Impeachment lacks a champion. TRANSCRIPT: 8/2/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Jon Ralston, Margaret Carlson, Ginger Gibson, Matt Gorman, YamicheAlcindor; Cornell Belcher; Susan Del Percio

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Go on.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Remember that Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe, who attacked Robert Mueller in those recent televised hearings?  Well, say goodbye.  President Trump`s pick for Chief of U.S. Intel, John Ratcliffe is kaput.  He is out of the running after just five days of scrutiny.  Ratcliffe joins a long list of Trump nominees forced to pull their names after embarrassing revelations, and more of that coming up tonight on HARDBALL.

And another republican heading for the exit is Texas Congressman Will Hurd, the only African-American in the House GOP.  He just pulled the plug on his re-election next year.

We begin, however, with the country`s top republican, President Trump, who today kept up his demonization of American diversity.  After spending a week attacking Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings and his city, the President took yet another swing at the democrat early today, responding to reports that Cummings` Baltimore home had been burglarized.  The President wrote on Twitter, really bad news, the Baltimore house of Elijah Cummings was robbed.  Too bad.

Well, that`s a sarcastic comment from the President got Trump some unexpected criticism.  Republican Nikki Haley, Trump`s former U.N. Ambassador Tweeted this is so unnecessary.  Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger wrote, this is so beneath the office you hold.  It`s childish, and it`s getting really old.

Well, this afternoon, the President tried to back down that criticism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  The Tweet itself was just really a repeat of what I heard over the news.  I know his house was robbed, and I thought that was too bad.  That was really just -- that was really not meant as a wise guy --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Now, this comes after the President kept up his attacks on America`s cities at a rally last night in Cincinnati.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  It`s been total one-party control of the inner cities.  For 100 years, it`s been one-party control, and look at him.  We can name one after another, but I won`t do that because I don`t want to be controversial.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, President Trump once again trashed Baltimore and other major cities last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  Look at Los Angeles with the tents and the horrible, horrible disgusting conditions.  Look at San Francisco.  Look at some of your other cities.  The homicide rate in Baltimore is significantly higher than El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala.  I believe it`s higher than -- give me a place that you think is pretty bad.  Give me a place.  The guy says Afghanistan.  I believe it`s higher than Afghanistan.  In our country, think of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined by Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, Susan Del Percio, republican strategist, and Cornell Belcher, democratic pollster.

Just before we go any further, you can say the same thing about guns in this country, the murder rate.  If you really want to deal with the culture of this country, the problem, it`s endemic across the country, major cities across country, rural areas across country, too many guns, too many killings.  That`s a problem the President should point out there.  There is a connection between all the murders and all the guns.  Just a thought there.

Let me go to Yamiche, however.  He is trashing the ethnic cities.  He is trashing diversity.  He is trashing black people.  That`s what he is up to.  And he does it now almost every day.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR:  And it`s hard to really imagine this president trashing an all white city or a majority white city or making fun of the opioid crisis that`s ravaging places in Ohio.  There`s a place called Masury, Ohio that I`ve reported from that`s nicknamed Misery, Ohio by its own residents.  People there are struggle economically with all sorts of things.

MATTHEWS:  So murder is something to laugh at, but opioid, suicide or self- destruction is not?

ALCINDOR:  That`s the case.  And I should say, I also just came back from Ohio.  And a lot of the President`s supporter, they find this stuff exciting.  I think in Washington, sometimes we get the GOP going through Capitol Hill with their heads down, trying to avoid reporters because they`re a little embarrassed.  But there is a large swath of his supporters who say this is what we want to hear people say.  I`ve been telling my neighbor to go back to his country for three years, and now the President is saying it, and I`m happy that he is voicing our concerns.

MATTHEWS:  Where are you picking this up?

ALCINDOR:  This is in the Dayton, Ohio area, so in Green County, in Montgomery County are the two places that I was reporting in.  Someone told me that.

MATTHEWS:  So ripping the scab off on racial anger is okay for those people?

ALCINDOR:  They see the President`s Tweets as not racist, and they see it as him defending their free speech and defending the point of view that they`ve had, which is that their neighbor that`s next door, from India or from Russia or from Egypt, those people should go back to their country if they don`t like the way that I`m talking.

MATTHEWS:  Cornell, you`re the pollster here.  Is there any evidence that Trump has numbers anywhere at hand that tells him he is going to be able to pick up more angry people on the racial front than he is going to lose in terms of bigger city turnout against him, white women in the suburbs, if you will, to use a sort of classic example of people that are embarrassed by this kind of talk of his?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER AND STRATEGIST:  No, Chris, there is not.  But there is also no evidence that he`s going to -- you look at all the polling right now against the democrats, I mean, he`s garnering roughly 44 percent against whatever field of democrats.  So there is very little evidence that his tax cut or his economic plan or his trade wars are going to get him back to 46 percent.

So he is desperate.  The only thing he has is racism to try to help him get back to that 46 percent.  He`s got to try to drive tribalism to try to move as many of that white vote as possible.  But I think the problem is --

MATTHEWS:  How much is left?  Cornell, you know this best.  How many white angry people that are really angry about blacks, about immigrants about anything about the left wing?

