOY": Well, yes, and I think that Mike Pence knows that he`s here to defend Donald Trump, but I...

MATTHEWS: Or attack.

REID: Or attack. But I think you also have a second sort of line of attack that Democrats or Tim Kaine is going to try to use tonight because as I see it, Mike Pence`s job tonight is try to make Trump look normal or seem normal to that last bastion of suburban women Republicans.

Tim Kaine`s job is to make Mike Pence seem strange. And if you think about it, Mike Pence was put on the ticket in order to normalize Trump, to make him acceptable to Republicans who are uncomfortable with Trump`s being, with the way he is.

I think Tim Kaine will try to go after Mike Pence`s own history, particularly on issues to do with women because if that`s the swing vote, if he goes after him on things like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is, you know, a very important thing to young voters, if he goes after him on things like Planned Parenthood, defunding it in Indiana -- I actually think Mike Pence himself will come under attack, not just Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: What do you think? But I don`t know why you attack a VP, though. I would attack the top guy. What do you think?

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, "USA TODAY": I think, you know, Mike Pence -- there`s no upside to him owning a lot of the things that Tim Kaine is going to try to make him own today. He`s going to try and make him own Donald Trump and all of these -- I mean, think about all the things that have happened just since the last debate, in terms of Alicia Machado and the taxes...

MATTHEWS: I actually (INAUDIBLE) I don`t think it`s complicated. Let me ask you both because it`ll be my rhetorical question. What`s the safest thing for any politician on the Republican side who has a future, 20/20, way down the road -- what`s the safest thing to do, defend Donald Trump or attack Hillary Clinton? What`s the safest...


MATTHEWS: Tell why. Explain why because...

REID: Because the Republican Party has an existential hatred of Hillary Clinton...


MATTHEWS: And she`ll be around!

REID: And she`ll still...

MATTHEWS: If she gets elected this time...


MATTHEWS: ... go against her next time!

REID: And you remember...

MATTHEWS: And you`re in a perfect position, if you`re already attacking Hillary Clinton, to be attacking her now so you can do it again later, whereas defending Trump is dangerous because of why?

REID: And you also have to remember, too, that Republicans are looking at a midterm in 2018 where they don`t know how much...


REID: ... of their own electoral base is going to be for Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: Defending Trump.

PRZYBYLA: Not to mention...


PRZYBYLA: Not to mention that Trump -- well, first of all, not to mention that Trump didn`t prosecute this case himself. This was one of things coming out of his last debate that Republicans were most upset about, was that he didn`t take the opportunity...

MATTHEWS: He never mentioned the Clinton Foundation!

PRZYBYLA: ... to hit her on the Clinton Foundation, on Libya, on Benghazi, or even on the e-mails, which was such low-hanging fruit.

MATTHEWS: Her hawkishness. Anyway...

PRZYBYLA: Pence will.

MATTHEWS: ... Mike Pence has got to do what Trump didn`t do and he`s got to go after Hillary Clinton tonight. I`m absolutely convinced the tactic tonight to watch is the attack from a defensive position. Everybody, including all the Republicans and all the commentators, are going to say, Oh, Mike Pence has got to defend Donald Trump tonight. No, he doesn`t. He can just attack Hillary Clinton.

Anyway, earlier today, Hillary Clinton responded to a question from a student about Trump`s comments about how women look. Here`s how she -- why would Pence want to talk about that tonight?


MATTHEWS: Anyway, he can just stay away from Trump, attack Hillary. (INAUDIBLE) watch this.


CLINTON: You know, it`s shocking when women are called names and judged on the basis, solely on the basis of physical attributes. We have to stand up against that. My opponent insulted Miss Universe.


CLINTON: I mean, how do you get more acclaimed than that? But it wasn`t good enough. So we can`t take any of this seriously anymore. We need to laugh at it. We need to refute it. We need to ignore it. And we need to stand up to it. And especially the bullying.


MATTHEWS: We`ve got Andrea Mitchell back. Andrea, this -- give me a sense of what you think Pence is going to do. I have a theory. I think you missed it. What do you think Pence is going to do? I don`t think he`s playing defense tonight. What a waste of time. He can`t defend Trump. Trump`s got to defend Trump. Your thoughts.

MITCHELL: Yes, absolutely. I think he goes after Hillary Clinton in ways, as you just pointed out, that Donald Trump didn`t -- the e-mails, cybersecurity, all the things he did not open up because he got so distracted in the debate once she really got him off his game by mentioning that he had inherited that company -- $14 million loan from his dad.

And after that, he just kept returning over and over and over again to his business issues, which were hardly what he should have been prosecuting in that debate against Hillary Clinton.

So Mike Pence is very smart. You know, he clearly knows how to go after Hillary Clinton tonight. And you know he will have prepared a whole lot better than Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: Yes, and I think Pence is a very serious guy -- perhaps a lot of people would say in terms of politics, too serious. But he`s deadly. I want to go back to my colleagues here.

