updated 2/4/2015 10:40:32 AM ET 2015-02-04T15:40:32

Show: HARDBALL
Date: February 3, 2015
Guest: John Sununu, Raymond Buckley, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, James Pindell,
Neil Levesque, Amy Walter

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Win here or die.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Welcome to this special edition of HARDBALL. We`re now one year from
the pivotal New Hampshire presidential primary, and no candidate of either
party Democrat or Republican, has won the nomination for president without
placing at least first or second in the "Live Free or Die" state.

And as we pass the months between now and New Hampshire, it becomes
clear to me that the mainstream candidate, a Jeb Bush, a Chris Christie,
perhaps a Scott Walker, has to do especially well in New Hampshire or else
face being knocked from the race in the hard-right states of Iowa and South
Carolina, who have their contests just before and just after New Hampshire.

A strong showing of first or second New Hampshire itself can be the
life preserver that allows a mainstream conservative candidate like Jeb
Bush to move forward to the big state contests that come later. A failure
to win or place in New Hampshire, on the contrary, can ring the death
knell.

John Sununu served three consecutive terms as New Hampshire governor
and was President George Herbert Walker Bush`s chief of staff.

Governor Sununu, I first have to talk about or ask you about the
horror over in Syria, in the ISIS world over there. They -- burning
someone alive to make a point?

JOHN SUNUNU (R), FMR. NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR: Look, that horror is
affecting the whole country. I think America is developing a real anger.
In New Hampshire, you know, that anger started last year when they beheaded
James Foley...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SUNUNU: ... from Rochester, New Hampshire. I think it is beginning
to seep in, and a country that had become a little bit anti-participating
in these conflicts around the world is beginning to inch back because of
the anger. It remains to be seen how the leadership takes advantage, I
think, of this opportunity to do the right thing.

MATTHEWS: Well, I have to be political because we planned to do this
despite the horror. And the question is, would a candidate who`s more for
an isolation approach, a pull-back approach like Rand Paul -- would he be
in trouble in this kind of atmosphere?

SUNUNU: I think it hurts him tremendously. I think -- I think people
may be a little more reluctant to commit troops, but I think the anger is
getting to the point where they don`t want to be isolationists.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask (INAUDIBLE) Main Street Republicans, New
Hampshire -- it`s is a win or die up there. In 2012, after losing narrowly
to Rick Santorum in Iowa, Mitt Romney needed a win in New Hampshire to
establish himself. Same in 2008 after, Huckabee, Mike Huckabee, won Iowa,
John McCain needed New Hampshire to establish himself as the party leader
and did so.

What is the role of New Hampshire, as you look at it? I mean, it`s
your state. You are essence of the state. It seems to be the state that
rights the wagon. If it`s been tipped over in Iowa, it comes back, like
Reagan came back, and you know -- and Bill Clinton pulls that "comeback
kid" thing up there, and it wins for him and he wins the whole shebang.

SUNUNU: Well, you`ve heard me say it before. Iowa picks corn, New
Hampshire picks presidents.

MATTHEWS: That`s pretty corny.

(LAUGHTER)

SUNUNU: Touche! Look, I think what happens in New Hampshire is
people underestimate how hard the electorate, both Republican and Democrat,
work to be part of the process. The voters show up. They go out. They
don`t just go and look at their own candidate, they go to all the
gatherings.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SUNUNU: And I`ll give you a number that sticks in my mind. When we
ran George Herbert Walker Bush in `88, he shook 50,000 hands and we took
5,000 Polaroid pictures of the vice president with somebody, based on the
theory that if you have a picture of yourself and the vice president on the
mantle, you`re going to work awfully hard to make it a picture of yourself
and the president.

MATTHEWS: You know...

(CROSSTALK)

SUNUNU: ... involved.

MATTHEWS: Yes, and Bob Dole, who has the handicaps from the war, his
war injuries, would say and said back then he couldn`t keep up with George,
Senior, because he was out there moving around physically. It`s a physical
event.

SUNUNU: It is. You go to events. People look you in the eye. They
talk to you. They reach out. I call it a "see me, touch me, feel me"
campaign.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Let me ask you about -- about Jeb Bush. Would he be
a good president?

SUNUNU: I think he would be a good president. I think -- you know, I
think the country needs a governor or former governor. I think Jeb Bush
would be a good president. I think Scott Walker would be a good president.
I thought Mitt Romney would have been a good president. I think you go
across -- the country needs somebody with government executive branch
experience to come in and deal with the needs today.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Jeb here because he -- I said to you
before the show tonight that I thought he has been a conviction politician.
You don`t have to like the guy. I like him, but you don`t have to like
him. You don`t have to agree with him. But he has been consistent --
Common Core, a positive attitude towards immigration, illegal immigration
and how we can fix it. He doesn`t seem to be pandering, which is...

SUNUNU: No...

MATTHEWS: I thought Christie was pandering the other day when he was
talking about you should have the option with vaccinations or not. I mean,
what was that about?

SUNUNU: Yes, I think what Jeb is going to have to do, though, as he
goes into this, is not change his positions, but in essence, realize that
language counts in a presidential campaign and where you put the emphasis
counts in a presidential campaign. And I think he doesn`t have to change
his positions, but he`s got to articulate them in a way that is much more
reaching out to the breadth of the party.

