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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 2/25/2016

Guests: Jaime Harrison, Anthony Brooks

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: February 25, 2016 Guest: Jaime Harrison, Anthony Brooks

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That was great. That was the HARDBALL college tour town hall complete with a brass band on set.

Chris Matthews with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, live from the University of Chicago`s Institute of Politics. This is a live shot right now with that event having just wrapped up.

I`m Rachel Maddow at MSNBC headquarters back in New York. We do not have a brass band. But that was a remarkable event.

There`s a lot going on in news and politics tonight.

On the political side, Nevada Republican Governor Brian Sandoval has taken his name out of contention today as a potential Supreme Court nominee. That`s after the White House floated his name as a potential pick for the court.

A whole new raft of polling has come out on the Republican side of the presidential race today. Donald Trump continues to dominate the field. The rest of the Republican field has now started amongst themselves inn earnest as to who ought the quit in order to give some other candidate a cleaner shot at trying to take on Mr. Trump. So, that`s all going on. We`re going to be talking about all that stuff tonight.

But on the Democratic side of the race, we did have this remarkable, long forum town hall with Bernie Sanders who now I think is safe to say back to being the underdog, but one who is fighting really hard and has a lot of resources and a lot of support on his side. But I would say back to being the underdog in the Democratic race for the presidential nomination.

Bernie Sanders tonight taking questions from students at the University of Chicago there. You see him shaking hands with students there. Again, this is a live shot of the room.

But it was fascinating. This event also started off with what I thought was a contentious and challenging and really interesting back and forth one-on-one between Chris Matthews and Bernie Sanders, as Chris Matthews tried to pin Senator Sanders down basically on the feasibility of what he`s campaigning on.

And you`ll see -- we`re going to show you a couple of clips from what just happened here. You`ll notice, the senator got applause for some of the answers. But it was a very heated back and forth.

I think potentially this one is going to stick in terms of what people remember from this campaign. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HARDBALL HOST: Let`s say if you get elected, you take office next January 20th and you walk up to the Senate and you meet with the leadership and say, I have a program here. I have to have government funded tuition for public universities. There`s things I want done on Social Security to increase benefits. There`s things I want done on health care so it can become Medicare for life. You have strong positions.

And Mitch McConnell looks at you the way he looked at President Obama and says, "Forget about it."

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And you know what I say? I say, hey, Mitch, take a look out the window. There are a million young people out there who don`t want to be in debt for half their life for the crime of going to college. If you want to antagonize those people and lose your job, Mitch, if you don`t want to lose your job, you better start listening to what we have to say. That`s the point. That`s how change takes place.

MATTHEWS: How do you squeeze a guy like him?

SANDERS: It`s not him. Mitch is -- I know Mitch McConnell.

MATTHEWS: All the Republicans, how do you squeeze 60 senators? You need 60 senators.

SANDERS: Let me tell you.

MATTHEWS: You need 60.

SANDERS: Let me tell you this: absolutely, positively, 100 percent. If we rally young people in this country to say, you know what? Germany, Scandinavia, other countries, they have free tuition in public colleges and universities. I have been all over this country, Chris. I have talked to kid, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, $100,000 in debt paying a huge percentage of their income, OK?

Young people stand up and say, we are sick and tired of it. We don`t want to go in debt for our whole lives because we got a college education.

You know what? We`ll win that fight immediately.

But the trick is not to appeal to Mitch McConnell. It`s to say take a look at your e-mails coming in.

MATTHEWS: OK. What evidence do you have this has worked for you? Have you increased the turn out in these elections?

You know, as a U.S. senator, have you been able to get 60 votes in the Senate for anything? Have you ever been able to do this what you`re talking about doing? You say I can get 60 senators --

SANDERS: I`m not the president. What I am saying, Chris --

MATTHEWS: What evidence do you have that you can do it?

SANDERS: What evidence do I have?

MATTHEWS: That you can do it?

SANDERS: The evidence is that`s the only way change is enacted in this country.

MATTHEWS: Right, I agree with you.

SANDERS: That`s what the civil rights movement was about. That`s what the women`s movement, the gay movement.

MATTHEWS: It`s necessary. But is it sufficient?

SANDERS: That`s called, that`s they way --

MATTHEWS: Is it sufficient to get it done? These guys running their own states with their own conservative constituencies that will say, fine, Bernie Sanders is a liberal president. He`s a progressive. I`m not the one (INAUDIBLE) vote against him.

SANDERS: Let me give you an example, let me give you an example.

MATTHEWS: How do you know you can do it?

SANDERS: How do I know? I don`t know anything. I think we do the best that we can do. We try.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Senator Bernie Sanders with Chris Matthews tonight at the University of Chicago. That event just wrapping up live there. The HARDBALL college tour, an hour long format there with Senator Sanders live.

