updated 8/3/2015 9:26:20 AM ET 2015-08-03T13:26:20

Date: July 31, 2015
Time: 17:00
Guest: Robert Costa, Cornell Belcher, Liz Mair, Dana Milbank, Michelle
Bernard, Tom Davis, Martin Frost

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The circus is coming.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington, headed next week to
Cleveland. That`s right, after weeks of preview and political foreplay,
the 10 candidates for president on the Republican side jam together next
Thursday. The prize, a big head start on the road to Iowa, with all the TV
cameras following the guy who wins big.

Donald Trump is the champ heading in. There`s no denying it. Say what you
will about the polls, they`re powerfully consistent. They all show the New
York tycoon grabbing something in the air and talking back to it with all
the gusto of a boardwalk pitchman. Only this guy isn`t selling Vegomatics,
he`s selling himself to lead this country.

Question of the week. How do you beat him? Or maybe more important, how
do you survive the night itself? Candidates are reportedly right now in
heavy prep.

According to Politico, quote, "While most candidates aren`t eager to tangle
with Trump, they`re all preparing for a potential encounter with the
current GOP front-runner. Rand Paul, for one, will spar beforehand with a
Trump stand-in, adviser Rex Elsass, who is playing the billionaire in a
practice session this week."

Meanwhile, one Marco Rubio adviser summed up the general fear of Trump.
Quote, "He`s like a rattlesnake with a toothache." That`s an impossible
metaphor, by the way, "He`s the worst kind of guy to have up there because
you have no idea who he`s going to go after."

Eugene Robinson writes today beautifully in "The Washington Post, quote, "I
feel like a kid the week before Christmas. There`s just one present under
the tree, but it`s all a columnist could ever hope for, the first
Republican debate. How could Thursday night in Cleveland fail to be one of
the most entertaining political spectacles we`ve seen in a long time?"

I`m joined right now by the aforementioned Pulitzer Prize-winning
"Washington Post" columnist Eugene Robinson, senior editor at MSNBC.com
Beth Fouhy and national political reporter for "The Washington Post" Robert

I`ve got to start with you, Gene. The giddiness, the excitement...


MATTHEWS: ... because it`s going to be two hours of, we don`t know,
bedlam? Everybody`s going to be looking right at Trump.

have an idea of what`s going to happen. We don`t know. We don`t know
what`s going to happen. We don`t know how Trump is going to play this. We
don`t know what the other candidates are going to do. Are they going to go
after him? Are they going to pretend he`s not there and just kind of try
to stay in their lane?

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) is this going to be like Uday and Qusay in the old
days of Saddam Hussein, when they look around at you in the restaurant and
you don`t want to catch...

ROBINSON: Don`t make eye contact!


ROBINSON: No eye contact.

MATTHEWS: "Let`s talk about you."


ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST": I`ve checked in with every one of these
campaigns, and you know what they say? They don`t want to win this debate,
they want to survive the debate!


COSTA: This is only the first of nine. They want to get through it and
just hope Trump fizzles.

ROBINSON: Yes, but it`s the first...


MATTHEWS: ... thinking about of the TV production aspect of this. And
Roger Ailes, who runs Fox, is getting all the kudos. He`s got all the
excitement. He gets to draw the line, 10 only. It`s like one of those
Studio 54 things. If you can get in, it`s cool. Just getting in is cool!

My question -- you got Megyn Kelly out there, one of the top people in the
business out there. She`s going to be asking tough questions. They`ve got
to prove their stuff, too, at Fox. And I`m wondering whether it`s going to
be a battle maybe between Megyn and Donald. I`m just trying to think
through the drama of the night, like Roger has already thought through it a
hundred times by now. Your thoughts.

BETH FOUHY, MSNBC.COM: Yes, that would be -- that would be great TV,
Chris. I think that`s going to be one of goals here is -- well, certainly,
for Fox, is to deliver a really great show.

But I think there`s other goals here, too, and I think in Jeb Bush`s case,
my guess is that Jeb Bush is the actual sort of enduring front-runner, as
opposed to the solid in-your-face Donald Trump front-runner that we have
right now.

Jeb Bush`s goal for this whole debate is just to kind of get through
looking like a grown-up. He doesn`t want to get pulled into the whole
Trump madness. He`s going to just continue steady as he goes.

This whole Trump experience has been absolutely fantastic for Jeb because
he has looked presidential. He`s looked like the grown-up. He`s out there
raising a lot of money. He doesn`t need a lot of attention on himself
right now.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s -- do you guys all agree that he can sort of do the
rope-a-dope here, just take the punches if Donald throws them? Gene?

ROBINSON: Well, if Trump throws a punch, maybe he can slip it and rope-a-
dope, right? But if Megyn Kelly throws a punch -- she`s not going to just
throw a punch at Trump. She`s going to throw a punch at him. So she`s
going to ask him about immigration. She`s going to ask him about...

MATTHEWS: Love, people coming here for love.

ROBINSON: Exactly. She`s going to -- she`s going to press him on a lot of
things, and we`ll see how...


MATTHEWS: ... a whole list of quotes. On thing the moderator, and Chris
Wallace and the other, Bret Baier -- they`ll have in front of them every
quote these guys have ever said. They`ve got a tremendous xylophone they
can play. Just hit this note, hit that note, put it up on the screen, like
Tim Russert used to do, put it up on the screen...

COSTA: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Defend that, buddy.

COSTA: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: It`s tough stuff.

COSTA: But you have -- you can`t just play rope-a-dope. If you think
you`re going to kind of sit back, let the Donald show happen, that may not
be the best strategy. I`ve been briefed by a Trump adviser. They say
watch. Trump may play nice.

MATTHEWS: That`s what I think!


MATTHEWS: Here`s what I thought would surprise everybody...