MATTHEWS: When are going to you make an endorsement?

SUNUNU: I may not.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Really? I thought you liked Jeb Bush (INAUDIBLE)

SUNUNU: I like Jeb Bush. I like Scott Walker. I like a lot of the
governors. Look, I`ve got a son who may run for governor, and I don`t want
to put my foot in his mouth.

MATTHEWS: He`s a good guy. I like John Sununu, the other John
Sununu.

SUNUNU: No, it`s the other -- Chris Sununu.

MATTHEWS: Oh, it`s Chris Sununu. OK.

SUNUNU: The other namesake.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: So you don`t think that Christie was pandering.

SUNUNU: No. I think -- I think...

MATTHEWS: Do you think we should have an option whether to have
vaccinations or not for our kids? Or should -- I mean, you go into a
school, there`s a bunch of kids that aren`t vaccinated for measles,
wouldn`t that scare you if you had a kid?

SUNUNU: Every one of my grandkids got vaccinated. And I have to tell
you, it`s a tough issue because some parents really do feel strongly that -
- about having their kids vaccinated. I think there has to be a good
education program that moves them in the right direction.

MATTHEWS: But you think the right direction is vaccination.

SUNUNU: Is vaccination.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Governor John Sununu. We`ll be seeing a lot
of you in the next year.

Joining me right now, New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Raymond
Buckley. Mr. Buckley, Mr. Chairman, thank you for joining us. This is
HARDBALL, so I`ve been pretty nice to the governor, so I`ll be tough with
you.

Should there be, as a matter of principle, debates heading toward the
Democratic primaries next year, a year from now? Should there be, as a
matter of principle, debates?

RAYMOND BUCKLEY, NEW HAMPSHIRE DEMOCRATIC CHAIRMAN: Well, there have
to be more than one candidate to be able to have a debate, and we don`t
know if there`s going to be more than one candidate at this point.

MATTHEWS: Jim -- isn`t Webb running?

BUCKLEY: He hasn`t contacted anyone in New Hampshire that I`m aware
of.

MATTHEWS: So you`re going to -- you`re going to -- you`re going to do
this number on me the whole night, right? You`re going to basically say,
Until we have candidates -- but as a matter of principle -- OK, I`ll play
your game, Mr. Chairman. You`re my guest, so I`ll play your game.

If there are other candidates -- Bernie Sanders or Martin O`Malley,
the governor of Maryland, credible candidates, U.S. senators, members of --
governors who are in office right now. If you have credible people of
presidential rank or candidate rank, should there be, as a matter of
principle, debates, including Secretary Clinton?

BUCKLEY: Oh, I`m sure that the secretary would participate in debates
if there were legitimate candidates running. You know, nobody knows New
Hampshire better than Bill and Hillary Clinton, so they understand what it
takes to win the New Hampshire primary and they understand how to
communicate and work with that. And they certainly respect the people of
New Hampshire, and I would anticipate having a full campaign going on,
whether she`s opposed here or not.

MATTHEWS: Well, are you supporting the idea of debate? I`m going to
say this until you answer me. As party chair, do you want to see debates
in the New Hampshire primary if there are multiple candidates?

BUCKLEY: If they`re legitimate candidates, sure. And I would be -- I
would assume that she would do that. I can`t imagine...

MATTHEWS: Why are you so hesitant?

BUCKLEY: ... if there are legitimate opponents...

MATTHEWS: Why are you so hesitant (INAUDIBLE) There have always been
debates in these elections. All -- I grew up with them. There have always
been debates. They`re the best thing in television. You get a good debate
in New Hampshire, Obama makes a stupid remark, like she`s likable enough,
and it turns things around. Reagan says, Give me that mike. Turn -- I
paid for it.

Don`t you want the theater of it, at least?

BUCKLEY: Well, you know...

MATTHEWS: Don`t you personally...

BUCKLEY: ... there`s a lot more to the New Hampshire primary than...

MATTHEWS: ... want to have some activity in a -- in your primary?
Are you so afraid of Hillary Clinton and her peeps that you won`t just say,
Damn it, we need to have debates? This is the Democratic Party. We
believe in debates. Say it, please.

BUCKLEY: Well, we don`t even know if the secretary has decided to run
or not. So it`s a little premature.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you this...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: This is absurd! Anyway, (INAUDIBLE) Anything else you
want to tell us? Will there be any activities in the Democratic primary
campaign up there in addition to debates, since there may not be debates?

(LAUGHTER)

BUCKLEY: Sure. Senator Sanders was here this last weekend having
house parties.

MATTHEWS: OK.

BUCKLEY: Governor O`Malley is coming up in a couple weeks doing...

MATTHEWS: So there are other candidates!

BUCKLEY: ... a number of local fund-raising...

MATTHEWS: My point!

BUCKLEY: ... events...

MATTHEWS: Thank you. You walked into my trap.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... there are other candidates. There are other
candidates, and therefore, you think there should be debates.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you very much, Raymond Buckley. I know where
you stand right now. You don`t!

Anyway, much more to come in this special edition of HARDBALL, one
year before the New Hampshire primaries, and maybe debates. Coming up --
does it hurt or help Hillary Clinton if she doesn`t have an opponent in the
Democratic primary? Should there be debates as a matter of principle?
Maybe I`ll get an answer tonight!

