updated 8/10/2015 1:38:36 PM ET 2015-08-10T17:38:36

Show: HARDBALL
Date: August 6, 2015
Guest: Eugene Robinson, Robert Costa, John Sununu, Nina Turner, Chip
Englander, Howard Fineman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Cleveland where
we witnessed of course one wild debate. Expectations were of course high
and the candidates certainly delivered. Trump stole the show right out of
the gate. He said, I will not pledge loyalty to the party I`m now debating
within. It was an extraordinary moment.

Moderator Bret Baier asked the candidates to all take the pledge by putting
their hands -- actually, he told them that they weren`t going to take it to
put their hand in the air and Trump put his hand up and said, I`m not
ruling out a third party. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, DEBATE MODERATOR: Raise your hand now if you won`t make that
pledge tonight.

(CHEERS)

BAIER: Mr. Trump.

(BOOS)

BAIER: So Mr. Trump, to be clear, you`re standing on a Republican primary
debate.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I fully understand.

BAIER: The place where the RNC will give nominee the nod.

TRUMP: I fully understand.

BAIER: And that experts say an independent run would almost certainly hand
the race over to Democrats and likely another Clinton. You can`t say
tonight that you can make that pledge?

TRUMP: I cannot say I have to respect the person that if it`s not me, the
person that wins. If I do win and I`m leading by quite a bit, that`s what
I want to do. I can totally make that pledge if I`m the nominee, I will
pledge I will not run as an independent but -- and I am discussing it with
everybody, but I`m, you know, talking about a lot of leverage. We want to
win, and we will win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Whose the we? The point is he`s not a we. Anyway, Trump was
just getting started. Things got heated when moderator Megyn Kelly pressed
Trump about his rhetoric about -- well, you might call it rhetoric -- about
women. Let`s watch this heated moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGYN KELLY, DEBATE MODERATOR: You`ve called women you don`t like fat
pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals. Your twitter account --

TRUMP: Only Rosie O`Donnell.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: It was well beyond Rosie O`Donnell.

TRUMP: Yes, I`m sure it was.

KELLY: Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women`s
looks. You once told a contestant on "Celebrity Apprentice" it would be a
pretty picture to see her on her knees.

Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as
president? And how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton who is
likely to be the Democratic nominee that you are part of the war on women?

TRUMP: I think the big problem this country has is being politically
correct. And I don`t frankly have time for total political correctness.
What I say is what I say, and honestly, Megyn, if you don`t like it, I`m
sorry. I`ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be
based on the way you have treated me but I wouldn`t do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, I think the key line in his response was this hand
movement, which I can get tough with you if you stay like that with me. A
threat. Almost like a direct threat I would say.

Things also got hot when moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump about his
company`s bankruptcies, four of them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Four times I took advantage of the law and frankly so has everybody
else in my position.

CHRIS WALLACE, DEBATE MODERATOR: Well, sir, let`s just talk about the
latest example which is Trump Entertainment Resorts, which went bankrupt in
2009. In that case alone, lenders to your company lost over $1 billion and
more than 1100 people were laid off.

TRUMP: Well --

WALLACE: Is that the way that you`d run this country?

TRUMP: Let me just tell you about the lenders. First of all, these
lenders aren`t babies. These are total killers. These are not the nice
sweet little people that you think, OK? You know, I mean, you`re living in
a world of the make-believe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Absolutely extraordinary if you follow that line of reasoning.

Kasie Hunt is joining us now, she`s MSNBC`s political correspondent. Of
course Eugene Robinson a columnist with the "Washington Post," and also we
have Robert Costa, a reporter with the "Washington Post" who does the A
section work over there.

I have to tell you, I got to do my Trump thing, I put my hands out because
I don`t know how -- there is nothing he can`t get around. First of all, he
trashes the looks of women and says, I`m only talking about, what`s her
name?

(CROSSTALK)

EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POLICE COLUMNIST: Rosie O`Donnell, right.

MATTHEWS: Rosie O`Donnell. Then he says I`m only -- I only screw stiff
people out of money in the trillions because they`re bad guys.

ROBINSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They`re bad guy. So it`s OK if I --

KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL REPORTER: Not the little guys. Not the little
guys.

ROBINSON: You know, I watched -- I watched the debate at a watch party at
the American Conservative Union had around the corner of the house --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: The house of blues, right. And first of all, wild cheers for
Trump.

MATTHEWS: On those points?

ROBINSON: Yes. Got cheered on those points. He got through all those
three points, the third party pledge, the --

MATTHEWS: Rosie O`Donnell.

ROBINSON: Comments about women and the bankruptcy thing. Got through all
of those just fine. The only time the applause for Trump kind of quieted
down a bit was actually toward the end of the debate when he seemed to kind
of run out of steam.

HUNT: Yes.

ROBINSON: After, you know, how many times can you repeat that everybody is
stupid. And that`s what kind of sad.

MATTHEWS: I think a two-hour debate was too long a length for him.

ROBINSON: It was.

HUNT: That was about the time that Jeb Bush`s people started to feel more
confident. That`s when I started to get notes saying, hey, like, this
debate is shifting in our favor. There are some moments here that
ultimately Trump is going to come to regret. Now we`ll see if that`s
actually the case. But they felt much better about this.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: Right. But the first two-thirds, three-quarters was all Trump.

MATTHEWS: Did you ever get a sense that anybody thought that Jeb was
really on top of the situation?

HUNT: For the first half of this debate, I don`t think so at all. He
didn`t make any major mistakes necessarily.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HUNT: But at the same time, he was given opportunities with the exception
of the first answer when he went straight to his record as governor of
Florida, which is exactly what he wanted to do in this debate.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HUNT: After that, he was defensive and then he was a little bit muddled in
his response.

MATTHEWS: OK. I love guys that write A section leads.

ROBINSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And I want to know the lead is on the wires and the "Washington
Post." What was the lead of the debate tonight? Go to tomorrow morning,
front page main bar.

ROBERT COSTA, WASHINGTON POST: So we got Trump playing by his own rules.
You look at that first answer he gave, brutally honest. He`s playing to
the part of the party that doesn`t even like the party. They like that
he`s not facing up to the establishment.

MATTHEWS: Is that the lead? The Trump of both part.

COSTA: He`s not playing by his own rules, total Trump, he`s disrupting the
entire field. They don`t know how to handle him. He -- they are tossing
him this question, pledge loyalty to the party. He says no thanks. He`s
challenged on women. Shrugs it off. They don`t know how to control this
phenomenon and it`s not ending any time.

MATTHEWS: OK. Look. Here we got some news here because you got breaking
news now, moments ago, Kasie, I interviewed Donald Trump in the debate spin
room. Let`s listen to that exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I thought it was an unfair question. They didn`t ask those
questions of anybody else and I thought it was an unfair question but you
know what, the answers were good obviously because everybody thinks I won.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you going to call Roger Ailes about it?

TRUMP: No, I wouldn`t do that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why ran for office Mr. Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Trump, I mean, with all due respect, maybe none
of the other candidates have said anything along those lines about women.

TRUMP: All I know is everybody came up to me and said I had the tough --
they weren`t even questions, there were statements that they asked, but you
know what, it doesn`t matter. I answered them well and I`m very happy and
I really had a good time. I thought it was an amazing debate and I got to
know some of the folks that I really didn`t know and they really are
quality people.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Trump --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Who is your most worthy opponent?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Who do you think --

TRUMP: I think I have a lot of worthy opponents. I got to know some of
them tonight I really didn`t know and I think there are a lot of worthy
opponents. I think you have some really good people on that stage tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Trump, Rand Paul --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think that you could beat Hillary Clinton as
an independent?

TRUMP: I think I would beat Hillary Clinton definitely as a Republican,
independent is tougher, there is no question about that but I would be here
definitely as a Republican.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So he`s given it some thought, this third party run, not just as
an option.

HUNT: He has to say that, and Reince Priebus was in the spin room saying
that it would be a death wish for him to go as a third party candidate.

MATTHEWS: Why would it be a death wish?