Mike Pence -- look at the guy! He`s in this thing seriously. He isn`t here to have fun. He`s got an ideological commitment. He actually says what he believes, which separates him from most politicians. You may not like his very conservative views on women, on abortion rights, on gay rights...

REID: And a lot of women may not know them. A lot of women...


MATTHEWS: ... but he is for real. That separates him from most politicians. I`m sorry. That`s rare.

REID: Yes. And he took a job that was probably the most unpopular, unwanted job in Republican politics. You see other elected Republicans running from Donald Trump and cringing...


MATTHEWS: ... candidate for governor of Indiana.

REID: Well, there you go.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) worst job. But go ahead.

REID: But the other issue is, is that Mike Pence may want to do the full pivot. You call it the full 180. You`re asked a question about, the same Kelly Ayotte question. He gets that question, Would you be proud to have your children or your church see Donald Trump as president? Is that something of which you can be of proud? Good luck trying to do a 180- degree pivot without answering that question. It`s almost guaranteed to get the Kelly Ayotte question. And he`s got to answer it. You just can`t do a 180.

MATTHEWS: Well, depends (INAUDIBLE) the moderator is.

REID: That`s a good point.

MATTHEWS: I`ve watched a lot of moderators that don`t push...

REID: Let it go.

MATTHEWS: ... a second and third time.

PRZYBYLA: And think about on the tax issue, for example. Donald Trump has not had to answer for this in the way that Mike Pence is going to have to answer for Donald Trump.


MATTHEWS: Is the moderator tonight going to be tough and keep pressing like that, do you think?

REID: It`s hard to say. But I mean, she`s a tough reporter...

MATTHEWS: I`ve never seen her in action...

REID: ... she`s a good reporter. I haven`t seen her do a debate. But I think that at this moment, the media is under such pressure, as well, that if she doesn`t try to get him to answer that question...

MATTHEWS: OK, let me...


REID: ... if she lets him go, she`s going to face a lot of criticism.

MATTHEWS: Where do we stand right now on the role of the moderator? Is it the fact checker or not? Because, you know, one of our colleagues got attacked for not fact checking, then another one got hit for fact -- I mean, what is the state of the art on that? Do you fact check or not?

MITCHELL: I think you have to do it as appropriate. You have to expect that the debaters will do a lot of fact checking for you, but you have to do a considerable amount of fact checking yourself. But each moderator -- look, the pressure is enormous. Each moderator has to make their own decision.

But I think Mike Pence has an easy answer. I think he`s all in with Donald Trump. He cannot not not say, Of course I would be proud, of course he`s a role model. I really think that he believes in this, but on all of the issues where Trump has been arguably rude and vulgar, he`ll just pivot back to things that he believes Hillary Clinton has done wrong.

MATTHEWS: I think he can isolate where he supports Trump. He said -- he can say Trump has had the guts to take on the political establishment of this country of both parties. That`s an act of courage, in my department, and I do respect it. He can define what he likes about Trump. Grown-up politicians can define their answers.

Well, here we are in Virginia. Thomas Jefferson said the whole art of politics is the art of telling the truth. If they`d only remember that.

Thank you, Andrea Mitchell.

MITCHELL: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Heidi Przybyla and Joy Reid.

Coming up -- what do Tim Kaine and Mike Pence hope to accomplish tonight? For Kaine, it might be to do no harm, but after the rough week Donald Trump`s just had, Pence has the sharper challenge. He has to break the Clinton charge because if he doesn`t, who`s going to do it?

And coming up at the top of the hour, I`ll be joining Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow, of course, as we get ready for tonight`s debate. And then at 9:00 Eastern, Tim Kaine and Mike Pence go face to face in the only presidential debate for the vice presidents.

At 10:30, we`ll be back with full coverage of the debate, and I`ll be back here covering everything that happens tonight until 1:00 AM Eastern. We`re sticking with you!


HARDBALL`s coming back, and this is a special edition of HARDBALL, live from Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, site of the vice presidential debate.



MATTHEWS: It`s a wild night here! Look at these people!


MATTHEWS: This is...


MATTHEWS: We`re out here in the real Virginia, in the country out here. This isn`t some suburb in a bedroom community of Virginia. This is way out in the country here, live from Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, for tonight`s vice presidential debate.

By the way, everybody knows this who follows anything -- women make up a larger share of the electorate than men. Everybody keeps forgetting this, more women voters than male voters.

Anyway, today, they`re getting the full-court press from Hillary Clinton. Two of Clinton`s most powerful surrogates, Michelle Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren, hit the campaign trail today to exploit Trump`s terrible week and boost turnout. Here they go.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: If a candidate regularly demeans and humiliates women, making cruel and insulting comments about our bodies, criticizing how we look, how we act -- well, sadly, that`s who that candidate really is.