Plus, the vaccine debate. Why is Chris Christie playing footsie with
the anti-science side of this fight?

And the early line on the 2016 general election. There`s only one
Republican who can keep it close in the big swings states, big -- one big
swing state.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the dispiriting sound of a pandering
politician.

This is HARDBALL, obviously, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s some evidence of how far Republicans have to
go to catch Hillary Clinton in three key swing states. It`s still early,
so we`ll call it the morning line. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard"
as of now.

According to a new Quinnipiac poll, Clinton leads -- Mrs. Clinton
leads her Republican rivals by double digits, starting in Ohio, where she
tops Jeb Bush by 11 points. It`s Clinton 47, Bush 36. Secretary Clinton
tops Rand Paul in Ohio by 12 points. It`s Clinton 48, Paul 36. And she
leads Chris Christie by 13 points, 47 to 34.

Down in Florida, Jeb Bush keeps it close, but still trails by a point,
44 to 43. Hillary beats Jeb Bush in his own state. But Clinton beats Rand
Paul down there by 12, 50 to 38. And she has an 18-point lead over Chris
Christie down there in that state, 51 to 33, despite all the New Yorkers
and New Jersey people down there.

Finally, to Pennsylvania, where Hillary`s lead is even bigger, 11
points over Christie in Pennsylvania. Against Jeb, 15 points, 50 to 35.
Against Rand Paul, Hillary wins by 19, 53 to 34. She is in good shape. So
in eight of nine contests, it`s a Clinton blowout.

We`ll be right back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. With a year to go right now
before the New Hampshire primary for president, the big question for the
Democrats is whether Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, will face a
Democratic challenger. Well, back in 2008, it was New Hampshire that kept
Clinton`s presidential campaign alive after a third place finish a few days
earlier in Iowa.

After falling behind in Iowa, Hillary Clinton fought her way back in
the Granite State, taking on her opponent, then Senator Barack Obama, on
the debate stage, when this unforgettable moment occurred.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can you say to the voters of New Hampshire on
this stage tonight who see a resume and like it, but are hesitating on the
likability issue, where they seem to like Barack Obama more?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, that hurts my
feelings.

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry, Senator. I`m sorry.

CLINTON: But I`ll try to go on.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: He`s very likable. I agree with that. I don`t think I`m
that bad.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You`re likable
enough...

CLINTON: Oh, thank you so much.

OBAMA: ... Hillary.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Thud! That landed with a thud, and she never looked or
acted better as a political leader, ever, I don`t think than that moment.
"Likable enough" -- it was a side to Obama we had not seen before, and the
women of New Hampshire didn`t like it, either, apparently. Using old-
fashioned retail politics to win over New Hampshire voters against tough
odds, Hillary Clinton in those days kept up the fight, and on the day
before the primary voters went to the polls, the typically ultra-
disciplined Hillary Clinton slipped off message, becoming a bit teary-eyed
and emotional speaking to voters at a coffee shop in Portsmouth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: It`s not easy. And I couldn`t do it if I just didn`t, you
know, passionately believe it was the right thing to do. You know, I have
so many opportunities from this country, I just don`t want to see us fall
backwards. Some people think elections are a game. They think it`s, like,
who`s up or who`s down. It`s about our country. It`s about our kids`
futures. And it`s really about all of us together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the next day, the New Hampshire voters handed another
Clinton a big comeback when Hillary Clinton went on to win the crucial
first-in-the-nation primary contest, resuscitating her bruised campaign,
bringing it back to life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Over the last week, I listened to you. And in the process,
I found my own voice.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: Now together, let`s give America the kind of comeback that
New Hampshire has just given me!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, as 2016 approaches and Hillary Clinton gears up for
a second run for the White House, no credible challenger has emerged.
Well, challengers, but no one to take her down yet.

Will Hillary Clinton sail through the New Hampshire primary this time
around, or will she have to work for a victory, like she did back in 2008?
One person who knows New Hampshire and Hillary Clinton better than anyone
is the Granite State`s senior senator, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. As it
turns out, every candidate that she has endorsed since Jimmy Carter in 1976
has gone on to win the New Hampshire primary. She was one of the few
Democrats to win reelection, by the way, in 2014, defeating Republican
Scott Brown by 3 points. She joins me now.

Senator, thank you so much. Also joining me right now is political
expert and "Boston Globe" reporter James Pindell -- Pindell. Let me go to
Senator Shaheen. I was so taken, as I`ve told you, with your ground
campaign and your effort up there last November, coming up and seeing you.
It was so gung-ho. So I`m going to ask you a couple -- you have endorsed
Secretary Clinton, is that right, for president.

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, I think Hillary Clinton
would be a terrific president. I was one of the Democratic senators in the
Senate who -- the women Democratic senators who sent a letter to her,
urging her to consider running. And I hope she does. He hasn`t gotten
into the race yet, but I think she`d be terrific.

MATTHEWS: You want her to run and you support her, right?

SHAHEEN: I do. If she runs, I think -- as I said, I think she should
run. I think she`ll be a great candidate, as she was in 2008. And I think
it`s a tribute to New Hampshire and the New Hampshire primary that
candidates come into the state, they go into living rooms, they talk to
voters, they engage with voters, they answer questions. New Hampshire
voters are very smart on the issues. They pay attention. They talk to all
the candidates and then they make up their minds.