HUNT: Because no, he listed him in the same category as Ross Perot, for
example. People who ultimately -- the winner is going to be a Republican
or Democrat, and --

MATTHEWS: Well, why would that be a death wish for Trump? Be a death wish
for Reince Priebus?

HUNT: Well, that may be more accurate.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: He`s the one that`s going to lose here.

Robert, do you think -- this is fascinating because we watched a two-hour
debate and it seemed to be the news was made in the first minute. Do you
think there is a sense that FOX has no role? Why would FOX be in charge of
party discipline? Why would they feel that they have the responsibility to
crack the whip of party discipline in a debate? They are just hosting the
debate. It`s not the party. Is FOX part of the Republican Party?

COSTA: No. I think FOX was trying to provoke.

ROBINSON: Yes.

COSTA: FOX is trying to get -- they see the front runner there. They want
to get him talking. I thought they`re going to either ask about the
Clinton call or they`re going to ask about the independent bid. He knew
those were coming.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, let me get back to Trump tonight. Did he -- if you
have to look at a poll and predict the next series of polls, the next five,
for example.

ROBINSON: OK. Five.

MATTHEWS: Between now and September 16th when they look at this CNN.

ROBINSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Because we know we now do the bunches of five. Will he go up or
down?

ROBINSON: I think he goes up. I think he goes up. You know, not another
meteoric rise, that it won`t be double where he is.

MATTHEWS: But he hasn`t crested?

ROBINSON: No, I don`t think he`s crested. I don`t think. Do you?

HUNT: I mean, look, I think --

MATTHEWS: Did he make your headlines tonight is my first question? You
said yes.

HUNT: I think yes. I think that`s clear.

ROBINSON: Yes. Oh, yes. Oh, Yes.

HUNT: I think right out of the gate he made headlines.

MATTHEWS: So the people who didn`t watch tonight will hear the headline.

HUNT: Well, I think, look, I think the question is, OK, a lot of these
early polls, they`re polling people who are paying the closest attention.
And those are the conservative activist. And a lot of them are the people
who are the most jazzed up by Trump. I think The question here is, did
this wider audience, and it is going to be a wider audience, did they
receive that the same way those activists do and did they get behind him
and feel angry and energized or is it a broader audience that says you know
what, I want somebody that seems a little more measured, I want somebody
who has experienced potentially a commander-in-chief more than Trump.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Here`s the question. The press gets some doors open for it
tonight. I`m talking about journalistic enterprise from now on.

COSTA: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: The fact we`re now focusing on four bankruptcies. The fact
we`re talking about some trash talk about women in the past. Did FOX do a
service for journalism by opening up those doors?

COSTA: Well, we`ve been looking in -- everybody has been looking into the
businesses. It`s only going to continue. Your question, though, about
Trump cresting, who else had the same amount of energy and the same amount
of correct response on that stage? If you want to beat Trump, you`ve got
to have some momentum. You`ve got to get attention. You`ve got to get
some buzz. No one else had it. He had it. He had some stumbles but he
still came out as the king.

MATTHEWS: Well, he may have gotten --

HUNT: I do think that there are a couple of people that really better
themselves tonight, though. First among them probably John Kasich. I
think he`s somebody that first of all he has the crowd on his side which,
as Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney both know, can really matter in a debate
setting like this. And second of all, he stood out on that stage more than
I think many of the others. He had a couple of good moments and that`s
what he needs to be doing right now.

COSTA: Compassion. Human.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Let`s take a look at him. The Ohio Governor John Kasich
talking about what pushed Trump to the top of the polls. Let`s listen to
his assessment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was just saying to Chris
Christie, they say we`re outspoken, we need to take lessons from Donald
Trump if we`re really going to -- if we`re going to learn.

Here`s the thing about Donald Trump. Donald Trump is hitting a nerve in
this country. He is. He`s hitting a nerve. People are frustrated. They
are fed up. They don`t think the government is working for them. And for
people that want to just tune him out, they are making a mistake.

Mr. Trump is touching a nerve because people want the wall to be built.
They want to see an end to illegal immigration. They want to see it and we
all do. But we all have different ways of getting there and you`re going
to hear from all of us tonight about what our ideas are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there he is giving him credit for being the booster rocket
for the conservative issues. Maybe that`s not the right solution, the
wall, but he`s raised the issue of illegal immigration in the way that
connects with the average Republican voter.