MATTHEWS: Well, she`s good. And with good reason. According to NBC`s most recent on-line survey among women likely voters, a majority of 52 percent said they support Clinton compared to just 34 percent who say they support Trump. That`s quite a spread.

Down here in Farmville, it will be up to both vice presidential candidates to make the hard sell for both of the people at the top of their tickets, obviously. They`re surrogates. They`re the big surrogates, the VP nominees.

Governor Mike Pence will have the more challenging task, of course, because after a bad week -- some people say a horrible week for Trump -- it`ll be up to him to turn the battle against Hillary Clinton, and that`s a challenge. Pence is strongly pro-life, of course, and in 2015 passed a controversial religious freedom bill that gave stronger legal defense to businesses if they refuse to serve gay people.

Anyway, here`s how he described himself when he accepted the nomination for VP.


GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE PRES. NOMINEE: I`m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order!



MATTHEWS: Well, Tim Kaine, who during the 2012 Senate election, carried 56 percent of women voters in Virginia, will have to defend his own complicated views on abortion, whether he`s personally pro-life, but we`ll get to that.

For more, I`m joined by Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from Minnesota, and Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe. Both are Clinton supporters, big-time!


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. Thank you, Governor.


MATTHEWS: This is...

KLOBUCHAR: This is something!

MATTHEWS: OK, I really love this trip down here.


GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA: Welcome to Virginia.

MATTHEWS: I love coming down here tonight, and thanks to the senator for being here. Let me ask you both...

KLOBUCHAR: Farmville.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you both.

You`re both, I know, besides being statespersons and men and women of the world who care about this country, you`re also political tacticians and strategists. You know, what is -- let`s try. And you`re both here supporting Secretary Clinton and Tim Kaine, who`s a very likable guy. We all like Tim Kaine.


MATTHEWS: But let me ask you, tell me about that battle of the two different personalities, Mike Pence, Tim Kaine. Size them up as debaters, as personalities.

MCAULIFFE: First of all, both very strong.

I have known Tim now for two decades. I have known Governor Pence for a long time. I served as chairman of the National Governors Association. I worked with Governor Pence.

He has got a much harder deal tonight. Tim Kaine talks about Hillary Clinton`s vision, building the middle class, getting people back to work. Mike Pence tonight has to defend all of the things you have been talking about on this show. I think he has a much tougher road tonight, to be able to have to defend all the things...

MATTHEWS: Can he pivot?

MCAULIFFE: He`s going to have a hard time pivoting. People want to have answers.

Donald Trump said all the following things. This is the head of your ticket. How do you respond? Tim Kaine can talk about the five-point plan on economic development, how we move this country forward.

You`re in Virginia today. We are a swing state. We have been very strong for Clinton and Kaine now for months and months. Hillary has been up here for the last eight months anywhere from seven to 12 points.

MATTHEWS: Yes. You say it`s a swing state, but it`s getting to be a Democrat state, isn`t it?

MCAULIFFE: Yes. I mean...

MATTHEWS: Went twice for Obama.

MCAULIFFE: When I won -- I broke a 44-year trend when I won the governorship. I brought in with me my lieutenant governor and attorney general, first time in 24 years Democrats swept.

Democrats now control all five statewides here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Why? Economic -- I just announced the other day, lowest unemployment rate of any major state in America.

MATTHEWS: What he is not saying, although he knows it better than any of us know, women in this state. Northern Virginia is packed with a lot of women who come to work in the Washington area, single women. A lot of them are single, for life in many cases.

They are very pro-choice. And we have watched this with the Doug Wilder campaign. We watched it with all the campaigns. Women in Virginia are pro-choice. The state is pro-choice. Is that going to be an issue tonight?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think it will be discussed.

MATTHEWS: Because Pence is very pro-life.

KLOBUCHAR: Oh, yes. Pence has said he would want to overturn Roe v. Wade. He introduced the bill to defund Planned Parenthood, where a lot of women get their contraception.

This will be a part of the debate. I don`t think it`s the only issue for women, though, Chris, as you know. Women workers are two-thirds of the minimum wage workers. And the fact that Hillary Clinton has been out there on increasing the minimum wage, on a strong work family leave policy, on a strong child care policy, a lot of the women are focused on those, and that`s why you see that, in addition to the debate performance, where after she answered every question for an hour-and-a-half, he had the gall to look at the camera and look at her, and say, you don`t have the stamina to be the president of the United States.

MATTHEWS: Was that a code? Was that a whistle for you, a dog whistle, stamina?

KLOBUCHAR: Yes. Well, I screamed at the TV.


MATTHEWS: You think it`s anti-woman.

KLOBUCHAR: I yelled at the TV, because I`m thinking, are you -- what is wrong with you? She is the one that has been strong. She is the one that...