MATTHEWS: Well, the most recent polling among New Hampshire Democrats
shows that Secretary Clinton has an overwhelming lead over potential
Democratic rivals -- 62 percent, 3 in 5, of Democrats said they would
support the former secretary of state in a 2016 Democratic primary.
Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, who says she`s not running right
now, registered at just 13.

Let me ask you about -- I know I was bothering the chairman of your
party up there, but I`ll ask you only one time. Do you think there should
be, as a matter of principle, debates leading up to your primary in New
Hampshire?

SHAHEEN: I think we`ve always had debates in New Hampshire. As I
said, one of the great things about the New Hampshire primary is that
candidates go into living rooms. They have to answer questions from real
voters. If you ask John McCain or Al Gore or Bill Clinton or Hillary or
Barack Obama, they will all tell you that that`s the strength of the New
Hampshire primary.

And of course there should be presidential debates. I think that`s --
voters are entitled to hear what candidates think about the issues.

MATTHEWS: Well, Associated Press reporter Ken Thomas (ph) writes
that, quote, "Few Democrats see an insurgent candidate in the mode of
Barack Obama on the horizon. Well, that raises the potential of a
pedestrian -- a pedestrian Democratic primary season with few televised
debates and little of the drama expected from a crowded and likely
combative race on the Republican side."

I think he`s being a bit premature there, but Democratic primary
voters may not be thrilled about the lack of competition. One Clinton
supporter told CNN: "The American people don`t like to see a candidate
assume that something is theirs for the taking."

And a Democratic strategist said, "If Hillary Clinton is trying to
avoid a coronation, it really is a terrible way to go about it. It sends a
message that we don`t have a campaign in the primaries."

I think there`s going to be debates as well.

Let me go over to -- hold on there, Senator. I want to go to James
Pindell here right now.

Who do you see actually putting together an organization up there
right now, whether it`s Webb or it`s O`Malley of Maryland or it`s Bernie
Sanders of Vermont? Who has got their act even beginning to take place
against a formidable opponent like Secretary Clinton?

JAMES PINDELL, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": I got tell you it`s very early to
have any organization, even on the Republican side.

Right now, it`s about testing the waters and seeing what kind of
energy would be out there for a potential campaign, and right now the
energy is on the left and it is with frankly Bernie Sanders, of all people.
Very surprising. When he made his first trip to Saint Anselm College, his
first trip to New Hampshire, just last year, there were 400 people in that
audience, standing room only, had to worry about the fire code.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

PINDELL: There`s an energy there on the left. I just don`t know how
big that energy would be. Right now, New Hampshire is certainly Clinton
country.

MATTHEWS: Is that because of the uncomplicated message from sort of
the 1960s left? I know all about it. I`m cheered by it sometimes, but I
do know it`s uncomplicated, and therefore, probably not right.

What Bernie offers up is the bad guys are the Republicans, the bad
guys are the corporations, the bad guys are the ones you don`t like and
we`re always the good guys, and all we need is more Democrats and
everything is going to be great.

That`s a good message. Everybody -- in fact, more people on the left,
the better things are going to be. Is that a student thing, or is that a
voter thing to buy that?

PINDELL: I think what`s really going -- I think what`s really going
on here, and you touch on a lot of it -- is that I don`t think liberal in
New Hampshire have had a valve really since Howard Dean in 2003 to really
let off some steam.

And so whether it`s Bernie Sanders are it may be eventually Elizabeth
Warren, even though she says she`s not running, there is some amount of
energy there, but one more time, New Hampshire is the firewall for Clinton
in the same way it was for Mitt Romney in 2012.

Iowa is going to do what Iowa is going to do, but Hillary Clinton
knows she is going to be in the game, the same way Mitt Romney knew he was
going to be in the game because New Hampshire is going to have their back.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Senator Shaheen.

You know that state. What is about New Hampshire that everybody like
me seems to like? You put it in your words, because I love going up -- it
used to be every four years, I would bring one of my kids up there, I would
sit in the bathroom knocking out my column for the San Francisco papers,
and they would be there watching television and then we would go out to
dinner or some place in Manchester or somewhere. I love Portsmouth. I
think I would like to retire to Portsmouth. It`s so great.

SHAHEEN: Oh, good. Come on up.

MATTHEWS: It`s a fantastic state. There`s something gritty about it.
How would you describe it? What would be your word as a Democrat? What
says New Hampshire to you?

SHAHEEN: Well, let me do that, but let me first respond to your
question about Bernie Sanders.

Bernie is well known in New Hampshire.

MATTHEWS: Sure.

SHAHEEN: And I think he and Elizabeth Warren, whether they actually
get into the race or not, are speaking to a disenfranchisement, a
frustration that too many Americans feel right now about whether they`re
being left behind by -- as members of the middle class.

And so I do think it`s important to speak to that disparity that
currently exists in our economy, in jobs, and the frustration that middle
class Americans feel.

Now, what is so exciting about the New Hampshire primary and our state
is that we have had the presidential primary, we have been the first since
the early 1900s, and people are used to checking the tires on presidential
candidates. They want to hear what they have to say.

You can`t get by with just bumper ticker answers, 10-second responses.
You really have to go in, you have talk to people, you have to engage with
them on what`s really on their minds, talk about a vision for this country
and where we need to go.