BELCHER:  There is enough, Chris.  I mean, look at 2018.  Democrats warn places that, Chris, you and I, especially around the suburbs Pennsylvania, democrats haven`t been competing (ph) there for a long time.  And it wasn`t because those voters fell in love with democrats and it sure as heck wasn`t because all of a sudden they changed their mind about healthcare.

Healthcare was important, but more important for a lot of those moderate middle of the road white voters where they were uncomfortable with Donald Trump and they were dissatisfied with where he is going and they broke democrat.  It wasn`t because they fell in love with democrats.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I want to push you on this.  Because when you go into this sort of unhooded, if you will, racism where you don`t cover it up by language, like inner city and all the language people use today, and some of it in a nice way to avoid being so racially confrontational, the fact that he is going after a very proud, a very impressive, actually, a statesman like Elijah Cummings, sort of one of the best Congress people, and making him his enemy, making a city his enemy, naming the major cities in California, San Francisco and L.A., huge metropolitan areas.  He is taking on name brand cities.

How many whites can he sort of get out from the hills to make up for that?  How many can he get out the vote that hadn`t voted before for for him in `16?

BELCHER:  I don`t think -- he needs more people.  There is just not enough.  I mean, how much more rural surge can he get?  They had a rural surge in the 20 and then last midterm, by the way, but they lost by 9 million votes.  I think it`s a failed policy.  But more important for republicans long- term, if you`re a moderate middle of the road republican long-term, he is destroying your party brand, absolutely destroying your party brand long- term, and he doesn`t care.

MATTHEWS:  Susan, let`s talk about republicans and how this hits them, because Cornell mentioned that and Yamiche.  Here is the thing.  He seems every once in a while to be a little bit listening to footsteps.  Every once in a while, you`re like, I wasn`t talking wise guy, when he was clearly talking sarcastically about this guy having a burglary at his house over the weekend, Elijah Cummings, sort of making his point, it`s a dangerous neighborhood.  But, you know, then he pulls back and says, I`m not being a wise guy.  Is he hearing footsteps that this may be going too far?

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Maybe, but I don`t think he cares.  And I think there is another thing in play besides setting up the us versus them and the hatred divide and the overt racism involved.

I also think that Donald Trump always likes to find excuses and likes to play the victim.  And I think when those large cities come out in 2020 with record number of people voting for the democrat, whoever that may be, he`s going to go out there and say, look, there is election fraud, just like he did last time.  I think he is setting this up to question the election results in part.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

DEL PERCIO:  And to the other point, as far as where the party is going, this is a disaster for republicans.  If Donald Trump becomes -- is re- elected, the Republican Party will completely fracture.  I think it will become almost a third party at some point.

And the only thing that they`re doing right now on Trump`s campaign is trying to register more of those angry people.  They`re looking for every last person who`s not registered to vote who may be a Trump supporter.  That`s all they have.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Susan, let me talk about, you know, republican attitudes in the burbs is the democrats have been stealing votes in the big cities for years, starting with Chicago, Philly, all those places.  They don`t have a perfectly clean record of counting the votes.  Now, we know that going back historically, maybe not recently.  So they`re going to play on that.

But here`s what`s interesting.  In politics on the Hill, we used to call it popping up.  When you`re in trouble, your enemies, the rivals you`ve got out there waiting for you, jump up and they go, here is my chance to jump up and beat this person.  Nikki Haley, who everybody knows is waiting to be president in the fairly near future, popped up today.  She jumped out, and she said Trump went too far.  How is Trump reading that?  Is he reading this I knew she was waiting in the bushes, she just jumped me?

DEL PERCIO:  I think so, Chris.  And I also think they are very concerned about her having a voice out there.  If you notice the pushback from Kellyanne Conway saying this is unnecessary and with the Trump-Pence 2020 hashtag there.

MATTHEWS:  Explain that.  Explain what she is doing there.  She is reacting to Nikki.

DEL PERCIO:  Correct.  And she is basically saying, you`re not getting on the ticket, Nikki Haley, if you want.  But that`s her way of pushing back without creating a real war between Nikki Haley and the President.  She`s definitely sending out a message that we`re behind Pence and you`re nowhere.

MATTHEWS:  Yamiche, unpack this.  This is fascinating.  This is what I love about politics, when, clearly, one person wants something someone else has.  Now, Pence has the Vice President.  He has the succession maybe, maybe.  He is definitely in line to be the next V.P. nominee.  And here is Nikki sitting there in the on deck circle, as we say in baseball, just waiting with her baseball bat ready to go.  And there she clobbers the President today.

ALCINDOR:  Well, first, I was shouting Nikki Haley`s name at the President on the White House lawn.  He answered one question from me, but he would not answer the Nikki Haley question.  I`m not going to say he heard me and ignored me, but it felt that way.

And then second, the Republican Party wanted in 2024 to say you know what, President Trump was a complete anomaly.  Look at how far we have come.  Wouldn`t Nikki Haley be a great face or the that?  Wouldn`t she be somebody that you could turned around and say, look, she`s from South Carolina, she had a deal with the shooting, here is all the things I had to deal with.  You can almost make the commercial for Nikki Haley and say, you know what, that was an aberration.