MATTHEWS: It`s the strangest word, because -- but you guys live longer than we do. You bear children. And anybody who`s been through a childbirth, like I have been watching -- all we do is watch. And you have babies. I don`t know what this stamina thing is about.

Let me ask you about young people, a lot of them here.


MATTHEWS: How many of you are millennials?


MATTHEWS: How many? OK. They are millennials.

Both candidates have had a hard time stirring these guys up. How do they do it? They have a month to do it.

MCAULIFFE: Look what`s going on. Listen, everybody out here, they want a good-paying job. That`s what they want. They want a great education system. Hillary has come out with her plan. In a state school, if you make under $125,000, you will get a higher education.

This is what these folks out here all want. They want a good-paying job. They want an avenue to success. Why is Bernie Sanders cutting commercials, traveling all over the commonwealth, all over the country? Because he`s out there supporting Hillary Clinton because he knows that she`s the right thing for this country and she`s the right thing for millennials.


MATTHEWS: Why would anybody who is a millennial vote for Gary Johnson if they voted for Bernie Sanders? That`s what I can`t understand. How can you go from socialist to Libertarian? It doesn`t make -- you handle this, Senator.

How can you go from socialist to Libertarian? It makes no sense.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think that Bernie Sanders, who is in my home state today, is going to have a lot to do that. He`s out there strong? He`s out there talking about why the vote should be for Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: OK. Is Hillary closer to socialist or Libertarian? What is she closer to?

KLOBUCHAR: One more thing.


MATTHEWS: This is HARDBALL. Come on. This is HARDBALL. What`s she closer to?

KLOBUCHAR: One more thing.

MATTHEWS: You don`t want to answer. OK.

KLOBUCHAR: One more thing about the millennials, though, Chris, they support each other.

And when you have a candidate in Donald Trump who`s going after immigrants, who is going to after -- wants to get rid of gay marriage, those kinds of things, they respond to that, because they look out for each other.



MCAULIFFE: And who`s promising immigration reform? Hillary Clinton, first 100 days, immigration reform.

MATTHEWS: Let`s get it done. Let`s get it done.

MCAULIFFE: Infrastructure. Let`s get it done.

MATTHEWS: Because I really think that`s one thing that`s got to get done.

Anyway, thank you.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.


MATTHEWS: Very popular figure here, very popular governor.

MCAULIFFE: Well, but spend every penny you got here in Virginia before you go across the Potomac River, Chris.




MATTHEWS: We`re going to the Silver Diner on the way home tomorrow.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Senator Amy Klobuchar, a very popular person in the United States, and Terry McAuliffe, who`s some day going to rule the world.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, when we come back, all eyes on Mike Pence. After the bad week Donald Trump had, can Pence dig him out? I think Pence is going on offense tonight like you have never seen. He is a tough customer.

We`re just about 90 minutes away, by the way, from the start of this debate. And, by the way, middleweight fights are always much more exciting than heavyweight fights.

We`re live at Longwood University in Virginia -- back with more.




DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As a businessman and real estate developer, I have legally used the tax laws to my benefit and to the benefit of my company, my investors and my employees.

I mean, honestly, I have brilliantly -- I have brilliantly used those laws. The unfairness of the tax laws is unbelievable. It`s something I have been talking about for a long time, despite, frankly, being a big beneficiary of the laws.

But I`m working for you now. I`m not working for Trump.



MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

What a crowd we have here. What a crowd.

Anyway, that was Donald Trump defending his use of tax laws to his benefit yesterday at a campaign stop out in Colorado.

Well, Trump`s been playing defense on that lately, so will his running mate, Mike Pence, tonight defend Trump`s troubles tonight in the debate, or will he instead hit at Hillary Clinton`s weak points?

Hugh Hewitt is a radio talk show host and an MSNBC contributor, and John Brabender is a Republican strategist.

Gentlemen, thank you all.

John and then Hugh, OK, I will go back to my point of view. Critique me on this. The worst thing in the world that Mike Pence could do tonight is spending his hour-and-a-half defending Trump, because Trump may not be around in four or eight years, but Hillary Clinton will be.

And she will always been the nemesis of the Republican Party. I think the smart move for him is attack Hillary where he can, where he`s justified, hit hard and hard again and again and again, relentlessly bringing the case against her credibility. She`s at 61 percent unbelieved right now by the American people.

Don`t waste your time on Machado, on taxes. You won`t gain an inch. But you can gain a lot of footage going after Hillary. In other words, attack, don`t defend, if he can. That`s what I recommend he do tonight.


I think he can`t spend the whole time saying, well, yes, Donald Trump said this because. I think he has to give some confidence of who Donald Trump really is from a first-person perspective, but he`s got to move the conversation certainly to Hillary.