And that`s I think what is so special about the New Hampshire primary,
and there are very few places in the country today where you still have to
do that.

MATTHEWS: Would Kelly Ayotte be a good running mate on the Republican
ticket?

SHAHEEN: I think New Hampshire would be very happy to have Senator
Ayotte on the ticket.

MATTHEWS: Because it wouldn`t be -- she wouldn`t be senator from New
Hampshire anymore, right?

SHAHEEN: No, because, listen, any time we have somebody who
understands the state, who knows what we need, who appreciates and is
committed to New Hampshire -- that`s one of the reasons we like having all
the presidential candidates there so much is because it gives us a chance
to talk about what`s on people`s minds in the state, what we want to see.

And that`s good for New Hampshire. It`s good for the country.

MATTHEWS: Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who knows that state and she just
won it 51-48 in a very tough race with the attractive, of course, Scott
Brown. Beat his number. Two women in a row beat him in two different
states next to each other.

What an amazing history Scott Brown has got.

SHAHEEN: That`s history.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Is he heading to Maine?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you very much.

James Pindell, thank you, sir, for joining us. Please come back, both
of you.

Up next, from Ronald Reagan to Hillary Clinton, New Hampshire is the
place for comebacks. We have got the most memorable moments coming up
next.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, New Hampshire.
Thank you, New Hampshire.

(CROSSTALK)

BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we know enough to say
with some certainty that New Hampshire tonight has made Bill Clinton the
comeback kid.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let`s keep fighting all
the way to the White House. Thank you, New Hampshire! Thank you!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JOHN KERRY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love New Hampshire.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, you can tell by those pictures who is going to win
those elections, by the way. You can really tell.

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.

There`s no question that the New Hampshire primary can make or break a
presidential campaign. Historically, a candidate of either party must win
or at least finish second, a strong second, to have a chance of getting the
nomination in the first place. It`s where candidates are put to the test
up there in New Hampshire.

And we have seen over the years there have been many iconic moments in
the long history of the New Hampshire primary. Topping the list is Ronald
Reagan`s famous comeback in New Hampshire in 1980. Reagan`s campaign had
agreed to pay, apparently for a one-on-one debate with their chief rival
for the nomination then, George Herbert Walker Bush.

But after Reagan lost to Bush in the Iowa caucuses, he began to have
second thoughts. At the last minute, just before the debate was scheduled
to begin, Reagan tried to renegotiate the rules to include all four of the
other Republican candidates in the debate. Bush refused, as did the
moderator of the debate.

And what happened next helped propel Ronald Reagan to victory in New
Hampshire just three days later.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Enter the former California governor, grim and
angry. Behind him, the others who seem to be rather enjoying the whole
thing.

Editor Breen ruled Baker, Crane, Anderson and Dole could not
participate in the debate. Reagan tried to speak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would the sound man please turn Mr. Reagan`s mike
off for the moment?

(BOOING)

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Breen...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you turn that microphone off, please?

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN: I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Breen!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s a Spencer Tracy line direct from "State of the
Union." Check it out.

Joining me right now to talk about the legacy of the New Hampshire
primary is Neil Levesque of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at
Saint Anselm College.

Thank you very much for joining us.

These moments, they can almost be predicted. It seems like likable
enough, we saw. It certainly some of the gleam off of the Obama campaign
last time around in `08 and made Hillary look like a victim, but it also
showed a nice personally opportunity for her in contrast to Obama`s kind of
dark, this sort of, you know, likable enough.

That`s why I love debates. They show off something that you don`t
usually get in canned campaign speeches.

NEIL LEVESQUE, SAINT ANSELM COLLEGE: Well, thanks for having me on.

I will say that those moments really do define candidates and they
really show their personalities. And that`s the great thing about New
Hampshire. The primary is the place where you can ask the second question,
you can ask the follow-up question. You can be right there and see what
these candidates are really like.

It`s not just all staged, like it is in other states.

MATTHEWS: Well, what did you think of the Democratic Party chairman
who was on the show earlier that refused to say he was for debates, given
four opportunities, I believe, my count?

LEVESQUE: Well...

(CROSSTALK)

LEVESQUE: Being here at Saint Anselm, where we have had many
presidential debates, I can tell you that we do want a presidential debate
on the Democratic side.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You guys are so polite up there.

LEVESQUE: The fact is, is that she really should be considered at
this point...

(LAUGHTER)

LEVESQUE: She really should be considered almost as an incumbent
president seeking her second term. There`s no one really standing in her
way.

The Warren campaign has everything, but it doesn`t have a candidate.
They have energy issues, et cetera. But unless you have a candidate, you
can`t print yard signs.

MATTHEWS: That`s right.

I always say to people we don`t pick our presidents, they pick
themselves, and then we choose among those who have picked themselves. The
first primary is in your heart.

Anyway, Bill Clinton lost the New Hampshire primary by eight points
back in `92, but nobody remembers that, because he was able to claim
victory for a stronger-than-expected showing that year. In that final
week, he managed to reenergize his campaign, showing off his fighting
spirit with these famous lines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I will never forget who gave me a second chance. And I will
be there for you until the last dog dies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, an amazing thing, Neil, is the morning after that
and he had lost by eight to Paul Tsongas, he came in to WMUR for "Good
Morning America," I think it was.