COSTA: I think Kasie nailed it. Kasich sneaks into this debate 10th spot,
goes right for Trump`s coalition.

ROBINSON: Yes.

COSTA: While embraces the Donald.

HUNT: Yes.

COSTA: Says I`m your kind of guy. I`m a combative working class Ohio
governor. So he`s thinking if Trump fizzles out, those could be my voters.

ROBINSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Who else is playing that card?

COSTA: Cruz. But Cruz didn`t really play it tonight.

ROBINSON: No, he didn`t.

HUNT: But Cruz barely played it tonight.

COSTA: Not as much as Kasich.

MATTHEWS: They`re all buying tickets on the Trump express, hoping that
Trump won`t make it.

ROBINSON: Yes. But, you don`t -- Trump did a couple of things to help
himself tonight. Despite maybe there were a couple of stumbles but one
thing he did, for example, was when FOX went after him, he hit back. OK.
He didn`t sort of meekly accept the premise of their questioning, he didn`t
apologize. He hit back either with a certain amount of --

MATTHEWS: What about his implicit threat to Megyn, when he goes like this,
like, it may get a little tougher for you?

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: I don`t -- I don`t --

MATTHEWS: What does that mean? A little tougher for you?

ROBINSON: I don`t know New York (INAUDIBLE). I don`t get that.

MATTHEWS: I just like, what`s that mean? A little tougher for you?

HUNT: Well, you heard him double down on that. I mean, I asked him about
whether, you know, he was essentially saying no one else got asked
questions like this on that stage and to which I asked him, well, has
anyone else made comments like this and he says well, everybody that I`ve
talked to says that the question was unfair.

MATTHEWS: Really?

HUNT: So he`s going after Megyn Kelly is doubling down.

MATTHEWS: How many people has he talked to since the program ended?

HUNT: That`s a great question.

ROBINSON: Many people. Many, many people.

MATTHEWS: Huge number of people.

ROBINSON: Huge.

MATTHEWS: Robert Costa, Kasie and Gene are all sticking with me.

Coming up, we`re going to get reaction tonight to the up and comer on this
stage tonight. Ohio Governor John Kasich, and this is HARDBALL, live
coverage of the Republican debate live from Cleveland.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL live in the streets of Cleveland with
some interesting people joining us in the streets. Anyway, we`ve just been
watching the first debate. Who came up on top tonight and got questions,
got the best punches and put another way, who is Hillary Clinton watching
tonight and perhaps fearing? That`s a strong word.

But Kasie and Gene Robinson are both still with me. And joining me right
now is former United States senator from New Hampshire, John Sununu, who is
a big backer of John Kasich. By the way, here`s John Kasich, the governor
of Ohio, talking about same-sex marriage tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KASICH: Because somebody doesn`t think the way I do doesn`t mean that I
can`t care about them or can`t love them. So if one of my daughters
happened to be that, of course I would love them and I would accept them.
Issues like that, issues like that are planted to divide us. I think the
simple fact of the matter is and this is where I would agree with Jeb, and
I`ve been saying it all along, we need to give everybody a chance, treat
everybody with respect and let them share in this great American dream.

God gives me unconditional love, I`m going to give it to my family and my
friends and the people around me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, that is an amazing appeal of compassion that reminds
me of Bobby Kennedy, who was part Irish cop and part guy who talked like
that and cared like that. And will that work in the Republican Party today
when there is so much anger and bitterness about things?

JOHN SUNUNU, FORMER U.S. REPUBLICAN SENATOR: Absolutely. And the power of
that answer and many of John Kasich`s answers tonight was that it was the
truth. You know, he just -- he talked about what he had done as a
congressman, what he had done in Ohio, what drives and motivates him, his
vision, and when you talk about those things passionately and from
experience, then leadership qualities come through.

I mean, they see that you`re poised. They see that you`re presidential so
you don`t have to say, I`m a leader or I`m presidential. It comes through
in the passion and the clarity with which we answer questions and that`s
why John Kasich did so well tonight.