He`s got to make sort of the conviction or the prosecution of her, but he`s got to do it in a tone and temperament different than Donald Trump has. He has to use facts and still come across as likable and believable, rather than by shouting or by rhetoric that... MATTHEWS: Where would you put the first punch? On her general lack of credibility, on the whole history starting in the early `90s of sort of vague trouble, always the unending soap opera around the Clintons that just seems to always be there. How would you do...


BRABENDER: I think there`s two things he should do. Number one is that.

I think he`s going to say, you know what? They gamed the system. Every chance she had, they gamed the system for personal benefit. Second of all, I think he`s going to talk a lot about how she`s been there for 24 years. We tried it her way. She likes to say she`s tested. He`s going to say, but she failed the test.


BRABENDER: And he`s going to go through a lot of examples.

MATTHEWS: Hugh, how do you critique my suggestion that he go on offense?

HUGH HEWITT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: One hundred percent correct.

She has to be the target of every single statement he makes tonight, not Senator Kaine, not Donald Trump, but Egypt, Libya, Syria, the server, the Supreme Court, the status of forces agreement that she did not come up with, Bill Clinton today, double the premiums, half the coverage.

It`s his first speech in a presidential campaign. Whether that`s in 2020 or 2024, Michael Pence is going to run for president. And, tonight, he has to prove that he can make...

MATTHEWS: He has got nothing to lose attacking her. He`s got a lot to lose defending everything Trump has done.


HEWITT: That`s why everything, it`s bingo. He ought to bring up President Obama`s bad six-word legacy as well, leading from behind, red line, and J.V.s. Everything is a bingo card for him. He just has to hit those squares.

MATTHEWS: Can he get the headline tomorrow and not her -- not Kaine? Can he come out, Pence attacks Hillary on credibility? If it`s Pence defends Trump, I think that`s a wash.

BRABENDER: I think you have got to be careful tonight. I don`t think this is the type of debate that you`re going to have these dramatic headlines.

I think what he can come out of here...

MATTHEWS: I do. I predict there will be a headline in the paper tomorrow.


BRABENDER: But I think what he can do is that he -- Mike Pence is so likable and knowledgeable that I think he can do a better job probably than Trump can to create the real doubts of Hillary Clinton, and why they matter.

Trump just sort of throws them out there and assumes people will know. I think Mike Pence is better at putting it in context why people should be outraged about what Hillary Clinton has done.


HEWITT: One thing he can do, I think, is build audience for Sunday night.

He needs to get Trump a chance to get back into the ring against Hillary Clinton with a reset. So, he says, watch Sunday night. If you want change in this country, if you think we`re on the wrong direction, watch Sunday night. A different Donald Trump is coming.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about how he handles the tricky stuff to get to the attack.

My -- the question was asked of Kelly Ayotte, who is the senator from New Hampshire, do you want this -- do you want Donald Trump to be your kid`s role model? Well, there`s an answer to that. You don`t -- you isolate and say, in terms of guts and taking on the establishment, yes, in terms of guts. Nobody`s perfect, but there`s certain things the guy does represent.

You don`t have to say, I like his marital history, right? Who is going to say that?

BRABENDER: He will answer it different than she did.

What he will say is, I have gotten to know Donald Trump very well. Let me tell share with you some of the things that I have found that I do like about him. I do wish my kids had some of those. But let me tell you why I would be scared to death for them to turn out like Hillary Clinton.

And I think everything will go back in that direction.

HEWITT: And I think he has -- this is the first presidential election in history where there the known knowns are the negatives. We have always known the positives about candidates.

This is the first time that we know the negatives about each of them.

MATTHEWS: Every presidential debate, I have watched almost all of them -- in fact, all of them -- the winner is the person who attacks from a defensive position, whether it`s there you go again, attacking Carter after he`s been attacking Reagan`s record on Medicare, or it`s, what`s his name, Dan Quayle saying he`s Jack Kennedy.


MATTHEWS: Every time you go on the offense, the other guy or woman has the chance to respond at that moment, that precise moment of attack, when the attacker is most vulnerable and most committed. Nail them right in the nose.

HEWITT: That what`s Chris Christie did to Marco Rubio in New Hampshire.


MATTHEWS: That`s what you can do.

And, therefore, I think the opportunity tonight...

BRABENDER: But Pence doesn`t have to prove he`s credible. He`s already proven.

MATTHEWS: I know. I`m just talking about, can you attack and hurt?

Anyway, thank you, Hugh Hewitt. Thank you, John Brabender, both great guests on this program.

Up next: Hillary Clinton`s bringing out the heavy hitters. She`s taking no chances now that she`s got the lead in the polls. She`s got the best surrogate team around.

Plus, the HARDBALL rules on how to win or lose a debate. We will get to that.


MATTHEWS: What can Mike Pence and Tim Kaine learn from past V.P. debates?