And I was right there. I was a commentator back then on that program.
And he came in looking like he had won. And he lost by eight.

LEVESQUE: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: And Tsongas came in very sheepishly, asked if I could have
a -- if he could have a doughnut. Bill of course had already filled
himself with those doughnuts, but this -- it just shows if you put the
right spin on something, you win. Clinton just says, I won. I`m the
comeback kid.

LEVESQUE: Absolutely.

And he showed his personality again on that moment. Here was a guy.
He had been through so much different scandalous issues. And he was
behind. His voice is very hoarse. He goes way over to Dover, New
Hampshire, and he gives this great speech, and it really showed voters,
hey, look, I`m here to fight for you. And he wasn`t giving up.

And that kind of spirit of somebody as tenacious as Bill Clinton is,
is the kind of thing that we may see in one year from now in this New
Hampshire primary.

MATTHEWS: Grit, I love the word.

Anyway, in 1988, George Herbert Walker Bush waged an aggressive
campaign we talked about up in your state against front-runner Bob Dole,
who had just beaten Bush in the Iowa caucuses. Bush pulled through in New
Hampshire, but not without a lot of bad blood.

Here`s NBC`s Tom Brokaw with both candidates live on television on
election night. Dole appeared less than gracious, I would say, in defeat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR: Mr. Vice President, if you look right down at
that monitor, you will see the man that you beat that night. That`s
Senator Bob Dole, who is standing by in his headquarters. Anything you
would like to say to him at this point?

BUSH: Yes, just wish him well and meet him in the South.

BROKAW: And, Senator Dole, is there anything you would like to say to
vice president?

BOB DOLE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, stop lying about my record.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, that was rather -- Neil, that was rather menacing, I
would say. If you want honesty from a candidate, we just got some from Bob
Dole.

(LAUGHTER)

LEVESQUE: And there`s an -- there`s an example of why Reagan was so
different. Reagan could show that anger and show that energy to voters,
and Dole couldn`t pull it off.

Muskie, he had a difficult time. We have seen this before and after
Reagan, where the candidate tries to show a little anger and just goes a
little bit too far.

MATTHEWS: It helps to be an actor.

Anyway, thank you, Neil Levesque of Saint Anselm`s up there. It`s
great. We will be seeing a lot of you, I hope, in the next year.

Up next, more 2016 candidates are wading into that hot debate over
vaccinations, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. We will
get to that next with the roundtable.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RICHARD LUI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi. I`m Richard Lui with breaking
news this hour.

President Obama and Jordan`s King Abdullah met a short time ago at the
White House. The two took no questions from reporters in the room. That
meeting of course follows the release of an ISIS video purportedly to show
a captive Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage. It has not been
authenticated, but Jordanian officials believe the pilot was killed on
January 3.

And in the New York area, Metro North commuter train has struck a car
in Valhalla, New York. At least 12 people were reportedly injured. Three
patients have been transferred to a local hospital, which is preparing for
more victims -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, yesterday, Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, and Rand
Paul seemed to question whether child vaccinations should be mandatory.
Today, they`re getting major pushback, including some -- from some in their
own party. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don`t know that we
need another law, but I do believe that all children ought to be
vaccinated.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: This is far too serious an
issue to be treated as a political football. People still die from
measles.

REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R), TEXAS: It is important for parents to have
their children vaccinated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s impressive.

Anyway, other potential 2016 presidential candidates also weighed in.
Dr. Ben Carson told "The Hill" newspaper: "Certain communicable diseases
have been largely eradicated by immunization policies in the country. We
should not allow those diseases to return by forgoing safe immunization
programs, for philosophical, religious or other reasons, when we have the
means to eradicate them."

Boy, that`s a doctor`s opinion.

Governor Bobby Jindal and Senator Marco Rubio both urged all children
to be vaccinated.

Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted
yesterday, "The science is clear: the earth is round, the sky is blue and
vaccines work. Let`s protect all our kids. #grandmothersknowbest."

Anyway, for more, I`m joined by today`s roundtable, Jonathan Capehart,
he`s an opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC contributor, an
Amy Walter is national editor for "The Cook Political Report", and Michael
Steele is the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and
also an MSNBC political analyst.

Let me go with you, Amy, what do you make of this, all of over, let`s
do -- I think we have Senator Rand Paul, by the way, who is a doctor, he`s
an MD, weighed in as well yesterday. Let`s watch him before we go to Amy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I`ve heard of many tragic cases of
walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental
disorders after vaccines. I`m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea, I think
they`re a good thing, but I think the parent should have input. The state
does not own your children, parents own the children, and it is an issue of
freedom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And this afternoon, Rand Paul tried to clarify those
comments if you will, quote, "I did not say vaccines caused disorders, just
that they were temporarily related. I did allege causation, I support
vaccines, I receive them all myself and I had all of my children
vaccinated."

You know, he did say that, and if he didn`t express causality, I don`t
know what he was saying because he said kids had these mental problems
after being vaccinated. That was a statement of causality. Now, he`s
coming out saying, they were just related in time and sequence, they were
serial developments, sequential developments.

No, no, that`s not what he said. These guys are all over the place
now.