Joining us now from the room from University of Chicago is MSNBC political correspondent Kasie Hunt, who`s been covering the Sanders campaign for MSNBC and our national correspondent Joy Reid who joins us tonight fittingly from Columbia, South Carolina, ahead of the Democratic presidential primary in that state, which takes place two days from now.

Joy and Kasie, it is great to have you both here live. Thank you both so much for being here.

JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Rachel.

KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you.

MADDOW: Joy, let me start with you. I know you were able to watch this as it happened, this town hall that just happened in Chicago. The polls say Senator Sanders is not looking like he`s going to do well in South Carolina where you are for the primary this weekend.

Looking at what he just did with Chris, looking at how he`s campaigning right now, is he adapting? Is he changing what he`s doing in a way that`s likely to better his chances in a place like South Carolina in?

REID: You know, it`s interesting, Rachel, literally before when I sat down to get miked up and ready to come on, I got introduced to a couple of students who were undecided. One young lady said she`s trying to decide between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Her knock on Bernie Sanders is whether or not what he was saying, was it realistic that he could pass it? I think that`s very telling. This is a very young person, a college student.

And as I was driving around, I just happen to have spent three hours in my rental car today just listening to the radio, right? To R&B and hip hop radio where you would think there`s lots of radio ads and the Sanders campaign was aggressive early on advertising on the radio. I heard one Sanders ad. I heard a lot of different Hillary Clinton ads, about four different ads running over and over.

So, I think even the Sanders campaign, though, when I spoke to them today, they said they are not pulling out of South Carolina, you get feeling and the sense they are sort of moving past this state and moving on.

And tonight, what we just heard with Chris Matthews, you heard what makes people love Bernie Sanders and what`s problematic for him. This sort of passion he`s invoking in young people that they are the revolution, that they can make Congress do what they want. The problem is he hasn`t shown that in the turnout so far in the young people in this primary. He just -- he hasn`t demonstrated it can be done that way.

MADDOW: Kasie, on that point, the Sanders campaign is getting more and more sensitive to that point. They are being asked about it as the senator continues to make this pitch that the way he`s going to bring the political world around to his way of seeing things is by prompting big voter turn out and getting a lot of people involved. Is that issue getting under their skin? Do they have a different answer for that? How are they handling that and do they see that as a real issue for themselves now?

HUNT: Well, I think they saw some of that tonight, Rachel. And I think, you know, and think, you know, when Chris asked this crowd, that, of course, are still very patiently sitting here behind me, they all said that they would indeed vote. There`s a bit of quirk in this calendar coming up which is a lot of these kids here and at the other universities voting in March will go on spring break.

So, not only are they fighting against the uphill current of getting students to turn out to vote but they have to deal with that as well.

When I pressed Bernie Sanders on this when I interviewed him a week or so ago, a couple of weeks ago, saying, you know, how if President Obama doesn`t represent getting this system completely changed, doesn`t represent historic different turnout, then, of course, it`s a challenge for Bernie Sanders to be able to prove that he`s going to be able to do that. So far, you`re right. The turnout hasn`t shown that.

One thing I would say is some of these bigger states will prove to be the first test of whether these crowds that Bernie Sanders is drawing can convert into votes. Iowa and New Hampshire, a different case, smaller states where a lot of handshaking is typically done. Tulsa, Oklahoma, for example, where we were last night, one of those bigger states -- we`ll see if the crowds make a difference, Rachel.

MADDOW: Kasie, let me ask you, just your impression of the confidence level for the candidate and the campaign right now. Do they feel confident? This is where they expected to be?

Kasie, did I lose you?

Oh, I lost Kasie. I`ll turn to Joy. I never have two people at once. I never get to do this.

Joy, bonus question for you. Joy, I want to ask you about something different, which is the Univision/"Washington Post" poll of Hispanic voters nationwide just came out. It shows Secretary Clinton leading Sanders among Latinos by nearly 30 points. Her advantage is stronger with African- American voters, you`re talking a little bit about what sounds like on the ground, in a heavily African-American state like South Carolina.

The advantage Sanders has is a really big advantage with younger voters, which is a better building block for states that are still ahead right now. I mean, obviously, they both got bragging rights. But which would you rather have?

REID: Yes, I mean, this is another central conundrum of the Sanders campaign. He has the young voters and when I talk to people basically under 40, whether they are black, white, or Latino, they love Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton is more solid with voters who are over 50 and particularly over 50.

But you know what? It`s the over 50 who vote, Rachel. And especially when you`re talking about African-American voters, it`s the churches. That`s who is getting people out. It`s women who are watching the sort of "Scandal" generation of women, generation X and older, those are your super voters. And particularly as you go up the age scale with both African- Americans and Latinos, though Latinos with median ages are much, much younger, these are constituencies that don`t turn out at the youngest cohorts.