You`re watching HARDBALL, a special edition, live from Longwood University, for tonight`s vice presidential debate.



MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: When it comes to the qualifications that we should demand of our president, to start, we need someone who will take the job seriously.

I think we can all agree that someone who`s roaming around at 3:00 a.m. tweeting should not have their fingers on the nuclear codes.



MATTHEWS: You know, what an accomplished platform speaker the first lady has become all these years.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, live at Longwood University for tonight`s vice presidential debate.

In fact, just about an hour and 20 minutes from now, it`s going to happen.

And that was, of course, the fantastic first lady, Michelle Obama, on the campaign trail today in North Carolina. She`s just one of several high- profile Democrats to hit the trail for Hillary Clinton in what amounts to be an unprecedented surrogate operation.

We`re looking at a bunch of them there, chief among them, of course, President Obama, who`s indicated that he plans to spend two days a week every week this month campaigning for Clinton in the homestretch to November.

And unlike outgoing Presidents George W. Bush in 2008, Obama`s approval rating now is at 54 percent, according to Gallup, which means he`s in a unique position to help secure a third consecutive term for his party in the White House.

I`m joined right now by some experts, our roundtable tonight, John Heilemann, managing editor of Bloomberg Politics and host of "With All Due Respect." Megan Murphy is Washington bureau chief for Bloomberg. And Jason Johnson is politics editor at The Root.

Of course, Jason, you have been great on the show lately.

Let`s talk about the president. I mean, I can`t think of a time since Eisenhower back in `60 where a sitting president is this popular...


MATTHEWS: ... and can go out and throw his weight behind his party`s nominee.

JOHNSON: Look, he can sing. He can -- he can bring people out and...


MATTHEWS: He can sing?

JOHNSON: Look, he sings. When Obama gets in front of certain block audiences, he will sing. He`s Al Green.

But here`s what`s key. I mean, it`s amazing that he`s this popular and Clinton is still struggling. So, he`s going to really have to put in this time to pull her over the finish line.

MATTHEWS: Because Bill Clinton had a problem again today.

First lady, what a surrogate. She sort of kept herself to herself. She`s never been a politician. She doesn`t bang the drum for her party or her husband.

She`s sort of like a movie star, you don`t see much of her, but when you do, you pay attention.

MEGAN MURPHY, BLOOMBERG NEWS: I think it`s a perfect analogy, and her use on the campaign trail shows how deeply personal they both feel this race is. They feel it`s not only Hillary Clinton, but their legacy, as well, and what they try to achieve together.

MATTHEWS: What`s personal about this besides her husband`s legacy?

MURPHY: Well, he`s an anathema to everything they stand for. It`s an anathema to everything they thought --

MATTHEWS: She doesn`t like the birther stuff anymore than he did?

MURPHY: She doesn`t like the birther stuff. She doesn`t like how he stands on women. She doesn`t like how he stands on their entire progressive record. She doesn`t like the fact that we may have as many as three Supreme Court justices on the table.

This is everything to them. It is personal. And I think Michelle Obama has proven, she would be almost the most effective surrogate Hillary Clinton has, particularly closing the gap with women in states like --

MATTHEWS: You and I have not seen an effective big-time surrogate in our lifetime. It`s a rarity that could endorse up like this. If you`re going to endorse down, a president with somebody running for governor. But to endorse up, here you have the president of the United States and a first lady with the firepower I think that might change.

I think this month, you`re going to see a lot of Obama.

JOHN HEILEMANN, HOST, "WITH ALL DUE RESPECT": I will say, Reggie Jackson is a good analogy. David Ortiz may be a better analogy, an even better collection --

MATTHEWS: You want to explain that?

HEILEMANN: David Ortiz, he`s become, he`s the best clutch hitter, best October/November player ever in baseball. But we`re going too far afield.

Here`s the thing, I think it`s -- forget about legacy and all that stuff. You can`t glide past the birther thing. Donald Trump was the face of the movement that tried to delegitimize Barack Obama`s presidency on racial grounds. They are both, as a couple, have been deeply offended and angered by that from the moment that it started.

And so, this is a thing of like, we don`t want that guy to occupy this seat. Not just what he would do to our legislative accomplishments, it`s a deeply personal thing. Deeply personally.

MATTHEWS: OK. I have to ask you about who else won`t matter. Does Bill Clinton count anymore in terms of this? He tries, but I don`t know if he`s got the --

MURPHY: I think when you`re looking at this election --

MATTHEWS: No, I`m asking him. Don`t dodge off of this. Is Bill Clinton an effective surrogate?

MURPHY: I think she`s got far more effective surrogates out there.

MATTHEWS: Bill Clinton still got it?

HEILEMANN: He can still play in certain parts of the electorate.