COSTA: He can come out with policy. He`s going to come out...


COSTA: They say if he has a window, he`s going to unveil his tax plan.
He`s maybe coming out with some economic ideas...

MATTHEWS: Lower taxes for the average guy, right?

COSTA: Lower taxes, and he`s going to try to sound Reaganesque, whatever
that means. He wants to sound broadly acceptable to the Republican base.

MATTHEWS: I hear he`s getting a crew cut. Just kidding.

Trump is not the only bomb thrower on stage. With the concentration of
candidates angling for the spotlight, we could see a lot more comments like
these. Respond to these when we`re back, Beth. Here they come.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If this deal goes through,
the Obama administration will become, quite literally, the world`s leading
financier of radical Islamic terrorism!

MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AR), FMR. GOV., PRES. CANDIDATE: This president`s foreign
policy is the most feckless in American history. He`s so naive, he would
trust the Iranians, and he would take the Israelis and basically march them
to the door of the oven.

the world should know that this deal -- this deal is your deal with Iran.
I mean "yours" meaning this administration. And the next president is
under no legal or moral obligation to live up to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve been told that you said we`re living in a Gestapo
age? What do you mean by that?

DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean very much like Nazi
Germany. And I know you`re not supposed to say Nazi Germany, but I don`t
care about political correctness.



MATTHEWS: Beth, I don`t understand. I`ve never understood the doctor
doing so well in these polls because nobody really thinks of him running
for president, exactly. But he is signaling some kind of message, they are
all, of contempt for government, for Obama, for Hillary, for everything
that works or doesn`t work in Washington.

And I don`t know. You say Bush is going to end up being the favorite. I
just wonder if a party so steaming with contempt would go back to the
establishment after all these debates.

FOUHY: Yes, but let -- let -- let`s go back to the debate that we`re
facing next week. I mean, they can all come out there and trash Obama,
which, of course, they will, but that`s sort of, you know, just par for the
course at this point with these folks. None of them is going to stand out
if they do that.

Somebody on this debate stage needs to stand out in a positive way, take
the spotlight back off of Trump. Marco Rubio is a great example of
somebody who desperately needs the spotlight back on him. He`s sort of
been out of it...


FOUHY: ... for quite a long time.

MATTHEWS: Well said.

FOUHY: And he`s -- he`s -- he`s losing his -- his status as one of the top
tier candidates, I think.


MATTHEWS: Some people are beginning to fade.

ROBINSON: Well, one other candidate who really has a lot to gain or lose,
I think, in this is Scott Walker. He -- in a lot of these polls, it`s
Trump and Bush and Walker. They`re sort of a first tier. So is Scott
Walker ready for primetime? And does Megyn Kelly press him on foreign
policy, for example, you know, in which he`s fairly naive, or...

MATTHEWS: Or will she get him to defend extending Medicare (sic) to
higher-income brackets above the poverty line...

ROBINSON: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: ... which will turn off the rest of that crowd out there.

COSTA: But the other people -- everyone thinks just Republican activists
are watching this debate closely...

MATTHEWS: No, a lot of liberals are going to be watching.

COSTA: A lot of liberals but...


COSTA: ... if you`re running for president, the donors are watching
closely. That`s why none of these people want...

MATTHEWS: You know why they`re watching it? No knock on Hillary. She`s
the front-runner, and probably will be the nominee. But she`s not a great
show right now. The best show in town is on the Republican side. And
political people or activists are also political junkies. They love the

COSTA: Well, everyone`s talking about...

MATTHEWS: And the show is still the best thing in town.

COSTA: She`s going to be listening closely because when you talk to every
Republican campaign right now doing debate prep, they got a Donald
strategy, a Trump strategy, and they also have a Clinton strategy.
Everyone`s going to try to get the best line on Clinton.

MATTHEWS: And if Hillary`s smart, she won`t be sitting around with bunch
of people laughing at the Republicans. That`s the worst message...

ROBINSON: No, you don`t...

MATTHEWS: ... because there`s something here. There`s something there
that she better pay attention to, something about contempt of government,
anger, that`s real.

Let me -- let me take a look at this. Any of the other candidates go after
Bush? Ted Cruz knocked, by the way, the former Florida governor this week.
He went after Bush on a radio interview. So he`s going after Jeb here.
Let`s watch that.


CRUZ: In the past couple of weeks, we`ve seen both Mitt Romney and Jeb
Bush, both of them talking about, Now, take it easy, guys. You don`t
really need to oppose this Iranian nuclear deal quite so forcefully.

When you send billions of dollars to jihadists trying to kill Americans,
you bear responsibility for the murder that they carry out with the money
you have given them. And you know, one of the reasons Republicans keep
getting clobbered is we have leaders like Mitt Romney and like Jeb Bush who
are afraid to say that!


MATTHEWS: What is this -- this contempt -- not just for our government,
but this virulent hatred of the -- not the Islamic -- the Islamic world
generally, I should say? They sound like they want to feed the fire of an
East-West war, where it`s all out, Christians and Jews against Muslims all
across the board, a billion Muslims in Indonesia, all through Africa.

They don`t even think about the extent of the Islamic world. And they want
to go to war with that world. That`s the way they talk. It`s not
isolating ISIL or one or two bad guys. They seem to want to take on Islam.

Is that some sort of evangelical thing that works in some big churches?

COSTA: I think it`s politics. They all want to...

MATTHEWS: Well, why do they want to hate an entire part of the world?

COSTA: I think...


COSTA: ... the incendiary commentary coming out of Cruz, the kind of
rhetoric he`s using, it`s because hard right of the GOP agrees across the
board on the policy on Iran, and so...


MATTHEWS: That`s what the Saddam Hussein -- that`s what Osama bin Laden
dearly wanted to happen.