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  You have a person who have an Indian background, South Asian background.  Can he say he is actually going to diversify the Republican Party this way?  Cornell, does this get him off the hook, I am not racist?  Look, I`ve got a woman from a South Asian background, Nikki Haley, I put her on my ticket, I`m clean.  Your thoughts?  You`re already laughing.

BELCHER:  I think -- what?  Are we going to delete all the tape that we have of him already?  No, it doesn`t let him off hook.  And by the way, I`d be shocked if she wanted to be on the ticket with him.  I think she has a really bright future ahead post to Trump when the republicans try to put together back their party.  I think she has a bright future.  I would not want dirty myself with the Trump legacy.

MATTHEWS:  When she brought that confederate flag in South Carolina, she put her flag up.

ALCINDOR:  That`s why in 2024 is when to watch her.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, `24.  Go ahead with your thought, Susan.

DEL PERCIO:  She also went after -- not went after Trump, but she spoke out against what Trump said in Charlottesville.  So even when she was working for Donald Trump, she wasn`t afraid to stand up for herself and go against the President, rarely, but still, she did it.

MATTHEWS:  I think Katty Kay would say, we`re looking at green sprouts from the post-Trump era, green sprouts.  I think it`s a British term.

Anyway, thank you, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you, Susan Del Percio, a really interesting trio, you guys.  You`ve got a lot of bases covered here.  Thank you, Cornell.

Coming up, President Trump is again looking for someone to lead the U.S. Intelligence Committee because this guy washed out.  His first choice withdrew today.  That`s interesting in five days.  Well, stay away from the platform today.  Stay away from all of the excitement.  You don`t want to be out there today.  Can the President get it right this time?  Has he got anybody in mind?

Plus, he is called the future of the Republican Party now is heard, the guy from Texas.  He is quitting politics.  Is there any room left in the Republican Party for people who refuse to hitch their wagons to Mr. Trump?

And my thoughts on the three reasons, by the way, the impeachment process has reached, I believe, here we are, August 2nd, a dead-end, and what democrats should do next to hold Trump accountable.

Much more ahead.  Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The President`s attempt to install a partisan loyalist to the top intelligence job in the country appears to have -- well, it has, backfired.  Today President Trump announced he has dropped his plan to nominate, there he is, Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe for Director of the National Intelligence.  In doing so, the President blamed the media and its scrutiny, saying, rather than going through months of slander and libel, I explained to John how miserable it would be for him and his family to deal with these people, that`s us.

Here is Trump late today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I could see that the press was treating him I thought very unfairly.  He is an outstanding man.  And I asked him.  I said, do you want to go through this for two or three months or would you want me to maybe do something else?  And he thought about it.  I said it`s going to be rough.  I could see exactly where the press is going.

We hadn`t started the process, and I thought it`s easier before we start.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, according to NBC News, this comes after several republicans expressed their concerns to the White House about Ratcliffe`s lack of experience.  For instance, The Washington Post reported that during his six months on the House Intelligence Committee, Ratcliffe was, quote, relatively disengaged and he was a virtual unknown among the intelligence community itself that he was tapped to lead.

According to officials, one of the most common reactions across those agencies when Ratcliffe`s nomination was announced was, who?

Ratcliffe also came under fire for distorting his record to pad his resume.  For instance, he says on his website that, as a prosecutor, he, quote, put terrorists in prison.  However, NBC News found no evidence that he ever prosecuted a terrorism case at all.

Similar, Ratcliffe says that he arrested over 300 illegal immigrants in a single day, yet The Washington Post knows that court documents show only 45 workers were charged by prosecutors in Ratcliffe`s office all together.

And despite all of this, the President has stood by him as recently as yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Are you concerned about reports that your DNI nominee, Congressman Ratcliffe, has embellished his record at all, the democrats are planning to oppose his nomination?

TRUMP:  Congressman Ratcliffe is an outstanding man, and I`m sure that he`ll be able to do very well.  I think he`s just outstanding, highly respected by everybody that knows him.

MATTHEWS:  I`m joined right now by Malcolm Nance, a former intelligence official, of course, and Ken Dilanian, National Reporter for NBC News.

Well, let`s get a couple of things straight.  All that reporting about him having been -- creating all this B.S. about his record and getting terrorists and all that.  That must have killed him, the fact that nobody had any respect for him, he was a nobody.  What was it that was the straw that broke the camel`s back here to get him out of there?

KEN DILANIAN, MSNBC NATIONAL REPORTER:  Well, I think you can`t lie about having prosecuted terrorists then become the head of the intelligence world that goes after terrorists.  That`s one thing.  But as you said, they --

MATTHEWS:  I mean, only this president gets away with this stuff?

DILANIAN:  Exactly, exactly.  I mean, look, this was one of the least experienced picks for a major job like this that I can ever remember seeing.  Nobody knew this guy.  Senator Burr, the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, didn`t know him and apparently warned Trump even before the embellishment came out.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

Well, he reminds me of Steve Carell.  I don`t know why.  But -- not sure that`s good or bad.  But he is just a character from TV, isn`t he? 

DILANIAN:  Yes. 

And his main qualifications seem to be that he was trashing the Mueller investigation, saying what Donald Trump wanted to hear, particularly on television in that Mueller hearing.  That`s what got Trump`s attention. 