MATTHEWS: Is there still a cloth coat Republican Party? Not a country
club party?

(CROSSTALK)

SUNUNU: That`s like two generations ago. I`m not even sure what that
means.

MATTHEWS: What it means is guys who are --

SUNUNU: There is a Republican Party that --

MATTHEWS: Working class guys.

SUNUNU: Sure. Working class? Absolutely. You know, Reagan Republicans,
Reagan Democrats, that want someone that has experience, that`s tough,
that`s honest, that will tell somebody, I don`t agree with you and in that
question, he was saying, I don`t necessarily agree with everyone on this,
but that won`t stop me from being a visionary and an inclusive president.

MATTHEWS: OK. You got two message centers tonight. One guy talking about
being a guy who grew up in pretty low economic circumstances and a couple
of them were like that. And then you have the bragger out there, saying,
I`m rich as hell, I say what I want about women.

SUNUNU: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And you`re going to vote for me because you look up to a guy
like me. What is the more appealing image? The guy who`s worked his way
to being a good governor or a guy who`s worked his way to making $10
billion?

SUNUNU: At the end of the day primary voters know they`re choosing a
candidate for the presidency of the United States and that requires
discipline and vision and leadership and not rhetoric, not attention
getting, not reality TV. I don`t think Donald Trump helped him tonight but
we`ll see.

MATTHEWS: When do the lines cross?

SUNUNU: It`s a long way to go.

MATTHEWS: When do Trump`s lines start to go down?

SUNUNU: Who knows?

MATTHEWS: And Kasich --

SUNUNU: Kasich`s team thinks Donald Trump`s numbers will go up. Maybe
they will. I think at the end of the day, though, you know, Republican
primary voters want someone that doesn`t need on-the-job-training, they
want someone that`s ready for that role today, and that`s one of John
Kasich`s strengths.

ROBINSON: See, I think the X factor, Senator, is something that my
colleague Bob Costa said, which is Republicans who don`t like to party, who
don`t like politics and politicians. It`s not just Republicans, by the
way. There are a lot of Democrats, too. They`re just fed up with the
political system and the way it functions or fails to function.

SUNUNU: Sure. Sure. Those voters were there. Those voters were there
for Pat Buchanan. They were there for Ross Perot.

ROBINSON: Yes.

SUNUNU: And neither of them ever won the nomination. I think it`s tough
to build a coalition if you`re starting from that point. And that`s the
challenge. It doesn`t mean it can`t be done but people that speak with a
conservative vision as John Kasich has, has governed with conservative
principles but inclusively. That`s the kind of candidate that`s been
successful in previous Republican primaries but also Republicans who get
elected president of the United States.

ROBINSON: You know, I certainly do agree that John Kasich cemented himself
as part of the conversation, a real part of the conservation.

MATTHEWS: Yes. He just squeaked into this conversation, too, let`s not
forget.

ROBINSON: Yes. I mean --

MATTHEWS: He just made the cut. Anyway, let`s take a look at this
response from Jeb Bush who seems to be sort of near the top but not very
exciting right now, to a question about Iraq. Apparently he bobbled this
one. Let`s take a watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Knowing what we know now with faulty
intelligence and not having security be the first priority when we invaded,
it was a mistake.

Here`s the lesson that we should take from this which relates to this whole
subject, Barack Obama became president and he abandoned Iraqi. He left.
And when he left, al Qaeda was done for, ISIS was created because of the
void that we left, and that void now exists as a caliphate the size of
Indiana.

To honor the people that died, we need to -- we need to stop the -- Iran
agreement, for sure, because the Iranian mullahs have their blood on their
hands and we need to take out ISIS with every tool at our disposal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know how you can keep talking like that. With all the
evidence that runs against him. We know now there was never any evidence
that they had nuclear weapons. We know now that Dick Cheney went out and
said there were. We know there wasn`t just mistakes of intelligence, there
was never any intelligence they had nuclear weapons, and we sold that to
the American people, that that was why we had to go to war.