ROBINSON: And it`s what ISIL wants.


ROBINSON: It`s what they want, is...

MATTHEWS: A conflagration East versus West. That`s what they want, for
all the Islamic people to fight us. Your thoughts. (INAUDIBLE)

FOUHY: But Chris, if you look at polling, there`s absolutely no support --
well not no, but very little support for invading another Islamic country.

MATTHEWS: Well, what`s he selling?

FOUHY: This is why...

MATTHEWS: So what are they selling?

FOUHY: ... this is so puzzling. They`re selling this agitation and this -
- and this -- and this anger and contempt, as you describe. But does that
then translate into a policy position of going in, invading, occupying
another Islamic country? There`s very little support for that even among

MATTHEWS: Well said. By the way, that was really well said. That`s
something (INAUDIBLE) never get to the bottom line. So what are you going
to do?

Anyway, the X factor of this debate may be the audience out there. In the
past, it`s made headlines itself with some of its reactions, such as booing
a gay soldier or cheering putting people to death. Watch some of these
right-wing audiences in action.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie
about who I was because I`m a gay soldier. And I didn`t want to lose my
job. My question is, under one of your presidencies, do you intend to
circumvent the progress that`s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in
the military?


BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Your state has executed 234 death row inmates,
more than any other governor in modern times.


WILLIAMS: Have you struggled to sleep at night?


MATTHEWS: Well, there`s the...


MATTHEWS: They talk about wanting to kill the enemy. They want to kill
him now.

COSTA: These debates are all about moments. You got to be listening when
you`re on that stage because you may only have an opportunity to respond to
the crowd...


COSTA: ... and come across as...

MATTHEWS: This is what turns people off on television when they`re
watching these debates. They know that every one of these candidates --
and it`s all men this time because Fiorina didn`t make this cut. They`re
all going to come with their little lunch buckets, and in their lunch
bucket`s going to be two or three lines they`ve worked out.


MATTHEWS: And everybody`s going to know these bicentennial moments are
coming. What`s the public -- when there`s 10 people -- they`re all going
to know these are coming, and they come out with them. If I were Trump,
I`d say, You must have worked really hard on that one...


MATTHEWS: ... they don`t ruin it because Megyn should say something or
Chris Wallace or Bret should say, Did you memorize that? You know what I

ROBINSON: Oh, I wouldn`t be surprised if Megyn goes after them. I mean, I
think -- I think she`s going to want -- she`s going to want to make the
moments. She`s going to...

MATTHEWS: I think that -- I think Roger wants her to make the moments...


MATTHEWS: ... a great production.

ROBINSON: She`s not going to want the audience to make the moments.


ROBINSON: You know, she`s going to want the make the moment.


COSTA: You can`t sound like a robot. If you come out like a robot,
Trump`s going to overwhelm you because he`s not sounding like a robot.
That`s why...

MATTHEWS: But they are robots!


MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Last word, Beth.

FOUHY: Chris -- yes, another -- another challenge for them, of course, if
you think about it, is even though they`ve culled the list down to 10 from
the 17 candidates who are running, 10 is a heck of a lot of people to be on
stage at once. They`ll all going to have such a small window of time to
generate that moment. There`s a lot of pressure on them to do that.

MATTHEWS: I know. So there`s the first question. You get the first
answer. Will the word "trump" -- the word "trump" -- appear in the
headline on AP and the major newspapers the next morning?


COSTA: Of course.

ROBINSON: A hundred percent.


MATTHEWS: I think we`ve figured or cased this one out. Thank you, Eugene
Robinson. (INAUDIBLE) everybody should get it in "The Washington Post."
Robert Costa, doing a hell of a job covering this campaign, as you showed
tonight. Beth Fouhy, it`s great to have you on, from our own MSNBC.

Coming up -- Donald Trump versus the world. We`ve got the best attack
lines between Trump and his rivals as the Republican field gets ready to
confront him.

We`re also seeing major fireworks out there. We can expect plenty more
during next week`s debate. It`s coming Thursday. We`re going to be there.

Plus, attempts to keep blacks from voting, voting rights, are on trial in
the battleground state of North Carolina, and Hillary Clinton hits her
Republican rivals for their party`s efforts to keep minorities from the
polls. Good for her.

And later on, with the roundtable, we got more from that focus group of
Donald Trump supporters up in New Hampshire. What is it about this guy
that grabs them so?

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with a warning to those debating Donald Trump next
week. Be careful.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: In Miami today, Hillary Clinton challenged the Republican
leadership in Congress to end the Cuban embargo and called out Republican
presidential candidates who have taken a hard line against the U.S. and
Cuba normalizing relations.


Republicans on Capitol Hill are starting to recognize the urgency of moving
forward. It`s time for their leaders to either get on board or get out of
the way.

The Cuba embargo needs to go once and for all.


CLINTON: Unfortunately, most of the Republican candidates for president
would play right into the hard-liners` hands. They have it backwards.
Engagement is not a gift to the Castros, it`s a threat to the Castros. An
American embassy in Havana isn`t a concession, it`s a beacon.


MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It`s the hottest story in American
politics right now. Donald Trump has the hot hand heading into next week`s
big debate. Next Thursday night -- political fight night -- we`ll be on to
cover it with a special two-hour edition of HARDBALL starting at 7:00 PM
Eastern, live from Cleveland, and we`ll be back at 11:00 with another jam-
packed show to break it all down and show you who landed the biggest blows.

If the last month is any indication of what`s in store for us next
Thursday, we`re in for a treat. Trump is playing demolition derby with the
Republican field. Call it the Trump dump, if you will, because if you
attack him, he`s coming for you.