So, Sanders has a challenge because he has the most unreliable voters. And then, you know, we were just talking about some of the sort of x-factor, things like spring break, there`s a big regional college basketball tournament that just happens to be this weekend. It culminates on Saturday in the neighboring state, in North Carolina. So, yet another issue that the Sanders campaign has to deal with when turning out their base voters, because they might not be here. They might actually be in the neighboring state.

So, there`s so much more of complication with turning out the voters that love Bernie Sanders. They really do love him. It just might not be enough of them.

MADDOW: MSNBC political correspondent, national correspondent Joy Reid.

I also want to thank political correspondent Kasie Hunt. She`s at the Bernie Sanders town hall event tonight.

Both of you, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

On the issue of the turnout and whether South Carolina can make Bernie Sanders dreams come true, they maybe behind in the polls, but that turnout question is absolutely central to his theory of the case for why he`s doing what he`s doing and why he can be successful of it.

We`re going to have the ahead of the Democratic Party in South Carolina joining us live tonight to talk about whether or not South Carolina might sort of break the Democratic Party`s turnout curse that they have had so far in first three states.

If South Carolina can turn out a large number of people, large raw number of people even if it`s not just a huge number of young people or a huge number of specific kind of people, if they can turn out a large raw number, I think Democrats are going to be much more comfortable where they are looking ahead to the general election than the first three contests have left them.

I`ve got one more piece of sound I want to play from this back and forth between Chris Matthews and Bernie Sanders tonight in Chicago. There was some very constructive conversation between the two of them about Bernie Sanders as a young man and his own time at the University of Chicago in the 1960s, a lot of policies in the room.

But between Chris and Bernie, between Senator Sanders and Chris Matthews, there was a very contentious back and forth and some very blunt remarks. And like I said earlier, I think some of this stuff is going to stick. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: You and I look at the world differently. You look at it inside the beltway. I`m not an inside the beltway guy. I am an outside the beltway guy.

MATTHEWS: But the people that vote on taxes are inside the beltway.

SANDERS: And those people are going to vote the right way when millions of people demand that they vote the right way. On this issue, I have no doubt, as president of the United States, I can rally young people and their parents to say that if Germany does it, Scandinavia does, countries around the world do it, we can do it. And yes, we can bail out --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Can you bring -- OK --

SANDERS: It is Wall Street`s time to help the middle class.

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: The next Senate leader, Democratic leader, is probably Chuck Schumer of New York. Can you deliver his vote tonight? Can you tell me one senator is going to follow you for these proposals? They`re all good decent proposals. In fact, the moral proposals.

Tell me the votes. Who`s going to vote with you?

SANDERS: I know Chuck very, very well.

MATTHEWS: Is he going to vote with you?

SANDERS: Well, call him up. I don`t know.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You gave us one vote. You said, I will give you 60 and pass it. And you can`t give me one vote.

SANDERS: Chris, Chris, I didn`t say it.

MATTHEWS: Your vote, but you won`t be in the Senate anymore.

SANDERS: Chris, I didn`t say I couldn`t give you one vote. Look, what you`re not catching on -- I have to say this respectfully, all right?

You`re a nice guy. You`re missing the point. All right? You`re missing the point.

If you look at politics today as a zero sum total --

MATTHEWS: Right.

SANDERS: -- if you`re looking at 63 percent of the American people not voting, 80 percent of young people not voting, billionaires buying elections, you`re right. I`m not looking at that world.

MATTHEWS: How is that going to change the day you`re in office? You won`t have a Supreme Court on your side, will you? How are you going to get --

SANDERS: What I will have is millions of people demanding --

MATTHEWS: You need 60 votes to get a Supreme Court nominee.

SANDERS: OK, we`re going around in circles here.

MATTHEWS: No, we`re starting at the point of can you do what you say you`re going to do?

SANDERS: Yes, damn right, I can do what I say.

MATTHEWS: How do you do it?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Have you ever done anything like this? Have you ever gotten 60 votes for anything in Senate?

SANDERS: Yes, actually, we have.

MATTHEWS: Which was it?

SANDERS: My veterans bill.

MATTHEWS: OK.

SANDERS: The comprehensive veterans bill, the strongest veterans bill passed in many, many years. But that`s as a senator. Now I`m hopefully president of the United States and we have the bully pulpit.

So, the difference you and I have --

MATTHEWS: So does Obama.

SANDERS: The difference that you and I have is you`re looking at politics in the way it is today. What I`m trying to do is not just pass legislation. I`m trying to change the face of American politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Is absolutely the crux of the matter. That was such a good exchange.