HEILEMANN: They`re sending him to a lot of places to -- he`s going to spend most of his time going to rural communities, going to places -- he says when he`s out of the trail, he says I go places --

MATTHEWS: Who`s a better politician, him or her now? Hillary or Bill? Who`s better right now?

MURPHY: She`s on an incredible wave up.

MATTHEWS: Who`s better, Bill or Hillary?

JOHNSON: I think he`s a better politician. He`s the best explainer surrogate she`s got. He can still get on stage and explain policy in 20 minutes.

MURPHY: If he doesn`t screw it up.

MATTHEWS: What was he doing trashing Obamacare?

JOHNSON: Because he doesn`t like him. I don`t think he`s ever been that happy about this president.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. When you say double the premiums for people that are working 60 hours a week, that`s not exactly applauded.

JOHNSON: No, it`s not.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, when we come back, the HARDBALL rules, how Tim Kaine or Mike Pence can win tonight`s debate.

This is a HARDBALL, a special edition. We`ll be right back.



GERALDINE FERRARO, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me just say, first of all, that I almost resent, Vice President Bush, your patronizing attitude, that you have to teach me about foreign policy.




MATTHEWS: There are tough moments. Welcome back.

Those were some unforgettable and awfully nasty moments from past vice presidential debates. And over the past two weeks, we`ve covered the HARDBALL rules for how to win or lose a presidential debate.

Well, tonight we have some new advice for the vice presidential candidates before tonight`s face-to-face showdown. Here`s what we`ve learned over the years. Number one, do no harm. Vice presidential candidates must protect the candidate at the top of the ticket. That means they need to avoid creating a side show that might distract from the campaign`s message.

Back in 1976, then Senator Bob Dole famously ignored that advice when he blamed Democrats for the wars of the 20th century. Not only did he give his opponent, Walter Mondale, an opening to counterattack, it also put the campaign on the defensive for a couple of weeks.

Let`s watch.


BOB DOLE, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: It`s not a very good issue, anymore than the war in Vietnam would be or World War II or World War I or the war in Korea. All Democrat wars, all in this century.

I figured it up the other day, if we added up the killed and wounded, and Democrat wars in this century, it would be about 1.6 million Americans, enough to fill the city of Detroit.

WALTER MONDALE, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Does he really mean to suggest to the American people that there was a partisan difference over our involvement in the war to fight Nazi Germany?


MATTHEWS: Well, actually, Nazi Germany declared war on us after Pearl Harbor. Let`s get straight that. Little fact.

Anyway, it`s clearly that Mondale had an easy opening there, Dole gave it to him.

JOHNSON: Look, when you screw up that bad and the other person is waiting, it`s kind of like, Sarah Palin, 2008, can I all you, Joe, so you could set up --

MATTHEWS: We`ll get to that.

JOHNSON: But you know, overall, you`ve got to make sure that your main goal is promoting your candidate. You`re the side show, you`re the undercard, you`re not the main event.

MATTHEWS: Yes, and don`t blame World War II since we were fighting Hitler anyway, and the empire of Japan after they attacked us.


MATTHEWS: OK, anyway, debate rule number two. By disarming -- be disarming with your opponent, as you were suggesting, showing a little civility can make your arguments more persuasive, especially since vice presidential candidates aren`t as well-known as the person at the top of the ticket. You`re introducing yourself on a night like this.

In 2008, Sarah Palin famously asked permission to use Joe Biden`s first name and later showcased that kind of folksy charm throughout the debate. Here she is, Sarah Palin.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Nice to meet you. Can I call you, Joe? Thank you.

Say it ain`t so, Joe, there you go pointing backwards again, though. You prefaced your whole comment with the Bush administration. Doggone it, let`s look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future.


MATTHEWS: Al Gore was similarly disarming with his opponent Jack Kemp at the start of the `96 VP debate. Let`s look at that.


AL GORE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I`d like to start by offering you a deal, Jack. If you won`t use any football stories, I won`t tell any of my warm and humorous stories about chlorofluorocarbon abatement.

JACK KEMP, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s a deal. I can`t even pronounce it.


MATTHEWS: Well, that was a bit set up.

Anyway, Megan, talk about naturals --

MURPHY: Yes, I think that seemed funnier at the time than it does now.

MATTHEWS: Tried to look warmer.

MURPHY: Look, this is tricky for Governor Pence, because one of his big missions tonight is going to make good on some of the own goals that Trump left on the table. He didn`t hit out the server. He didn`t hit out on Benghazi. He didn`t hit out on a lot of the things that Hillary is vulnerable on.

So, one of his big themes tonight is going to be --

MATTHEWS: Go tough.

MURPHY: Go tough. Be disarming and tough. It`s not as easy. He`s got a big challenge.

MATTHEWS: How will Pence thread that needle be tough because he`s got to carry the fight?