And here`s just a taste of the chaos, the attack, the counterattacks and
the evasive maneuvers heading into the debates. Roll the tape.



Lindsey Graham. By the way, he`s registered zero in the polls, zero!

RICK PERRY (R-TX), FMR. GOV., PRES. CANDIDATE: Have you no sense of
decency, sir?

TRUMP: He put glasses on so people will think he`s smart, and it just
doesn`t work! You know, people can see through the glasses.

Rick Perry should have to have an IQ test before getting on the debate

way (INAUDIBLE) behavior over the last few weeks is either dignified or
worthy of the office that he seeks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about Marco Rubio?

TRUMP: I think he`s highly overrated.

JEB BUSH (R-FL), FMR. GOV., PRES. CANDIDATE: If we embrace this language
of divisiveness and ugliness, we`ll never win. We`ll never win.

TRUMP: He`s weak on immigration. He`s in favor of Common Core. How the
hell can you vote for this guy? You just can`t do it. This guy can`t
negotiate his way out of a paper bag!


for himself. The other day, when he went after me specifically, I just
said, hey, he can speak for himself.

TRUMP: Oh, finally, I can attack, finally.

Wisconsin`s doing terribly. The roads are a disaster. The schools are a
disaster. The hospitals and education is a disaster. He was totally in
favor of Common Core.

find the person to be president of the United States who can get the most
attention, he`s going to win hands down.

TRUMP: I told this to Chris. I told it to his people. He missed his

11 commandment of not attacking fellow Republicans.

TRUMP: Lehman Brothers almost took down the world. He was a managing
partner. I think he`s a nice man. I don`t know him. But I know, if
you`re the managing partner of Lehman Brothers, Lehman Brothers almost --
you`re not looking too good, you know?

in the world to pick a voice to talk about what is going on in America and
who is best qualified to be president.


MATTHEWS: Dana Milbank`s an opinion writer with "The Washington Post" and
Liz Mair is a Republican strategist.

I have been covering politics longer than you even, sir, really. And I
just laugh. People couldn`t hear me laughing, because there`s something
truly outrageous about Trump. And yet it doesn`t hurt anybody but the
other guy, and almost all of it`s true. It just happens to be true and
ridiculous, but true, these assaults on these other guys.

Donald Trump, hate Donald Trump you have to acknowledge this guy is a
political genius. And he`s figured out exactly...

MATTHEWS: Why does truth hurt the other guys, but the public wants to hear
that hurt? They want to hear the punch.

MILBANK: Well, he has figured out how to game the system.

Look, he started out as a liberal a while ago. And he said, what do I need
to do to make waves here? I got to pick on the following issues and I have
got to be savage.


MATTHEWS: You`re just like him now. Everybody is gesturing. Everybody is
gesturing. Arms are flying.


MATTHEWS: Liz, I mean, every time he says something, he`s like this.

MILBANK: Yes. Yes. Yes.


LIZ MAIR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Or like this, like this.


MATTHEWS: So, I mean, everybody did think that about Rick Perry. He`s
wearing glasses to look more intelligent. We all knew it. And he`s the
first guy to say the obvious.

MAIR: Well, that`s not what I personally thought.

MATTHEWS: What did you think he was wearing glasses on TV for?

MAIR: Because he has a vision problem.


MATTHEWS: But why on TV? You don`t have to see anything on TV. I do it
every night. Just look at -- what is he looking at?

MAIR: I don`t wear glasses.


MATTHEWS: You don`t wear glasses...


MATTHEWS: A lot of people that wear glasses, like Jack Kennedy, never wore
them on television, because you don`t need them on TV.

MAIR: I have no way of knowing that. So, I will have to take your word
for it.

But in any event, yes, I -- no, I think he`s landing a lot of fun
punchlines that appeal to a lot of people, even if they like some of these
other candidates. And I think one of the main reasons why is that people
generally don`t like politicians, and he`s positioned himself as an anti-

MATTHEWS: OK, strategy. Put your strategist`s hat on.

MAIR: Sure.

MATTHEWS: You got an opponent coming in there against him. Do you attack
him or wait for him to attack you and then you can counterattack and people
will root for you? Which way?

MAIR: I would probably attack him first. And the route that I would go
is, I would focus on his support for a Canadian-style health care system.
If you look at what came out of...

MATTHEWS: So accuse him of being a lefty.

MAIR: Well, but that specifically, not all the other things, right?


MATTHEWS: Not being pro-choice, even though he said it once.

MAIR: Right. If you go and you look at that focus group that was done of
New Hampshire voters, that was the thing that people didn`t know about, and
when they heard about, they were like, eh, that`s not good.


MATTHEWS: The other team.

MAIR: Especially because he`s also criticized Obamacare. So, people are
like, wait, you`re against Obamacare, but you`re for like some sort of
socialized medical system.

MATTHEWS: So, you say go on the attack, take him on?

MAIR: I would say go with regard to that specifically.

The other thing that I would say is, since he is probably going to try to
hit all these guys preemptively on illegal immigration, especially if
you`re somebody like Jeb Bush, just be ready to go there with regard to his
employment of unauthorized immigrants.

MATTHEWS: Hiring illegals.

MAIR: Yes, exactly, because...


MATTHEWS: Call him a hypocrite.

MAIR: Yes, that`s something I think is going to damage him with his core

MILBANK: Right. Well, as you saw it with the clips there, just attacking
Donald Trump is generally a recipe for failure because he`s so...


MATTHEWS: It`s a boomerang.

MILBANK: He`s so good at coming back at that.

MAIR: Although I do think with Perry it`s been benefiting him a little
bit. But like with Lindsey Graham, I don`t know what that`s doing for him.

MATTHEWS: Well, they`re all flat-footed. They make their punch, and then
they stand there like flat-footed.