Bernie Sanders saying you and I look at the world differently. You look at it inside the beltway. I`m not an inside the beltway guy. I`m an outside the beltway guy.

He said, you look at politics today as a zero sum total. Chris coming back and saying, listen, how is that going to change the day you`re in officer? I`m starting at the point of can you do what you`re going to do?

Senator Sanders says, damn right I can do what I say. You`re looking at politics in the way it is today. What I`m trying to do is not just pass legislation, I`m trying to face of American politics.

I`m trying to change the face of American politics. That -- that is the essence of what Bernie Sanders is trying to do in his campaign, absolutely in his own words. And he didn`t volunteer it. It had to happen through that contentious back and forth between the two of them with Chris pushing him so hard on it. But he got it.

If you`re a supporter of Bernie Sanders, that is absolutely music to your ears. If you`re skeptical he can change face of American politics, then you may like him, but you may think he can`t get it done.

And that`s the fight that`s happening in this fascinating Democratic primary, which is nothing like the Republican primary because in the Democratic primary, Democratic voters basically like both their choices. They like both candidates. They say they have respect for both candidates. They have a difference of opinion between them as to whether or not one of them is practical or one of them is asking too much.

And that is why the Democratic primary is a constructive thing because these two candidates are not destroying each other. They`re not tearing each other down. They are presenting two different ways of approaching the future, basically, reform versus revolution.

And that kind of a fight is constructive because it will make the Democratic Party make better arguments and thereby win more arguments. And that`s why this primary is so exciting. What a great event.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: So, there`s some tragic breaking news tonight out of Kansas. There`s multiple deaths after a mass workplace shooting in Kansas. It happened in Hesston, Kansas, in Hesston, Kansas. It`s about 40 minutes north of Wichita.

The first reports of gunfire in this incident came around 5:00 local time. The first reports were that a man was shooting at people from his vehicle near a manufacturing plant called Excel Industries. After those first reports came, further reports of gunfire inside that plant itself.

Turns out those were consecutive reports. There was apparently just one shooter in this incident. Witnesses say the gunman worked at the plant. He was carrying a rifle and handgun.

Moments ago, the county sheriff announced more bad news. Between four and seven people have been killed in this incident, including the shooter who was killed by law enforcements. Tonight, agents of the FBI and the ATF have joined what is turning out to be a complicated crime scene with lots of victims and several crime scenes in and around this manufacturing plant.

We`ll keep you posted on this mass shooting in Hesston, Kansas, tonight, as we learn more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: If you`re a Democrat looking at the presidential race now, one of the things that may be causing you heartburn is turnout. Turnout is down in all three Democratic contests thus far compared to the last competitive Democratic race in 2008.

That`s all happening at the same time that Republican turnout is up, big. The Republicans have had four contests so far. They`ve had record voter turnout in all four states.

Now, say what you will about Republican front-runner Donald Trump, he is apparently driving Republican voters to the polls in droves. Compared to this time four years ago, Donald Trump has won way more votes than Mitt Romney had at this time in the race.

Of course, there are competing theories right now as to how worried Democrats should be about this disparity between Democrats and Republicans in terms of voter turn out so far. But it is inarguably a troubling development for one candidate who really has made the issue of turnout central to his running for president pitch. Senator Sanders says he can win the nomination. He says he can win the general election in November.

He told Chris Matthews he could pass his policy agenda as president all because of one thing. He said he can motivate huge numbers of otherwise disaffected Americans. He can get people who aren`t in the process now to join the political process, to participate, to get involved, to turn out and vote.

This past hour, Senator Sanders faced the question of why those big numbers aren`t turning out so far in terms of voter turn out in the Democratic primary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: Barack Obama, in 2008, ran in my view one of the great campaigns in the history of the United States of America. You and nobody else has ever heard me say that we`re going to run a better campaign than he did. In terms of voter turnout, no, the voter turnout was not what Obama did in 2008. And, by the way, though, in that election, to talk about little politics, you had John Edwards, you had other candidates in there bringing in votes. The voter turn out actually in Iowa was strong. In New Hampshire, very strong. In Nevada, not strong, which is why we lost.

So, our job is to make sure that these young people come out, working class people come out to vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Yesterday, NBC`s Andrea Mitchell pressed Senator Sanders on the same question. Senator Sanders said at that point that we should not say Democratic turnout is down by comparing it to 2008. He said we should, instead, compare it to this year`s turnout to what happened in the elections in the year 2000 and the year 2004.

If you do that, then, yes, comparing this year`s Democratic turnout to 2000 and 2004, it does look better. That`s because 2000 and 2004 races saw the lowest total primary turnout going back to 1980.