MATTHEWS:  Malcolm, that seems to be the entire -- in reality TV land we`re in, in this presidency, that is how you get a job.  Get on television, talk the talk, and you will get to walk the walk. 

You will get to be the guy that you`re talking to be like.  That`s how you do it. 

MALCOLM NANCE, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  Yes, sure.  You have an audience of one. 

And Ratcliffe played his role perfectly.  You know, when he was questioning Mueller, I knew exactly where all of those conspiracy theories he came up came from.  They came from Greg Gutfeld`s book from FOX -- FOX News commentator -- and about the entire thing being this Hillary Clinton-driven conspiracy. 

And he sat there and gave those answers.  And the president of the United States heard that.  And he realized, hey, this guy is on the House Intelligence Committee.  He is just the kind of guy I need as the director of national intelligence, a person who would take the intelligence apparatus and turn into it the president`s own private toy. 

And, that, we really couldn`t have. 

MATTHEWS:  Well said.  It`s like he was going to turn the intel agencies into the injustice department of William Barr. 

And my question back to you, Ken, is, it looked to you when he was dropping all that stuff about the Horowitz I.G. investigation, he was going to spend whatever influence he had was going back into the roots of the Russian influence and trying to find Hillary`s role in this. 

DILANIAN:  And that`s a real nightmare for the intelligence agencies.

And also in question is what he was going to say about Russian election interference.  Donald Trump, as he showed last night, doesn`t believe the Russians are interfering, doesn`t want to hear about it.  And so it`s really frightening. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Let`s talk about this president`s ability or not to -- this guy is not running an executive search firm, this president. 

The president today defended the White House`s vetting process by saying the press does it for him.  The press that did -- he has just been knocking two minutes ago he now says does the job of cleaning up these people before they get finally nominated.  Let`s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  What does that say about the White House`s process of vetting?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think the White -- oh, if you look at it, I mean, if you take a look at it, the vetting process for the White House is very good. 

But you`re a part of the vetting process, you know?  I give out a name to the press and they vet for me.  We save a lot of money that way.  But in the case of John, I really believe that he was being treated very harshly and very unfairly. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Did everybody listening right now understand the absurdity of that statement? 

Here is a president who calls the people in front of him the fake news.  Here is a president who said the fake news had just destroyed or was destroying the reputation of his nominee for DNI. 

And then he says, without any blush, oh, by the way, thank you for finding out this guy is a joke. 

Anyway, Ratcliffe joins a long list of Trump`s picks for top jobs who have been polled or dropped out from consideration after he put their names forward. 

"The New York Times" reported that Trump`s long and growing list of reversals of nominations, according to people who have been involved in the vetting process, is the product of the president`s own desire to announce names before they have undergone even a preliminary vetting by the Office of Presidential Personnel. 

What do you make of that? 

DILANIAN:  I mean, I just want to say, Chris, that this nomination started to unravel when Pete Williams...

MATTHEWS:  Does he thank you for catching this guy? 

DILANIAN:  Well, he should thank Pete Williams, because Pete Williams decided to take a look at this claim that he had put terrorists in prison. 

And he started looking at court records in the Eastern District of Texas, where he was the U.S. attorney.  And he saw no terrorism cases whatsoever, none.  We couldn`t find his name on any terrorism case. 

Then it turned out he worked on the Holy Land Foundation case, but he investigated juror misconduct.  The whole thing unraveled.  And that started with journalism. 

So, I`m glad that Donald Trump is allowing us to vet his nominees, and we will continue to do that. 

MATTHEWS:  You wonder about oppo.  He doesn`t do oppo on his own -- isn`t one of the rules, Malcolm, of politics today do your own oppo, check yourself out, and check out the people you`re relying on?

This guy doesn`t do any oppo on his guys for director of national intelligence.  He didn`t have any intel. 

NANCE:  No. 

And opposition research with Donald Trump went out the window when he got elected president, despite all the opposition research.  He doesn`t care.  He doesn`t care at all.  He does not seem to understand what the functions of the director of national intelligence are. 

He thinks -- and I think -- and I really hate to say this, but he`s sort of following Vladimir Putin`s playbook when he became the president of Russia.  He consolidated national intelligence under him, put four of his closest ex-KGB advisers under him, and then used it as a weapon to crush all enemies. 

Donald Trump must think somewhere in his mind that this would be the perfect weapon to have to find all of those people that brought about the Mueller investigation.  There is just no other way to see it. 

MATTHEWS:  The real goal of DNI, as we all know, if we remember it -- well, we should all -- was to avoid the fact that you have DNI, the Defense Intelligence, you had all the different services with their own intelligence.  You have this FBI.  You have got the CIA.

And they`re all stove-topping.  They`re all doing their own thing.  And the idea was to have there be one office that brought together all that information, so it wouldn`t be lost, right? 

DILANIAN:  That`s right. 

MATTHEWS:  And that`s what the DNI`s job is, not to be the president`s flack. 

Anyway, amid all this, the president may try to block the deputy director of national -- Sue Gordon, who is a national -- actually, a civil servant - - from assuming the top job in an acting capacity once Dan Coats, the incumbent, leaves. 

That`s according to NBC News, which reports that Trump had planned to appoint his own choice in the acting role, though there has been a bipartisan push in support of Gordon today. 