MILBANK: But they look so earnest and then he looks funny and real.

That`s why people in New Hampshire say, he`s like me, although he`s not
like anybody in the world, except for the Donald. So I think you`re right.
You do attack him, but you attack him as a left-winger. And there`s plenty
of room to do that. He`s got a long track record there.


MATTHEWS: Because people will believe a guy who lives in New York and
makes a lot of money is a liberal. They don`t know what a conservative in
New York looks like.


MILBANK: He had an entirely different position on immigration.

MAIR: Yes, although a lot of the attacks that people have been trying to
lob against him about donations to Democrats, like palling around with
Hillary Clinton, that stuff doesn`t seem to be sticking with voters. I
really would go hard with the socialized medicine and the Canadian health


MATTHEWS: That`s a big shot behavior, inviting her to at the wedding.
Anyway, Rand -- I was at the wedding.

Anyway, Rand Paul is now suiting up for a battle with Trump. Rand Paul,
last night, he attributed Trump`s rise to a temporary loss of sanity.
Let`s watch him.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Why is he doing so well right now, Donald Trump?

you would give some other candidates time from 8:00 in the morning until
8:00 at night all day long every day for three weeks, I`m guessing some
other candidates might rise as well.

This is a temporary sort of loss of sanity, but we`re going to come back to
our senses and look for somebody serious to lead the country at some point.

BLITZER: Do you think that 20 percent who are supporting Donald Trump,
Republicans, according to this latest poll, have a loss of sanity?

PAUL: No, I think what they are, is they`re hungry for somebody who will
tell the truth.


MATTHEWS: You know, that kind of whining ain`t going to work with the
public. Gee whiz, he`s getting all the press. How come we can`t have some

Because you`re not interesting. That is a whine right there from Rand

MAIR: Well, I think it makes Rand Paul sound more like he`s doing my job
here and being the strategist and the analyst, as opposed to being Rand
Paul, who is the dude who is supposed to be leading the 13-hour filibusters
and going to war with anybody who infringes on civil liberties and such and

And I think that`s unfortunate, one of the reasons that I think we have
seen a slide. The civil liberties issue isn`t as dominant as it was
previously and he just -- he doesn`t have a lot to sort of grip with.

MATTHEWS: Quick -- I asked all the producers here, who are smart people,
what -- who has a better chance of being president than Donald Trump in the
Republican top 10 there? And most people come up with the rule. They
think Jeb has a better chance, they think. Rubio has a better chance.
They think that Walker has a better chance and maybe Kasich.

But another way of saying that is about six or seven of the guys on that
stage with him have a lesser chance than he does.


MILBANK: Right. And that doesn`t even include the...


MATTHEWS: Does he attack up or attack down? The rule in politics is
always attack up. You look better. Does he hit the top front-runners or
go after the little guys, too?

MILBANK: Does Donald Trump?


MILBANK: Well, I don`t think of Donald Trump as being so discerning. I
think he`s just sitting back there being himself.


MILBANK: It`s a blunderbuss. He`s just firing in every which direction.

MATTHEWS: So, he`s going to...


MATTHEWS: ... with everybody?

MILBANK: Yes, he`s fighting every which direction.


MAIR: I`m not sure there`s a strategy there.


MATTHEWS: I think people like it when you attack up.

MILBANK: He`s just -- he`s the id of the Republican electorate.


MATTHEWS: Who is the superego?


MILBANK: That would be Jeb, I...


MATTHEWS: He doesn`t have an id. That`s his problem. Thank you. He`s
the older brother.

Thank you, Dana Milbank. Thank you, Liz Mair.

Up next, voting rights on trial in North Carolina. And Hillary Clinton
calls out her GOP counterparts for supporting right-wing efforts to block
the black vote down there, the minority vote.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, several of the 2016 presidential candidates campaigned at the
National Urban League`s rMD-BO_convention down in Fort Lauderdale today.
And former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the largely African-
American crowd that they need to fight to make their votes count.


are trying every trick in the book to prevent African-Americans from


MATTHEWS: She also took a swipe at Jeb Bush and his Right to Rise super


CLINTON: Too often, we see a mismatch between what some candidates say in
venues like this and what they actually do when they`re elected. And you
cannot seriously talk about the right to rise and support laws that deny
the right to vote.


MATTHEWS: Also today, a federal judge heard final arguments in a case
brought by the Department of Justice and voting rights advocates to rescind
North Carolina`s 2013 laws designed to block broad access to the ballot
box, laws that roughly cut in half the number of early voting days and
requiring voters to register 20 days in advance of an election, rather than
on Election Day.

Joining me right now is the former -- actually, former Obama pollster
Cornell Belcher.

Thank you, Cornell.

Let me -- this thing that -- all this seems to have started since Obama
carried North Carolina in 2008. It just seems like, all of a sudden, we
have to have all these new rules because guess what? A Southern state
voted for Obama. So let`s fix that. All of a sudden, we`re hearing about
voter I.D. laws and no more Souls to the Polls. All this seems to be
targeted at the black vote.

my Southern state, Virginia, is still in the South, although they keep
trying to move it out of the South.

I mean, when you see where the African-American vote is having the most
impact, it is in those traditional Southern places. And it`s not
surprising that the moment the Voting Rights Act was rolled back, they
start doing the things that the Voting Rights Act was put in place to stop
them from doing.

And that`s sort of blocking access and making it harder for minorities and
poor people to actually go to the polls.

MATTHEWS: This is what Jim Crow was all about.


MATTHEWS: After Reconstruction was thrown away in 1876, everything was
about preventing blacks from any more, like they had held office up until
1876, after the war, make sure that doesn`t happen again.

BELCHER: That blacks couldn`t have power.