So, yes, this year is better than that. But also 2000 and 2004 were both years when Democrats lost the White House to the Republicans. Democrats won in 2008, which is why the Democratic Party would love to see turnout numbers again like they were in 2008. Not like the years when the party lost.

So, Republicans have set the turnout records in all four states thus far. Democrats have only voted in three states, so far. Their turnout has fallen short of 2008 levels in all three states. That said, Democrats are going to hold their fourth contest in two days this Saturday in South Carolina. Will Democrats break the curse in South Carolina? Will South Carolina Democrats break what has been a bad streak for the Democratic Party in turn out so far?

I know just the person to ask and he joins us live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would by grateful for anything you can do between now and Saturday. I will always remember South Carolina and I`ll be back to see if we can turn South Carolina a little more blue come November.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Hillary Clinton this afternoon in Florence, South Carolina urging her supporters to get out to the polls in South Carolina this Saturday.

Joining us now is Jaime Harrison. He`s chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

Mr. Chairman, it`s great to see you again. Thank you so much for being here.

JAIME HARRISON, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: Hey, Rachel. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: So, we have been talking about this, you and I, on and off, for a little while now, the idea of turn out. The Republicans at the Republican South Carolina primary -- they had record turnout, as they had record turnout in every state they`ve been through.

Are the Democrats going to do anything like that in South Carolina on Saturday?

HARRISON: Well, early indications, Rachel, are that we`re going to do well. I don`t know if we will reach the 2008 level. And that`s because 2008 was a special year, particularly here in South Carolina, where you had Barack Obama on the path to be the first African-American president. You had Hillary Clinton on the path of being the first woman. You had John Edwards who`s a native son of South Carolina, had won the primary in 2004, and was coming back for a second try.

And so, it was just a different dynamic. I wish I would bottle that and keep it for every four and eight years, but we can`t.

But nonetheless, early indications are that we`re going to do well. So far, there are about 40,000 absentee ballots that have been cast that are at the register`s office. Comparing that to 2008, there were a total 35,000. So, that`s something that is positive for us.

We`ve been doing everything we can in this election as a party from newspaper ads to web ads. Everything that we can to make sure we drive up turnout and educate voters on Saturday is the say they can go and vote.

MADDOW: I know that you as the party chairman have to maintain a certain impartiality in terms of the choice between the two candidates, but do you have any generic advice for both campaigns in terms of what they ought to do between now and Saturday to get the most turn out they can get to reach the most voters, the turn people out.

We`ve seen reporting that some of the innovative techniques for reaching black voters in South Carolina in 2008 have not been duplicated. There haven`t been big campaigns targeting, for example, barber shops and hair salons and things like that.

Do you have any advice to the campaigns these last couple of days?

HARRISON: Yes, you know, I think radio is an important. I know it sound like so 1980s, but still here in South Carolina, running radio ads is very important. That morning drive in, the afternoon drive back home, is so important in the African-American community.

Also, you know, I think there`s so much now on social media that you can do. There`s a lot of targeting that`s taking place. These campaigns have been knocking on doors and making phone calls for months now. And so, they both have done a good job of doing that. All I say is continue to push. Continue to reach out to leaders in these churches to make sure they drive their vote out as well. And that`s all they can do at this point.

MADDOW: Mr. Chairman, you`re going to have a big organizational challenge on your hands over the next couple of days. I hope you get some sleep through the rest of it. I hope you take care of yourself and I hope you`ll check in with us on Saturday night. Good luck, sir.

HARRISON: I will, Rachel. Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. Thanks a lot, Jaime. Jaime Harrison is the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

And I will say, even though right now he`s busy running that party. I think he`s a rising star in the Democratic Party nationwide, just an incredibly, incredibly smart guy who is being so responsible and just handling the reins well in state that`s gotten a lot of spotlight on it. Jaime Harrison, remember that name.

Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Senator Bernie Sanders` path to nomination has taken him all over the country this week with the idea that his campaign is focused more on gathering delegates from everywhere they might get them rather than trying to win just the next state.

We do some have exclusive information coming up next. Brand new data exclusive to us that gives some real insight into whether that strategy is working. That`s exclusive. It`s here next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Back in January, I marveled on the air about why Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump, kept going to Massachusetts to do big campaign events.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: This is a question I legitimately have no answer for. I cannot explain this. Perhaps you can.

We are 28 days away from the Iowa caucuses. We`re 36 days away from the New Hampshire primary. Can you spot what is weird about this video of folks waiting outside in the cold tonight for a Donald Trump rally?