"The New York Times" also reports that, according to a person familiar with this matter, Trump recently blocked Ms. Gordon from personally delivering an intelligence briefing after she arrived at the White House, though Gordon`s office says she wasn`t blocked from attending the meeting itself.

Ken, that`s the point?  These civil servants, you can call them bureaucrats all they want, but they run things like NASA.  They run NOAA.  They run all these great agencies that need to get stuff done. 

DILANIAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  We wouldn`t even get weather reports without them, and he mocks them.  Apparently, she came to the White House to do a briefing today, and he said, I don`t want to hear from you to 30 years` veteran. 

DILANIAN:  Sue Gordon is, yes, a 30-year CIA veteran. 

She was running science and technology at the CIA.  And our reporting and "The New York Times"` reporting was that Trump just didn`t like her, there was no chemistry there. 

But there is some hope there, Chris, because, as you said, she has a lot of support on the Hill.  Richard Burr came out and supported her. 

MATTHEWS:  He`s a good man.

DILANIAN:  Rod Rosenstein today tweeted in favor of her.  And then Trump, when he was talking to reporters, was asked about her, and he said, oh, I like Sue Gordon, I`m considering her to be acting, which was a complete 180 from what we had been told. 

And so it`s a good harbinger for maybe who he picks to be the DNI going forward, if he is going to listen to people like Richard Burr.  They`re not going to tolerate a John Ratcliffe, a Devin Nunes, some of these other kind of people. 

They want an experienced hand.  In fact, the law actually says the DNI has to have significant intelligence experience.  The question is whether that`s enforceable.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I`m a romantic about politics.  I`m not a cynic, as everybody knows.

I do believe in it, and I have dreams that it`s going to get better again.  And I see a guy like Richard Burr, the ranking -- the Republican chair of the House -- the Senate Intelligence Committee, I go, there`s a good guy.  And I think he has been showing his influence, guys.  I think he has a big hand in letting this thing die, this terrible appointment. 

Thank you, Malcolm.

DILANIAN:  Unfortunately, he is retiring. 

MATTHEWS:  You`re killing my dreams. 

DILANIAN:  Sorry, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  I have got to have heroes, Malcolm.  I need them.  I need them. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Malcolm.  You`re great.  Thank you, Malcolm Nance. 

Have a nice weekend, Ken.  You guys star here.

Up next:  Which of the Democratic candidates scares Trump the most?  That`s a question I don`t know the answer to.  Is he afraid of Elizabeth Warren?  Maybe, because she`s so tough.  Does he think Biden is too familiar, too comfortable for people who might be afraid of him? 

Is it the centrist candidates who is consistently beating him in the polls, like Biden, or a progressive candidate building up grassroots support, who has got the zeal?

Plus, a brand-new poll out today gives the first glimpse of where the race stands after the second debate this week, how the two debates are stacking up in terms of the voters. 

HARDBALL back after this.  You got to stick around for the numbers.  Fascinating. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I was watching the so-called debate last night, and I also watched the night before. 

That was long, long television.  And the Democrats spent more time attacking Barack Obama than they did attacking me, practically.  And this morning, that`s all the fake news was talking about.  

(BOOING)

TRUMP:  That wasn`t pretty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That`s where Trump is smart and dangerous for his opponents. 

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump last night in Cincinnati with his take on the week`s Democratic debates.  He warned his base that a vote for any Democratic candidate would be a vote for a socialist.  Not true. 

Let`s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  No matter what label they use, a vote for any Democrat 2020 is the vote for the rise of radical socialism and the destruction of our great, our beautiful, our wonderful American dream. 

We`re not going to let our country ever go down the route of socialism. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s painting everybody with the same brush, of course.  But he chose to go after only two candidates in particular, Elizabeth Warren, of course, the senator from Massachusetts, and Joe Biden, the former vice president. 

Let`s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  The great Pocahontas, who is now...

(BOOING)

TRUMP:  ... lying and cheating her way to the presidency, if possible.  She is trying to win.  Remember?  She defrauded people with her credentials. 

A guy like a sleepy Joe Biden is going to come in and say, but I can do better.  I can do better.  He wants to go back to sleep. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, a new Morning Consult poll taken after the debate on Tuesday and Wednesday shows the race is largely in the same place as it was before these debates, with Vice President Biden still in the lead, even picked up a point, 32 points, a point from last week. 

Kamala Harris had the most significant drop, but only three points.  That`s also margin of error.  While Elizabeth Warren`s numbers went up by two.  That`s in contrast to the polls that were taken after that first debate that we at NBC held in June, where Harris rose six points, Biden dropped five, much more significant developments in the first one.

I`m joined right now by a political expert, Margaret Carlson, columnist for The Daily Beast, and Jon Ralston, editor of "The Nevada" -- not Nevada -- "The Nevada Independent," who is moderating an American Federation -- well, an AFSCME employees forum in Vegas tomorrow where 19 candidates for president will compete for the union`s endorsement. 

How are you going to do 19?  We have been struggling at NBC and CNN, Jon, with 10 a night.  You`re taking on one gulp of 19.  How much time are they each getting?  Just kidding, but, really, how is it going to work? 