I`m from the South. And there`s always been an old saying that my father
used to say. Look, blacks and whites could always get along in the South.
Quite frankly, blacks and whites could always get along in the South.
Blacks just couldn`t have power. And when blacks tried to get power,
that`s when the trouble started.

And when you see state after state here now making it harder for minorities
to vote, you understand the demographic changes that are going on in
America. And Barack Obama to a certain extent is a sea change moment in
American history, because all of a sudden that Reagan coalition that
controlled the White House for all those years, we saw Mitt Romney run up
the score in that Reagan coalition and actually get more votes than Ronald
Reagan, and Mitt Romney was a horrible candidate.

You saw that new voter, that younger, browner vote turn out in droves and
elect someone that the vast, vast majority of the white vote decided they
did not want.

MATTHEWS: There was no white vote to offset the great minority vote.


MATTHEWS: I`m look at something here. We were down in North Carolina last
year. And we noticed something that was going on. Even when the right
wing isn`t able to get through these provisions making it harder for black
people to vote, minorities to vote, right?


MATTHEWS: There was a fear among the people that they were in effect, that
people were afraid like hell. And that`s why they put up a sign, get out
there, you won`t need an I.D. this time, because people were afraid that
the news was saying it is going to be much tougher to vote, so people were
afraid they wouldn`t vote. So it worked.

BELCHER: Well, intimidation -- intimidation has always been a part of,
quite frankly, politics in lots of parts of this country, particularly in
the South.

Most people would say that the lynching that you saw going on there was
intimidation and part of politics. What`s interesting about it is when we
tested some of this stuff in 2012, we saw in fact a certain cohort of the
African-American electorate actually get more energized by them trying to
sort of block -- trying to block it.

MATTHEWS: I love that. I love that.

BELCHER: But also this North Carolina case also shows that where some
African-Americans actually did get disenfranchised because of these laws.

And when you win a state or lose a state by a couple of thousand points, a
couple hundred points, it makes it a big deal.


Cornell, thanks so much for joining us.

By the way, your dad`s very smart.


MATTHEWS: Because there`s a difference between Northern and Southern
prejudice about African-Americans by white people. It`s very different.


MATTHEWS: There`s a difference. Keep your distance in the North. In the
South, oh, we can be close together, but I`m the boss.

BELCHER: Right. Just don`t have power.

MATTHEWS: A very different kind of prejudice. Both are pretty bad.

Up next, we will hear more from those -- and, by the way, both are going
away, I think, some day.

New Hampshire focus groups about Donald Trump`s candidacy, they are
something to listen to, including one who says he will vote for Trump if he
runs as an independent, even if that helps Hillary win. In other words, a
conservative would rather Hillary win, so he gets to vote for this guy in
the third party.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


what`s happening.

Boeing says that it`s sending a technical team to help analyze the airplane
part that was found on Reunion Island that`s being sent to France for
further investigation.

A Delta pilot attempts to land at New York`s JFK Airport reported a close
encounter with a drone about 100 feet below that aircraft. The plane with
159 people on board landed without incident.

And the Coast Guard is suspending its search for two teenagers who were
seen a week ago as they headed out on a fishing trip. Their boat was found
on Sunday -- back to HARDBALL.


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t think he represents the
Republican Party, and his views are way out of the mainstream of what
Republicans think.

He`s not a stupid guy. So I don`t assume he`s like -- he thinks that every
Mexican crossing the border is a rapist. I mean, so he`s doing this to
inflame and to incite.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was, of course, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush talking about the new
Republican front-runner, Donald Trump. Jeb might not thing too much of the
brash New York City billionaire, but voters in the first presidential
primary state of New Hampshire certainly do.

As we showed you yesterday, Bloomberg conducted a focus group of Trump
supporters up there in New Hampshire on what they find so appealing about
Trump. Here`s a bit more of that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn`t care what people think. He tells the
truth, what we need to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like he said, I won`t be bought off, whereas, anybody
else, I have the money, will be -- have a chance of being bought off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And get Washington-itis, which is so many
politicians, they go to Washington, and they become completely -- you know,
they don`t work for their constituents anymore.


MATTHEWS: They also spoke about what concerns them about Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Potentially, he could cross over with some
inappropriate comment that`s going to turn a large number of people off,
and it would very much concern me if he -- at that point he was the

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In my opinion what hurt Romney was his success and
his money and that could be Trump`s downfall as much as it`s his asset. It
could also be a weakness because of the way people perceive wealth. You
know, some see it as success and others see it as greed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think he can shoot himself in the foot.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Joining the roundtable right now, Michelle
Bernard of Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy, and former
Virginia Congressman Tom Davis, a Republican, and former Texas Congressman
Martin Frost, a Democrat. They`re the co-authors of a big new book "The
Partisan Divide", which we`re going to talk about shortly, "The Partisan

Let`s start -- first, you got to pay for your supper here, guys. Tom, you
said before we came on the air that you think that Bush is handling the
Trump phenomenon correctly now.

TOM DAVIS (R-VA), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, he is now. He started
off attacking him and that`s wrong. I think you have to be respectful of
the message that he`s sending. You want to put distance between how you
deliver that at this point. But there`s a chunk of voters that sooner or
later because Trump is so undisciplined are looking for somebody else. If
you`ve been the guy attacking the message, that you`re out of luck.


MARTIN FROST (D-TX), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Look, Trump is appealing to
anger. Those are the people he`s going after. They`re mad. They`re not
sure exactly what they`re mad about, but they don`t like big business, they
don`t like big labor. And here they are going to support a very wealthy
guy. It doesn`t make a lot of sense on its face but he`s tapped into anger
in this country.