AMY WALTER, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: He at least came into this,
when you watch that whole interview, with the basic framework of freedom.
People have the freedom of what they want to do. Yes, vaccines are good,
and they`re important, but you as a parent, you have the freedom to do
this. This is right in the Rand Paul libertarian framework. So --

MATTHEWS: So, you can step into an elevator shaft if you want, even
though there`s no elevator there, that`s freedom, OK. That`s freedom.

WALTER: But at least it the framework. I don`t think Chris Christie
was doing anything more than simply realizing how difficult it is to be
under the media scrutiny in the way he has been. You know, this is like
welcome to the NFL. You`re now, you want to be a presidential candidate,
you better be able to --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Kasie Hunt of MSNBC was there reporting, she asked the big
question to the governor. He must have thought, she came all the way over
here to cover me, this is going to be a powerful question, this is a
question requiring some deliberation on my part. So, he answers it and
thinks, how many bases can I tag before I stop talking?

I`m for it, I`m against, I can do it round, I can do it flat, whatever
you want to hear, Kasie, because he wasn`t going to make a mistake
overseas. And he did and making one because he wouldn`t make a statement.

CAPEHART: Well, what`s interesting is I believe it was Kasie who
tried to ask a question about NATO, and he said, no, no, no, I`m not going
to answer any of those questions. And then she -- I don`t know if the
vaccine question came before or after.

MATTHEWS: Here`s what he said, I`m getting ahead of myself. Here`s
what Governor Christie told MSNBC`s Kasie Hunt yesterday over in London.
Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: All I can say is we vaccinated
ours, so, you know, that`s the best expression of my opinion. I think it`s
much more important I think what you think as a parent than what you think
as a public official. That`s what we do, but I also understand that
parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well. So, that`s
the balance that the government has to decide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The balance, whatever that means.

Later in the day, his office tried to do walk back his comments.
Walking comments seems to be the new phrase these days, issuing a statement
that said, "The governor believes vaccines are an important public health
protection, and with a disease like measles, there is no question, no
question kids should be vaccinated." I didn`t hear that in his statement.

Well, today, "The Wall Street Journal" chided him, and, boy, if you
get it from "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page and you`re Republican,
you get something wrong. Anyway, Christie measles stumbled I called it.
This is "The Wall Street Journal." They wrote that Governor Christie
offered a meandering meditation on parental rights and the real public
health problem isn`t a lack of parental choice, but a lack of common sense
about vaccines and politicians should do more to promote the latter." Boy,
that is stuff.

CAPEHART: No, it`s very tough. I mean, when "The Wall Street
Journal" editorial board goes after you, that`s like being called to the
principal`s office if you`re a Republican.

But, you know, here`s the thing -- you know, what Amy was saying about
Rand Paul and freedom, and Chris Christie trying to cover all the bases, it
seems to me that they thought they knew where their party was on this issue
and where the people were on this issue, and found out pretty quickly,
which is why they`re walking it back that, no, the people are not exactly
with them, and the party certainly isn`t with them.

When you have all those people you just showed, Speaker Boehner, I
believe Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came out with a statement for
vaccines, Ben Carson, Governor Jindal, all these people who you might
expect be a part of the no science crowd saying, no, actually, science
works, you have a problem. If you`re Rand Paul and you`re Chris Christie,
you had a problem.

MATTHEWS: Did you heard about Carville this morning on "MORNING JOE",
he made the point, there`s no distinction between working people and people
who believe in science. It isn`t like the elite rule. The average working
family that gets their kids into school wants the kids vaccinated. They
know what the problem is. They understand medicine.

(CROSSTALK)

WALTER: But where this broke out was in some of the most liberal
enclaves in America. That`s what`s fascinating about this issue. It`s not
red and blue.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: This whole debate is really
a non-debate. I mean, this is not -- this is not about science. This is
not about your presidential aspirations. This is by freaking common sense.
In fact --

MATTHEWS: Why didn`t Governor Christie give us that?

STEELE: I think Amy hit it on the head. With the glare of the
lights, in the moment, and here we are in London, I`m going to meet with
Cameron and all this stuff, and I get a question about measles?

So, the reality is, you know, you`re in the game -- just do what you
know best, apply common sense. Christie is the governor of the state that
had some of the strongest vaccination policies in the country. You stand
by what you`re currently doing in your state. You don`t need to go shop
outside of that.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: But Rand Paul is a physician, he has studied and knows the
science, knows the benefits. This is not about some philosophical
orientation you may have. This is about saving lives and protecting kids.
And if the party gets away -- if these gentlemen want to be president of
the United States, let`s get away from crazy and stay focused on common
sense.

MATTHEWS: Wow. The moderate and common sense voice, plus the "Wall
Street Journal" editorial page both agreeing.

Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. And up next, another
problem for Chris Christie: his taste for the good life. This is HARDBALL.

Wait until you catch this stuff -- the place for politics coming back
in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Groundhog Day was, of course, yesterday, but for House
Republicans, today was another chance to do something they have tried to do
66 times before -- repeal at least part of Obamacare. Late today, the
House voted 239-186 to repeal the president`s signature health care law,
it`s the fourth time the House has voted for a full repeal and 67th time
they have tried to repeal, change or defund it. Of course, that House bill
is not expected to go anywhere in the Senate, even if it did, the White
House says the president would obviously veto it.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with our great roundtable: Jonathan, Amy, and
Michael.