HEILEMANN: I think he`s got to be aggressive. He`s going to be out so many times by Kaine in places where he`s in opposition for Donald Trump to try to answer for Trump`s mistakes. Pence is going to try to do the quick pivot out of everything.

MATTHEWS: I think he`s smart enough to do it. But you`re right, he has to fight on many fronts.

Anyway, debate rule number three, don`t get personal. And here in an attempt to explode then-Vice President`s Dick Cheney`s differences with President Bush on the issue of gay rights, John Edwards decided to invoke the sexual orientation of Cheney`s daughter. Lynne Cheney later called it a cheap shot. Here`s the exchange for that VP debate.


JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can`t have anything but respect for the fact that they`re willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It`s a wonderful thing.

MODERATOR: Mr. Vice President, you have 90 seconds.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Gwen, let me simply thank the senator for the kind words he said about my family and our daughter. I appreciate that very much.

EDWARDS: You`re welcome.

MODERATOR: That`s it.

CHENEY: That`s it.



MATTHEWS: Ha! Well, how do you the read Cheney? That`s the first time and maybe the last I saw in Cheney`s side.

HEILEMANN: That`s when Cheney first got the idea for waterboarding right there.


MATTHEWS: That split screen told you everything.

JOHNSON: Yes, it was Belichick like we`re on to the next question. He was like keep my daughter`s name out of your mouth. You don`t have to go there. John Edwards had plenty of things to criticize Bush about. Personal life, (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: I wonder who on the staff said, great idea, go for the daughter.

Anyway, rule number four, praise `em before you hit `em. This example comes from a presidential debate running for reelection in 1996. President Bill Clinton knew any attacks the on Bob Dole`s age could backfire. So he deftly took the issue off the table before going for the jugular. Here is Clinton you might say at his best, but you might say nastiest. So, here he goes.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I can only tell you that I don`t think Senator Dole is too old to be president. It`s the age of his ideas that I question. You`re almost not old enough to remember this, but we tried this before -- promising people an election year tax cut that`s not paid for.


MATTHEWS: Well, that was very Nixonian, Megan, because he got the shout in about his age, but then I don`t really mean to do that, but I`m going after his ideas. Dole gave the scour.

MURPHY: I think this is a real winning ticket for Governor Pence tonight, particularly these guys have sharp, sharp policy contrasts. If we want to keep this debate away from the personal and focus on --

MATTHEWS: How do you put the sugar into that mix? Stick it to the guy for being an -- then you say --

MURPHY: The problem is both these guys believe in what they`re doing. Hard to stick them on lots of things. It will be a policy debate.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think it will be that nice.

Your thoughts, John? Can you be that sugary and get away with it?


MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. The roundtable is staying with us.

And up next, this three will tell me something I don`t know. I`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Just over an hour to go now before the start of the vice presidential debate. There is Mike Pence in that group going into the debate center. He`s the first guy in the row there, second guy. But it`s all happening.

We`re back with the roundtable as we get ready for this debate.

Megan, tell me something I don`t know, Megan Murphy.

MURPHY: Well, I`ll tell you something RNC already knows Pence won the debate. They`ve released their post debate spin saying that Governor Pence did a great job hitting on Hillary scandals and the economy.

MATTHEWS: What I thought he was going to do, he`s done because it`s now --


MURPHY: He`s the clear winner.

MATTHEWS: How do they keep making these mistakes?

Anyway, what you got to tell me?

HEILEMANN: I`m not sure how many Virginians know this, but Tim Kaine has a weird thing in his head. He`s like a reverse dyslexic. If you say any word to him, he can say it backwards immediately. If you say Kaine, it`s eniak backwards.

MATTHEWS: He can do that.

HEILEMANN: But he can do anything, stronger together.

MATTHEWS: How many letters?

HEILEMANN: He can go up to -- if there`s silent letters. He had has a hard time with things like pneumonia. I tried that on him once. It`s a great party trick.

MATTHEWS: That`s complicated. I can do alliteration like that, but not like that.

Anyway, you`re thoughts?

JOHNSON: All right. So, we talk about all the great surrogates Hillary Clinton has. She`s got, you know, Bill Clinton. She got Barack Obama. She now has Kermit the Frog. Yes, Kermit the frog is now online as a brand-new meme supporting Hillary Clinton.

People on the left have been using him to counter Trump`s Pepe Le Frog on the right. It`s become viral. It`s going on all out there.

MATTHEWS: You know the (INAUDIBLE) were all frogs. (INAUDIBLE) good frogs out of existence.

Anyway, thank you, Megan Murphy. Thank you, John Heilemann. It`s great to have you here, Jason Johnson.

That does it for this special edition of HARDBALL. We`re coming back late tonight with another one at midnight. I`ll be joining Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow for full coverage of tonight`s vice presidential debate. That`s coming up right now.