MATTHEWS: Here`s the question I have, just as a political observer, how
does a party that is showing so much anger and contempt for the
establishment -- left, right and center -- pick Jeb Bush after all this is
over with? How can all this fire lead to that next spring?

question is, when does Donald Trump burn out if he burst out --

MATTHEWS: The anger is still going to be there.

BERNARD: Well, the anger is still going to be there. But --

MATTEHWS: Why would the anger go to Jeb Bush who personifies the way
things are.

BERNARD: Well, if you look at some of the things that people raised in the
Bloomberg interview for example about what worries them about Donald Trump,
those are the things I think that may lead to a Jeb Bush, saying the wrong

MATTHEWS: Oh, great.


BERNARD: But, seriously, from the person who is not an elected official,
if you`re sitting back and you liked Chris Christie, as people did. Chris
Christie has the same problem that Donald Trump had and the electorate is
still angry and it`s going to cause other politicians to get smart. But
Donald Trump may not get any smarter.

MATTHEWS: How do you -- I agree with all that. Everybody knows this guy
can blow up in a day with some terrible comment about somebody. But he
hasn`t been able to do it yet as hard as he`s tried. My question, how can
a party that seems to be in love with this wild man out there who is saying
everything you hear from these guys, they`re all a bunch of bums, by the
way, except me. How do they go back and say, OK, now, we`re going to end
up with Bush and Kasich?

DAVIS: It`s last man standing. I mean, basically --

MATTHEWS: And they will get out and vote for the guy who is last man
standing. You remember going to Wendy`s late at night, there`s nothing
else open. I mean, why get excited about the last place open at night?

BERNARD: Kasich is a dark horse.

DAVIS: You may not get excited about it, but at the end of the day, he`s
got the money to sustain it, the delegates to sustain it. The Republicans
will rally around whoever they nominate at this point --

MATTHEWS: Is that what you think, Michelle? They want to beat Hillary
enough they`ll go with anybody?

BERNARD: Absolutely. And I also think Kasich has a very good shot at it.
He is affable, he`s is personable --

MATTHEWS: You`re stealing my sun.


BERNARD: Kasich, Bush and Christie I believe have a very good shot at it.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the rules. Trump has set this up almost
like Ross Perot. If the Republicans treat me right, then I`ll back them in
the general election. But if they don`t treat me right, I`m going to run
against them? What does treating him right or wrong mean, Mr. Frost?

FROST: It`s impossible to say. What happens is he suddenly falls off the
list, then he`s been treated wrong.

Now, Chris has a very interesting point. Perot`s from Dallas where I
represented, I knew Perot. My initial reaction was, well, this will
happen, Trump will be like Perot. Those are the voters he`ll get. One of
my friends in the black community has been very active. He`s not Perot,
he`s George Wallace. He`s appealing to downscale, non-college educated
whites, not necessarily in the racial way that Wallace did, though --

MATTHEWS: But somebody has to appeal to them.

FROST: He`s come close.

MATTHEWS: What`s wrong with appealing to them?

FROST: Well, they aren`t the majority of the country.


DAVIS: But they`re part of a coalition.

MATTHEWS: Big part of the Republican Party now.

FROST: That`s right. They were a part of the Democratic Party in `68, now
they`re part of the Republican Party. You pull that out of the Republican
Party and you elect Hillary.

MATTHEWS: Yes, Nixon called them cloth cut Republicans. If you lose them,
you lose a lot of Republicans. That`s why I think. And I wonder whether,
that`s why I guess we started here in the segment, which is Bush has to be
so careful to outlast Trump but not to blast him.

BERNARD: And that`s another reason why he might be the last man standing.
He is not going to offend Latinos, African-Americans and a whole groups of

FROST: I don`t give advice to Republicans generally but the best
Republican ticket is a Midwestern governor and Rubio as president. That`s
how they maximize the vote --

MATTHEWS: Kasich and Rubio?

FROST: Or Walker and Rubio.

MATTHEWS: I`m a big believer. I`ve been following Ohio since I was 10 or
12 years old. It is the most fascinating state.

FROST: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: It decides elections. If the Republicans don`t get it, they
don`t win.

BERNARD: Can I put in a word for a female V.P. on the Republican ticket?

MATTHEWS: Who do you like?

BERNARD: I like the governor of South Carolina with Kasich.

MATTHEWS: Well, she showed some stuff.

DAVIS: You got a good governor in New Mexico, too.

MATTHEWS: The roundtable is staying with us.

And up next, these two veterans tell us how to fix the gaping partisan
divide. That`s a big mouthful. That`s coming.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, Jeb Bush sat down with NBC`s Lester Holt and Lester asked
Bush if he ever thought he`d be trailing Donald Trump heading into the
first debate, and what`s behind his rise.


LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: Did you ever foresee a scenario in which you would
be number two to Donald Trump in the first debate?

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I didn`t know where I was
going to be, for sure.


BUSH: I don`t know. This is a long haul. So, my focus is on what the
world looks like in January coming going into the February caucuses and

I was surprised that Donald Trump has surged. I think he`s captured the
deep frustration that people feel. I mean, I get that. I get the lack of
rule of law, the sanctuary cities, the open borders, all those things.
He`s, in a very graphic way, appealed to people`s anger about those things.
And I think it`s important to be respectful of that, make the case that we
can fix these things and over time, the Trump phenomena will either succeed
or fail based on his proposals.


MATTHEWS: I think that guy needs more excitement.

We`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.

Former Republican Congressman Tom Davis and former Democratic Congressman
Martin Frost teamed up to write a book about the bitter relations between
Democrats and Republicans and the crisis it`s creating in Congress today.
It`s called "The Partisan Divide". There it is.

They write, quote, "We are appalled by the current state of politics in
America. It hasn`t always been like this and doesn`t have to be like this
in the future." While fundraising and congressional redistricting are just
two examples Davis and Frost say are the symptoms creating the gridlock on
Capitol Hill. They want to see more bipartisan interaction and less time
spent raising money.