What`s weird about them is that they are in neither of those two states I just mentioned. These folks waiting in the cold tonight, this huge long line outside the Donald Trump are in deep blue, Taxachussetts. This is the line to get into a Donald Trump rally tonight in Lowell, Massachusetts. Lowell, Massachusetts, yes. And this is the third campaign event that Donald Trump has mounted in the state of Massachusetts recently.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That Donald Trump event at the UMass-Lowell, that was ginormous, 8,000 seats in that room filled to capacity. More people lined up outside. It was like Donald Trump was Bernie Sanders or something looking at that crowd.

And Donald Trump kept turning out these big rallies, these big events in the great state of Massachusetts. And yes, it did baffle me at the time when Donald Trump was doing that in Massachusetts, ahead of Iowa, ahead of New Hampshire, ahead of all the other early states.

But now, now, those huge rallies in Massachusetts may be paying off for Donald Trump. And we have the big exclusive news about that tonight. News you`ll not hear anywhere else.

We exclusive have the new polling numbers out of Massachusetts from WBUR, and they are fascinating.

In the new WBUR data on the Republican side, Donald Trump is leading in Massachusetts by 21 points. Wow. He`s at 40 percent in the state. Tied for second place in Massachusetts are Marco Rubio you thought I was going to say Ted Cruz. I`m not. Marco Rubio tied with John Kasich for second place in Massachusetts.

What`s interesting about that is that, you know, Marco Rubio is racking up Republican endorsements all across the country. The party seems to be settling on him as the best chance to be an anti-Trump candidate -- at least the press is settling on that. I think some of that has sloshed over into an argument that John Kasich ought to quit the race an get out of the way. Clear the way for Marco Rubio.

But here`s the thing: Marco Rubio and John Kasich are polling in equal percentage of the vote in this brand new poll that`s just out tonight from WBUR. Does Marco Rubio really have that much better of a shot at beating Donald Trump than John Kasich does?

I mean, if you look at in the road a little bit, look at March 15th. John Kasich appears to have a shot at beating Donald Trump in his home state of Ohio. While in Marco Rubio`s home state of Florida, new polling came out today that should have rattled Marco Rubio boosters all the way down to their little high heeled boots. I mean, despite Marco Rubio`s supposed resent surge, Donald Trump still, consistently, in every single Florida poll beats Marco Rubio, in Marco Rubio`s home state of Florida.

So, these new results from WBUR in Massachusetts showing John Kasich and Marco Rubio in a tie, albeit one that`s 21 points behind Donald Trump, that`s going to rattle the Republican race, or at least it ought to. Why should John Kasich quit given these numbers and not Marco Rubio?

The state of the race on the Democratic side, of course, is very different than what`s going on with the Republican field. Hillary Clinton won Iowa by a fraction of 1 percent. Bernie Sanders had a blowout victory in New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton had a fairly solid win in Nevada and next, the Democrats will head to South Carolina.

In the recent polling looks absolutely solid for Hillary Clinton and fairly devastating for Bernie Sanders. Every poll in South Carolina at this point pretty consistently puts Hillary Clinton`s lead above 20 points. One poll out from Clemson University in South Carolina, it might be an outlier, but the Clemson University poll today in South Carolina puts Hillary Clinton`s lead in that state at 50 points.

So, knowing that, the Bernie Sanders campaign has been plotting a course that`s intended to keep his campaign alive well into March and hopefully beyond because of a specific set of states they think they can win right after South Carolina starting on Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: We think we have a shot to win. We think we have a shot to win in Massachusetts, Colorado and Minnesota and in other states.

We think that right here in the great state of Massachusetts, we`ve got a real chance to win on Super Tuesday. We`re going to win some other states as well.

Massachusetts, in fact, has one of the largest states on Super Tuesday. It has a whole lot of delegates and we hope to win here. And we hope to win in a number of other states.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Massachusetts is the state with the, I think, the second most delegates at stake after Texas in the all important contests of Super Tuesday. Massachusetts is absolutely key to how the Sanders campaign says how they plan to stay in the race and stay competitive after what`s expected to be a bad night for them this South Carolina.

I mean, obviously, Senator Sanders expects to win in his home state of Vermont there. He`s leading by more than 70 points in the last polling out of Vermont. His campaign also expects to do well in the two caucus states on Super Tuesday, which are Minnesota and Colorado. The Sanders campaign looks strong in both states.

But the other big prize that they keep saying that they plan on collecting on Super Tuesday is Massachusetts. And that is what makes this brand new poll hot of the presses from Massachusetts by WBUR, which we got exclusively here tonight.

That`s what makes this poll hugely important, because, look, look. According to WBUR, Bernie Sanders is no longer leading in Massachusetts. Hillary Clinton in the WBUR poll is at 49 percent. Bernie Sanders is at 44.

There`s not been a ton of polling in Massachusetts thus far, but these new numbers out of WBUR tonight. These are the first Massachusetts polls to show Hillary Clinton leading in that state.