JON RALSTON, "THE NEVADA INDEPENDENT":  Well, we`re just going to do a better job than you guys, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you. 

RALSTON:  It`s as simple as that.

(LAUGHTER)

RALSTON:  We`re doing them one at a time.

It`s a forum.  With the DNC rules, you can`t have them all at the same time.  So we`re going to have about 15, 20 minutes with each candidate.  So, hopefully, we`re going have a real conversation.  It`s me and Amanda Terkel, the Washington bureau chief of Huffington Post, who is a great reporter.

  MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

RALSTON:  And we`re going have some audience questions as well.  So, hopefully, we will be able to get more out of them. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who has bombed in the first couple of debates and who has starred?  Do you see anybody who has truly distinguished their roles, either up or down? 

RALSTON:  Well, I thought that Biden was terrible in the first debate, and I thought he did much better. 

It was a low bar.  But I thought, considering the guy was taking fire from everywhere, sure, there was a couple of fumbles, Chris, but as those polls show -- and I`m not sure how much they mean in August of 2019 -- but I thought Biden did much better in that second debate.

And I thought Warren did very well on the first night.  And I have to tell you, I thought Harris, after having that viral moment in the first debate, did not look good at all in the second debate. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I thought Kamala, who I think has been impressive, is better at punching than taking the punch. 

MARGARET CARLSON, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST:  Right. 

RALSTON:  Right.

CARLSON:  She was -- she had the kick me sign on her this time.  And I agree with Jon.  She lost the most in that debate. 

She had senior moments where she seemed to be stunned by what was happening to her. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, if Biden was surprised by being hit by her, she was surprised by being hit by Tulsi Gabbard, of all people... 

CARLSON:  I know. 

MATTHEWS:  ... from Hawaii.  She starts blasting into her from nowhere. 

CARLSON:  I know.  No, it was a -- she was ganged up on. 

I wanted to -- Biden came out better I think in part because he wasn`t tainted by the comparisons with Obama.  He was enhanced by it. 

And he wasn`t Muellered.  He came off just fine.  He did not -- he did not have a senior moment at all.  And the thing about the texting, all the numbers we have to remember in life, I don`t think him not remembering.

So, I think he came out of it just fine. 

MATTHEWS:  Jon, I got a theory about this.  But it`s only what politics is.

The people on the hard left who want real revolutionary change, starting with, of course, Bernie Sanders, they want big change.  They want a big national health program.  They want a lot of things different, a lot of things student loans, private -- public colleges basically being free.  Big stuff. 

To make their point, I think they have to make a really drastic case of how bad things are now.  So part of that, it seems to me, there`s some collateral damage, Obama.  They go after everything that`s wrong, including the ACA, the American -- Affordable Care Act. 

They`re trashing all existing American programs to justify a dramatic revolutionary change.  And I think that`s what`s caused them to go head to head now with what I think most Democrats are proud of, which is Barack Obama. 

RALSTON:  Yes, and I think what -- your allusion earlier about what Trump was doing by saying that they were attacking Obama, well, then is the evil genius part of Trump, right? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

RALSTON:  Because that`s just a terrible thing for the Democrats to do. 

You know what Obama`s numbers are, Chris, and Obamacare has good numbers too.  And for them to be...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  They`re in the positive. 

RALSTON:  ... saying that they want to -- right.  For them to be saying they want to tear that all apart, I think you`re right that there could be some collateral damage. 

And there is also a case to be made, and we have seen this in polling, that the Democratic electorate is not as left as Bernie might think it is.  And so I`m not sure that that`s how that`s going to work out. 

But, again, Chris, you know this better than I do.  Again, it`s August of 2019.  The way that we do this is so crazy.  What happens in Iowa is going to affect what happens in New Hampshire.  And then they come to the most important state, Nevada, and things could be completely different. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think people like nice. 

And I think -- I know Kamala came on.  Every time she was on the last two big appearances, including with me, and I think she is great in terms of her intellect and everything, very prosecutorial.  And I wonder if that is Johnny one-note.  You can`t just always be prosecuting. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  And you can`t be scolding all the time. 

And one-on-one, she seems fine, but in a group she didn`t seem so fine.  And on this Obama business, he is the most admired man in the world. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes -- 97-3, yes. 

CARLSON:  And, more important, he has 66 percent of all Americans. 

You can barely get 50 percent for apple pie and motherhood. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  He is going to be Richard the Lionheart come next November, because two days before the election he is going to come out for whoever the nominee is, and they`re going to want him. 

And so will Michelle. 

CARLSON:  Oh, so badly, yes.

MATTHEWS:  They`re going to want those two.

Anyway, thank you, Margaret Carlson.  Thank you, Jon Ralston. 

Good luck tomorrow as you ringlead all those happy Democrats. 

Up next:  He was once called the future of the GOP.  And now the only African-American Republican in the entire House of Representatives is quitting.  What does the future look like for a party whose leader is bent on alienating American minorities, including their own members? 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

After President Trump fired off racist tweets at five Democratic House members of color, the only African-American Republican in the House, Will Hurd of Texas, announced his retirement. 

Congressman Hurd was once heralded as the future of the party.  Hurd, a moderating force in the Republican Party who won his district by roughly 900 votes, was one of only four Republican House members who condemned the president`s racist tweets. 