Whatever happened to the poker games, they asked, and formal dinners where
members of both parties can actually get to know each other. And they say
we need to bring back earmarks so more deals could be made to get things
done in Congress.

Tom Davis, you proposed something that the politically correct people say,
that`s bad. Earmarks had a bad name. It means getting something in a
bigger appropriations bill to fix maybe Boston College, give them a new
library, the Tip O`Neill Library, or something like that. These are all
things which are the big dig in Boston.

DAVIS: Somebody is --

MATTHEWS: These were all good things.

DAVIS: Somebody earmarks it somewhere along the line. Why not Congress?
The first 100 years of the Republican, it was all earmarks.

MATTHEWS: Explain earmarks, you have one of special interest to you,

DAVIS: Something that`s helpful to your district. But you`re
appropriating the money. The money comes from your state allocation.

MATTHEWS: OK. Tell me how that would improve the system if you brought
them back?

DAVIS: Well, first of all, members have skin in the game. You have
something in the bill to vote for. Now, really, every incentives to vote
against these spending bills.

FROST: So you wouldn`t have CRs necessarily. You wouldn`t govern by
continuing resolution.

MATTHEWS: You`d pass appropriations.

So, the Congress people, and you both been there, you know the valuable
thing is to be able to put something in your newsletter that you put out.
It says, this month I was able to win an appropriation for the new building
of this in Texas.

DAVIS: It gives you reason to be for it. Number two, it`s a huge transfer
of authority from the legislative branch to the executive branch. They`re
suing Obama over taking usurping legislative branch authority. They just
transfer the major power Congress has, the power of the purse of the
executive branch by doing away.

FROST: Earmarks, it was only about 2 percent of the appropriations that
were actually earmarked.

MATTHEWS: Martin, let`s talk to the progressives watching right now, and
you can jump on this obviously, because all we talk about this.

The Congress looks like -- the House of Representatives looks like it`s in
Republican hands for the time, as far as we can see.

FROST: For this decade. Not as far as we can see and it`s because of
gerrymandering, the Republicans are very smart. They captured a lot of
state legislatures last -- right before the last redistricting, and they
did it fairly well, Pennsylvania Democrats carry a majority of the vote,
Republicans get 13 of the 18 congressional seats.

MATTHEWS: And the Democrats get five.


MATTHEWS: Even though most people in Pennsylvania usually vote Democrat
for Congress, they end up with only five seats and the other side ends up -

FROST: What we recommend is nonpartisan redistricting commissions. You
only have five seats to do that right now. Those districts aren`t as
(INAUDIBLE) and they are more competitive.

MATTHEWS: What about a primary where everybody gets to run like in

FROST: Well, we suggested that. I would consider that too. We ought to
consider that.

MATTHEWS: Do you like it?

FROST: He loves it. I`m less excited about it.

MATTHEWS: Because it`s going to create interesting fights. You know, Sam
Farr get challenged by Jimmy Panetta in California. You don`t know what`s
going to happen.

FROST: My friend Howard Berman lost because of that.

MATTHEWS: Yes, because he had to go right in that Los Angeles district and
it didn`t work for him very well.

DAVIS: The interesting thing is the fastest growing group in the
electorate are independents. But they`re out of the system because most of
these races are decided in primaries.

FROST: They don`t vote in the primaries.

MATTHEWS: Who are independents, ex-Democrats or ex-Republicans?

DAVIS: More Republicans right now.

FROST: Both.

BERNARD: Both and a lot of African Americans are self-identifying as


FROST: They`re precluded by law from voting in primaries in many states.
In other states, they don`t vote in primaries. So, what you have is a very
narrow part of the electorate determining the nomination. That person wins
the general election, people don`t talk to each other because they`re
afraid they`re going to be attacked in the primary by somebody in the

MATTHEWS: I know. In a totally Democratic big city district, you cannot
lose a general. You can`t.

Anyway, thank you.

FROST: Or in the Republican district.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michelle Bernard, Tom Davis, Martin Frost. Thank
you, gentlemen. Please some back and we`ll talk more. The book out right
now is called "The Partisan Divide".

When we return, let me finish with the warning to those debating Donald
Trump next week. And I mean, a stern warning.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a warning to those debating Donald
Trump next week.

Don`t for a minute think he`s not onto something. Don`t ever get the idea
that his claim on public sentiment right now, clear as hell in the polls,
is something to be ignored, because the public are out there cheering him
right now and cannot safely be ignored.

There is, and some Trump success proves it, a deep contempt out there for
the political class`s failure to protect this country`s interests. Say
what you will about the reasons for it. Place to blame on whichever party
you choose, but these are the facts.

One, we have no enforced method for stopping illegal immigration. It
continues right now, will continue tonight, will be ongoing tomorrow.
People come into this country illegally and no one in the government, not
in Congress, not in the administration has proved capable or even willing
to stop it.

Two, we are spending huge deficits every year adding to the national debt,
year after year, until it now matches the total capacity our entire

Three, American manufacturing is now on its last legs. We consume. We do
not make. Not like we did. Not like we must, if we are to support a solid
and secure workforce. Meanwhile, China is producing like a bandit. It
makes many Americans worry.

Four, we face an ISIS we seem incapable of defeating. We start wars that
do not make sense, yet, we cannot fight the war we didn`t start.

And this is the country, this is the government, and this is the attitude
the American people now share with Donald Trump. He`s doing well because
he is talking like the person out there who has no public voice.

If the other candidates believe they can show contempt for Trump, they
should tread very carefully because it might just sell like they`re showing
contempt for Trump`s message, and doing that would be to show contempt for
the very people who will decide this next election, and they will be

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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