This has not been a good 24 hours for the New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie, who is still, let`s face it, great copy. After sparking
controversy yesterday for comments on vaccinations, today this headline in
the "New York Times" and a big piece following it is haunting him.

"In Chris Christie`s career", it writes, "a fondness for luxury travel
when others pay the bills." Well, "The Times" lays out several examples.
He flew to Israel with his family on a private plane lent him by
billionaire, big time contributor Sheldon Adelson. At the end of that
trip, Christie and his family went to Jordan where their hotel rooms cost
$30,000. The tab was picked up by Jordan`s King Abdullah. As Christie
told "The Times" last summer, "I relish these experiences and exposures,
especially for my kids. I try to squish all the juice out of the orange
that I can."

I don`t know what to say. That is a strange defense, Amy Walter.
It`s usually they would say they did it for safety reasons or you can up
with something. You don`t say, I`m pigging (ph) out here and have the time
of life. You don`t say that.

WALTER: Well, you say it in the context of your kids, right? This
was really for them. Here is an opportunity. I`m going to get everything
I can out of it.

MATTHEWS: But Sheldon wasn`t doing it for the kids. He was doing it
to influence him.

WALTER: Right. Well, that`s the time.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s supposed to be a business expense.

CAPEHART: Clearly, he likes it. I mean, if anyone remembers --
remember during Super Storm Sandy and he gave the press conference after
the president was there and he spent the entire time talking about what it
was like to ride on Marine One, and to be there --

MATTHEWS: Yes, but that`s legal.

CAPEHART: That`s legal, but how many people get to ride on Marine
One? How many people get to chump it up with the president?

MATTHEWS: Isn`t the governor of Virginia heading to the can for 10
years for this kind of stuff? Relishing the perks of office, relishing
gifts that people give you. You know, in trips -- I`m serious, it`s what
McDonnell -- McDonnell is going down for it, taking trips paid for by other
people. That`s what`s about and the Rolex watch.

STEELE: I just think at the end of the day, what you do is you
separate all of that, you remove yourself from it. You don`t have
questions raised and you don`t have "New York Times" headlines like that.
You say there are other ways to engage without having to take the perks of
office --

MATTHEWS: Adelson has, look -- it`s fair enough. He`s pro-Israeli,
he`s very right wing, that`s what he cares about. So, he sends the guy in
a trip to Israel that he pays completely for. I would call it influence-
peddling. Isn`t it?

STEELE: The question is, what does state law allow him to do as a
sitting governor of the state, what can -- what benefits can he take from
trips and from gifts like that. Maybe New Jersey state laws allows --

MATTHEWS: Well, I think we saw in Virginia, there are different
interpretations. One could be by the governor who interprets it widely,
and the other guy is the court, the judge who decides you blew it.

CAPEHART: Well, you know what? Here`s the thing and you raised a
very good point, what are the ethics laws in New Jersey. They might be
legal in New Jersey, they might not be so on the federal level, but --

MATTHEWS: You mean, if it`s not nailed down, grab it?

CAPEHART: Sure, but the bigger part I`m trying to make is, if the
mistake, again, not being ready for the NFL here, if you`re going to run
for president, you`ve got to operate like a president.

One of the reasons why Hillary Clinton isn`t running for president
officially right now is because she is giving speeches. She can`t give
speeches if she`s running for president. Chris Christie shouldn`t
operating in a way --

STEELE: But that`s the other problem that`s really big, is
juxtaposing what we laid out here with the headlines about the eight times
that your credit has been downgraded in the state, the investigations that
are going on at the federal level because of how you handle federal funds,
that`s the problem.

WALTER: The bigger problem.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s always the macro that`s more important. But the
little nitty-gritty is what gets people in trouble.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan, thank you. Amy, thank you, so much. I`m going
to ask you all about these races one of these days because they aren`t
coming up in about a year and a half. Anyway, Michael Steele as always.

When we -- common sense and the "Wall Street Journal" both agree.

Let me finish tonight with the dispiriting sound of a pandering
politician. You`re going to hear from in a minute.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

Few sounds are that as dispiriting as that of a politician pandering.
You watch them out there performing like Governor Christie`s hula hooping
the issue of measles vaccination. And though they are doing it not because
they believe what they`re doing, but merely to please or in this case not
please some group in their party that wants, in fact, demands to be
appeased.

I could say they all do it, but it embarrasses just the same. Those
of us who believe in electoral democracy are the ones diminished by a
governor who knows better appealing to those who don`t. Remember the
Senior George Bush telling the evangelicals that he has been born again.
Couldn`t he have just simply said that he practiced his religion as he was
raised to practice it, and no further information is going to be
forthcoming? That there are no religious tests in the Constitution and he
believed in honoring that principal. Would that have cost him votes? If
so, God help us.

I`m watching Jeb Bush show a lot of guts out there, depending national
education standards, and the opportunity for people who came to this
country illegally, to become Americans. Both are going to be a challenge
out there on the stomp and all of those town meetings coming down the road.

But I hope he sticks to his positions, because those of us -- a lot of
the people who watch this program want to believe there are conviction
politicians out there, even those we disagree with. Otherwise, an election
just becomes a bidding war among those so desperate to win that they`ll say
anything the crowd demands.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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

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