If this poll is born out on Tuesday, and Secretary Clinton wins in Massachusetts, honestly, that would put the Democratic presidential contest in a qualitatively different place than if this stage goes the other way.

Bernie Sanders is counting on Massachusetts. Massachusetts has so many delegates, and demographically, it is so designed for a Bernie Sanders win. You know, neighbor`s his home state, just as New Hampshire does where he did so well. If he doesn`t win Massachusetts, Senator Sanders path gets way, way narrower than anybody had previously imagined.

Joining us now is Anthony Brooks, senior political reporter with WBUR in Boston.

Mr. Brooks, thanks very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate having you here.

ANTHONY BROOKS, WBUR SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Rachel, it`s my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

MADDOW: So, there hasn`t been a ton of polling in the Democratic race in Massachusetts or the Republican race in Massachusetts thus far. Should we take it to mean that Massachusetts is hard to poll or it`s one of the places that`s hard to predict or is it just a matter that not very many people have taken a look yet?

BROOKS: Yes, I think it`s the latter. There`s so much attention leading up to the New Hampshire primary and it`s just poll after poll after poll looking at New Hampshire, and now the attention is focusing on the states that follow New Hampshire. So, as you suggested, this is really one of the first polls of Massachusetts.

I think the last poll we had was back in November that showed Bernie Sanders about 25 points behind Hillary Clinton. You can look at this poll and say it doesn`t look so good for Bernie Sanders. The Sanders people will spin it and say, well, yes, we`d like it to be better. But we have come a long way since November.

MADDOW: OK. One of the things that stuck out to me, which looked like good news for Senator Sanders in this poll, was his favorability ratings.

BROOKS: I know, aren`t they something?

MADDOW: It was really amazing. I mean, you look at somebody like Elizabeth Warren, you`re polling Democratic voters in Massachusetts. She`s got this incredible favorable number in this poll. Bernie Sanders has a higher favorable number than Elizabeth Warren. And they both have such a high favorable number, it`s approaching that of the pope in the state.

BROOKS: I know. He`s competing with President Obama and the pope. Those are something.

Hillary Clinton has very high favorability ratings in this poll. This is something that struck me as well. I think you`re referring to this a little while ago in your show. That these two candidates are very, very popular among likely Democratic primary voters. Those favorability ratings are particular high for Bernie Sanders, but whether he can transfer those into a win on Tuesday that remains to be seen.

Right now, I think you have to give the advantage to Hillary Clinton. As you suggested, I think that`s a big challenge. That`s trouble for Bernie Sanders, because Massachusetts is a state he should do well in.

It`s a very white state. It`s a very liberal state. It`s just over the border from New Hampshire where he romped a couple of weeks ago. So, if he can`t do well in Massachusetts, I think it makes this slog for delegates that he`s engaged in a lot more difficult.

MADDOW: Anthony Brooks, senior political reporter with WBUR in Boston, Massachusetts, really appreciate you being here. Thanks very much.

BROOKS: My pleasure, Rachel.

MADDOW: Those numbers, the favorable numbers, watch for this. You can look at polls from here on out. Watch for the favorable numbers for Sanders and Clinton at the Democratic race that`s coming up.

My prediction is we`re going to continue to see very high favorable numbers for both of those candidates from Democratic voters in these forthcoming states. And what means is no matter -- I mean, the good news about that is no matter who gets the m nomination, it won`t be hard for the candidate to reach across to their opponents supporters and bring them on board for the general election. I mean, we`ll see. These things have a way of changing. But right now, Democratic voters like both their candidates and that is a really good thing for the Democratic Party.

We`ll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: So, I want to update you on that mass shooting we`re getting word of tonight in Kansas, between four and seven people were killed in the town of Hesston, Kansas. I know it`s odd to be saying that range of people, but that is definite a word that we have from authorities right now, between four and seven people killed.

The number of injured is very high. Another 20 to 30 people were injured in this mass shooting. That is a lot of people killed and injured.

It was a single gunman. It happened at a manufacturing plant called Excel Industries. They apparently make things like lawn mower parts.

The gunman in the incident was killed. He reportedly worked at the plant. He was killed by law enforcement in their response to this mass shooting.

It appears he began shooting at people from his vehicle along the streets of Hesston, Kansas. And when he got to the workplace, he continued firing in the parking lot and then inside the plant.

So, police say they have at least three crime scenes to go over, possibly four or five crime scenes. In addition to the local police and the sheriff tonight, the state police, the FBI and the ATF have all joined this investigation.