Congressman Hurd joins seven other Republican House members now who are calling it quits.  His departure represents a larger, more fundamental problem for the party under President Trump, because, in addition to Hurd, two of the other 13 Republican women in the House have announced their retirements.  There they are. 

The caucus, already overwhelmingly white and male, could become even more disproportionate come the next Congress.  Republicans on Capitol Hill and elsewhere tell the Associated Press now that the retirements show a frustration within the party that they won`t win back the majority in 2020, which would mean two more years of legislative futility and exasperation over Trump`s outbursts, including his racist tweets taunting those four Democratic women. 

As Republicans like Hurd make their exits, some hard-core Trump sycophants may be getting ready to infiltrate Congress. 

And that`s next.  You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

According to NBC News, Congressman Will Hurd`s retirement announced today signals bad news for the Republican Party, because it could reduce the number of moderate or non-Trump Republicans who would eagerly go to the polls for those representatives.  Those incumbents to bring in the voters. 

While Trump`s imprint gets stronger, the Republican Party is getting smaller and smaller.  And that isn`t good news for any incumbent president, Republican president. 

In another sign of President Trump`s tightening grip on the party, however, Corey Lewandowski -- there he is -- the president`s former campaign manager, might challenge Jeanne Shaheen for her U.S. Senate seat up in New Hampshire next year.  Lewandowski, who is currently a lobbyist, told NBC that he is going to look at it very seriously. 

We will see. 

For more, I`m joined by Ginger Gibson, Reuters political correspondent, and Matt Gorman, Republican strategist, former NRCC communications director. 

I used to have a job like that on the other side. 

MATT GORMAN, FORMER NRCC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:  Yes? 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s go.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about this.

What`s going on with these Republicans going for the exits? 

GINGER GIBSON, REUTERS:  This should be taken as a warning sign that there are demographic problems in the Republican Party, including among their electorate. 

Will Hurd, as you said, the only African-American Republican in the House, but in a district that is overwhelmingly Hispanic.  And if you look at how the president`s approval numbers among Hispanics have done, they have gotten worse at a faster rate than the country. 

You check out polling and you will see that in some polls where the president`s approval numbers and disapproval numbers have stayed flat, among Hispanics, his disapproval numbers have gone up anywhere between 15 and 20 points.  This is not a good sign for Republicans. 

GORMAN:  No, it`s not. 

MATTHEWS:  George W. was really good.  George W. Bush was very good at getting the Hispanic vote, the Latino vote. 

GORMAN:  He was. 

MATTHEWS:  And this guy seems to be running against Latinos. 

GORMAN:  No.

I mean, look, we`re absolutely not going get anywhere near George W. Bush numbers in the Hispanic vote any time soon, certainly African-Americans, same. 

But, look, the biggest problem in 2018 was women.  That is where we cannot lose big, especially if he is going to win reelection in 2020 or we`re going get the House in 2020 as well. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think suburban white women like to be known as supporters of a racist? 

GORMAN:  Look, I don`t think we`re going win them back right now, at least the way things are. 

The thing about Will Hurd was, he was the type of guy who could win a tough seat.  He served it well.  He would go around to Dairy Queens in a district that was bigger than Georgia.  He is a model for how you win a tough tossup seat. 

MATTHEWS:  I`m big on D.Q.s. 

GORMAN:  Me too. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

The RNC is hosting a summer meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

NBC spoke to a Republican precinct leader from Texas about U.S. Congressman Hurd`s retirement announced today.  Here is how she reacted to the news. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHY PONCE, ELLIS COUNTY, TEXAS, REPUBLICAN PRECINCT CHAIR:  I am ecstatic and happy that Will Hurd will no longer be seeking reelection for his congressional district. 

He is not of Republican values and stature.  He has consistently voted with the Democrats.  He has consistently supported Beto in his Senate race.  He`s not -- he is a RINO.  So, Texas needs to start standing with true conservatives. 

Republicans do not run on identity politics.  So the assumption that Will Hurd, the only black congressman, is not running for reelection, is that the representation of the Republican Party that stands on individualism?  Or is that the media and trying to put the Republican Party into the position of being involved in identity politics as well? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Pretty strong Trumpie there, Trumpie. 

GIBSON:  That was an interesting take. 

I would say that the Republican Party doesn`t want to lose any of its incumbents as it tries to maybe gain some seats back in the House. 

MATTHEWS:  Are they purging RINOs again? 

GIBSON:  We -- I haven`t heard that term in so long.  It was like the Tea Party revolution.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  It`s an oldie. 

GIBSON:  But you know what?  I think that this is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  A party that is 89 percent for Trump must not have that many RINOs in it. 

GIBSON:  Matt talked about the votes that Bush got. 

And I think that this is a clear sign that the Republican Party is not trying to rebuild the Bush coalition.  This is a sign that they want the Trump coalition, and the Trump coalition wasn`t concerned about winning Hispanic or black voters in the way that Bush was. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

This is a question we`re going to -- I`m going to throw this out, because I have been asking this question. 

Before the national election of 2016, I would have thought Trump was going to maybe win.  I didn`t know.  And I kept asking people, all these angry white people.  And people said, don`t worry about them, there are too many sophisticated liberals in the suburbs, women especially, who are very concerned about choice and all. 

GORMAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And there are too many people, big city people, African- Americans, who are going to vote against this guy. 

It turned out he had more angry white people.  How about this time?  Are there enough of them still around? 

GORMAN:  The problem was, he is not running against Hillary Clinton this time.  He made into it a choice in 2016 and that`s how he won. 

MATTHEWS:  Can he make Elizabeth Warren into Hillary Clinton? 

GORMAN:  Time will tell. 

MATTHEWS:  In about six months?

GORMAN:  Maybe. 

MATTHEWS:  If she`s the nominee.

GORMAN:  Maybe Elizabeth Warren, yes.  Some other people, probably not. 

I don`t think he can make Joe Biden into Hillary Clinton, at least not with the time he has. 

MATTHEWS:  How about Kamala? 

GORMAN:  He`s too well-defined.

I think Kamala is not as well-defined as Joe Biden, but also Kamala stepped in it a bunch with all her positions on health care and busing and border crossing.  She is not helping herself right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GIBSON:  I think it`s important.  You look at that clip from him in Cincinnati last night, where he says any Democrat is a socialist. 

MATTHEWS:  That`s not true. 

GIBSON:  Like, he`s not hiding his strategy here.

MATTHEWS:  Joe Biden has been around for 40 or 50 years.  We know his voting record.  He is not a socialist. 

(LAUGHTER)

GIBSON:  Thirty-six years in the United States Senate, right?

But we can see -- it`s very clear what the president`s strategy.  Try to convince the people that aren`t with him that the other guy is so bad, they should stay home. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who is he afraid of?  I hate to interrupt.  We`re late. 

Who is he afraid -- is he afraid of Biden by calling him a socialist? 

GIBSON:  I think he is afraid of Biden. 

I think you can`t help but look at the polls and see Biden winning Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania.  Those three states flip and the president is in a lot of trouble, because he`s got to find somewhere else to get Electoral College votes. 

MATTHEWS:  I think the Republican Party is not going to be able to redefine Trump.  Nobody can.  He is there.  We all know him.  We all have an attitude on him. 

But they can redefine whoever the Democrat is, like they did in `88. 

GORMAN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Look what they did to the Dukakis.  They turned him into a foreigner.

GORMAN:  Up 20, and he flipped it on them. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

GORMAN:  Yes.  No, I think you`re absolutely right.  Like, this...

(CROSSTALK)

GORMAN:  ... a choice.

MATTHEWS:  They turned 25 points around in 1988. 

GORMAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  They knew how to -- they took a guy 17 points ahead in August, and turned him into an eight-point loser. 

GORMAN:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  You go with nasty and negative, and you turn the trash on a guy, you can do it. 

GIBSON:  Barack Obama turned the `12 election into a referendum on Mitt Romney, instead of on himself. 

And part of the reason he was able to do that was, he started running ads early in places like Ohio and Florida.  The DNC has to get out ahead if they want to...

MATTHEWS:  You know what his best ad was?  Romney saying I only care -- I don`t care about the 47 percent. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Ginger Gibson.  Thank you, Matt Gorman.

Up next:  If Democrats want to get Trump out of the White House, they are going to have got to do something else, rather than impeachment. 

I got a statement to make when we come back.  It`s about how to get rid of Trump. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  For Democrats wanting to end the Trump era, impeachment no longer appears a live option. 

There is only a limited number of House Democrats calling for impeachment right now, even for the process to begin, even now just roughly over half the entire caucus. 

Then there is the calendar, which makes it unlikely that the House and Senate could finish an impeachment effort, even if it started now, before the country is immersed in the 2020 election campaign. 

And, finally, there is the lack of a stark leader. 

Richard Nixon, the one president forced from office by impeachment, knew the decisiveness of facing such a leader.  He knew he was in trouble when he saw that Tip O`Neill, then the Democratic majority leader, was the person pushing hard for his removal. 

O`Neill, Nixon later admitted, played hardball every inch of the way in pushing him from the White House onto that departing helicopter. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in many ways a superior parliamentary and partisan and leader than my old boss, simply does not believe impeachment constitutes the right current course. 

These three factors, the lack of overwhelming support in the Democratic Caucus, the near approach of a presidential election year, and the absence of a strong pro-impeachment champion, makes the prospect of impeachment this August 2019 not only unlikely, but dead. 

There will still be more investigations, of course, more calls for documents, including tax returns, more rebukes of the administration for obstruction even now.

But their value now would be as ammunition to be employed by the candidates seeking to replace Donald Trump in next year`s elections. 

This must now be the opposition party`s prime objective, beating him at the polls. 

To continue to focus on impeachment going into the fall would be, given the numbers, the calendar, and , again, the lack of a committed leader, will now constitute not only a distraction, but, even worse, a delusion. 

I remember when the great Walter Cronkite told you and me in 1968 that the war in Vietnam wasn`t winnable.  Well, on a different plane, this is something like that. 

If you want to remove Donald Trump from office, it will not be through a majority vote in the House, much less a two-thirds vote in the Republican- controlled Senate.  It will be through the same constitutional body that allowed his election in the first place, the Electoral College. 

That`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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