But again, very bad news. The death toll somewhere between four and seven, 20 to 30 people hurt tonight in this small town in Kansas. We`ll keep you posted as we learn more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Sometimes in politics you get blindsided. You never see it coming, right? And then all of a sudden, everybody is talked about can you run for president if you were born in Canada, or replacing Justice Scalia or whether a belt buckle can stop a stabbing.

Sometimes, political issues just sneak up on you and you never had any idea you`d be talking about this. Sometimes though you can see it coming and here is one that you can see coming if you know where to look.

Just ahead on the political calendar, candidates are going to be competing in a state where the official flag looks like this. That on the left there is the state flag of Mississippi. And what the Mississippi flag is, if you want to take technical about it, is the national flag of Serbia and Montenegro, right? They`re three-part flag, blue on the top and white and red.

But then to make the Serbia and Montenegro flag into the Mississippi flag, you just add a little inset in the upper left hand corner for Mississippi. You just add the stars and bars, the confederate battle flag, the symbol of the south wagging war against the United States in the mid 1800s over slavery. That`s Mississippi.

Now, the South Carolina state flag looks nothing like that. The South Carolina flag has a palmetto tree and a crescent moon. It`s like a cross between the Pakistani flag with its little moon, and the flag of Lebanon with its nice cedar tree. But it`s the pretty blue. It`s very attractive flag.

Despite that being South Carolina`s nice state flag, nevertheless, South Carolina has been a huge source of political controversy over the Confederate flag. I mean, despite having a good flag of their own, South Carolina decided in the early 1960s that they start flying the Confederate flag over the state capital, basically as a middle finger to the civil rights movement and the activist effort to desegregate the South in the 1960s.

Again, the confederate battle flag didn`t go up over the state capital in South Carolina in the 1860s, because of the civil war. It went up in the 1960s as resistance to civil rights. And then after the 1960s, it stayed up for decades. When South Carolina became the first in the South presidential primary starting in the 1980s, the fact that the state was still flying the confederate battle flag at the state capital, it very quickly became a big provocative racial issue in presidential politics, particularly on the Republican side.

Famously in the primary fight in the year 2000, between John McCain and George W. Bush, John McCain first called the confederate flag offensive. He said it was a symbol of racism and slavery. Then he almost immediately backtracked and called it a symbol of heritage and said that his forefathers had fought under the confederate flag.

Then after he lost the South Carolina primary and he lost the presidential nomination to George W. Bush that year, he later revisited that decision and said that it had been basically a craven walk back and he wished he hadn`t climbed on down on what he initially said.

The Confederate flag flying over South Carolina state capital supported by lots of conservative white South Carolina Republican voters, that has been a racial drama for Republican presidential contenders for decades now.

This year, 2016, the Republican presidential field was basically spared that drama for the primary this year, because South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley finally acceded to take the Confederate flag down this past year, after a white supremacist who fetishized the flag and used it as part of his racist propaganda, walked into an African-American church and killed nine black men and women in South Carolina during a prayer meeting in Charleston. And the state after that brought the flag down, at last, over the state capital.

And so, now, the Republican primary this year came and went from South Carolina without that Confederate flag becoming too big of an issue in the Republican presidential campaign.

So, that`s South Carolina. That`s how we usually expect for that issue to come up in the presidential years.

But now there`s Mississippi. Oh, Mississippi, where the state flag still looks like this. After that horrific Charleston shooting at the Mother Emmanuel Church in South Carolina, the Democratic governor of Virginia and the Republican governors of North Carolina and Maryland, they all made moves to stop issuing license plates with the Confederate flag on them and the deeply conservative Republican governor of Alabama made a one-man decision to take down the Confederate flag from the Alabama state capital grounds, and Walmart stopped selling merchandise and Amazon and Etsy and Sears and Kmart and Target and NASCAR, and yet there`s Mississippi where the Confederate flag is still sewn in to the state flag.

Would Mississippi change that? Would they drop it?

No, they`re not going to. They just decided. Mississippi lawmakers talked about trying to change their flag, just as everybody else did, after the Charleston massacre and all the rest.

But this week, Mississippi gave up on that. They said they couldn`t agree on how to change their state flag, so Mississippi is keeping it for the foreseeable future. So, now, this is a little bit of a test because now here come the presidential candidates. Super Tuesday is this upcoming Tuesday, it`s March 1st. The Mississippi primary happens on March 8th. What do you think the Republican candidates are going to say about Mississippi still having the stars and bars, the Confederate battle flag as part of its state flag?

That does it for us tonight. We`re going to see you again tomorrow.

Now, I have good news for you, if you missed any of the HARDBALL college tour with Bernie Sanders, Chris Matthews and Bernie Sanders at the University of Chicago tonight, you`re in luck. You can see it again right now, followed by a special live edition of HARDBALL.

Stay with us tonight.

END THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END