And we breaking up Iraq is a fact and the reason there is an ISIS is we
broke up Iraq. We put the Shia in charge, the Sunnis had to go somewhere.
We take the entire Sunni-led army out of their jobs. They went off and
joined the leadership core of ISIS. These are the facts. The idea that we
should have stayed there forever and somehow avoided the problem that we
created seems to be contradictory in fact.

Gene, your thoughts about this. This is so sad to listen to a loyal
brother just cover for his brother like that.

ROBINSON: Yes. I mean, and that`s what he`s doing, right? Because he`s
reached this position after that long, long week of fumbling around and
trying not to say it was (INAUDIBLE), he says it was based on what we know
now. You know, I think --

MATTHEWS: We didn`t know it then.

ROBINSON: Is the correct version? Well, yes. He should have known.

HUNT: I think this underscores the narrative that we had going into this
debate. You have Trump grabbing the headlines, and you have Jeb Bush
struggling to show in these kinds of settings that he is the front runner.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HUNT: And while maybe his pocketbook is huge and we haven`t gotten to the
advertising stage -- by the way, I`m wondering when Mike Murphy is going to
start airing super PAC ads on his behalf and I think maybe the campaign is
wondering that as well.

MATTHEWS: Can you do biography ads of a guy that everybody knows? Can you
start selling a narrative about somebody they`re already bored with?

HUNT: This was his chance to introduce himself --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HUNT: -- to Republicans as something other than just Bush and I`m not
convinced he pulled it off.

ROBINSON: And I got to say at the Republican watch party where I watched
the debate, there was no passion for Jeb Bush. You did not see -- you saw
flashes of passion for most of the other candidates in some way, shape or
form. I got to say, I didn`t see that for Jeb Bush.

MATTHEWS: No. I think he learned a lot tonight.

ROBINSON: Now maybe that was a few sample of --

MATTHEWS: I think that`s the dog that didn`t bark tonight. The excitement
for Jeb Bush.

(CROSSTALK)

SUNUNU: It may bark in the coming weeks. I mean, you know --

MATTHEWS: For Jeb?

SUNUNU: Yes. We`ll see how it plays out. Kasie is right. For all the
candidates, you can`t forget, these early debates are about introducing
yourself even if you`re pretty well-known.

ROBINSON: Yes.

SUNUNU: What`s your vision? What kind of leadership and experience do you
have? What kind of temperament do you have? Are you presidential and you
can`t assume that the voters know who you are and some of the candidates
did better at that tonight and some didn`t.

MATTHEWS: Your guy did great.

SUNUNU: He did. He really did well.

MATTHEWS: Kasich did well tonight. I think everybody in the panel thought
so all night long.

John Sununu, sir, thank you for joining us tonight here on behalf of John
Kasich.

SUNUNU: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Our coverage from Cleveland continues in a minute and later,
John Stewart`s grand finale. We`ll show you a bit of that. If you weren`t
watching that station, Comedy Central. And this is HARDBALL on MSNBC, the
place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Certainly, I think
going third party is a death wish. And so I don`t think that`s any secret
at all. But I don`t see that happening. You know, you can`t win an
election against Hillary Clinton unless you`re running as a Republican. So
Donald Trump gets that and so we do, too.

I`ve had great conversations with him and that at each step of the way,
he`s getting more and more comfortable in this process. So I`m just
telling you my own personal opinion and my own experience in working here
with Donald Trump. I think things are going to be just fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That`s of course the inimitable
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, talking
about Donald Trump tonight in the debate spin room.

With me now is former Ohio state senator and now Ohio Democratic Party
engagement chair, Nina Turner, and Kasie and Gene are still with me.

Now what`s an engagement chair? That`s a new one for me. I thought I knew
all the apparent public offices. What`s an engagement chair?

NINA TURNER, OHIO DEMOCRATIC PARTY ENGAGEMENT CHAIR: Well, you go out
engage the people --

MATTHEWS: Yes. The outreach.

TURNER: Right.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about this may not square with your partisan
views, which I love to not square with sometimes, I don`t mind fighting. I
think Kasich did well tonight. I mean, I`ve seen governors of other states
tonight, and they`re Democrat or Republican, he seems like one of the
better governors out there.

TURNER: Well, Chris, it might surprise you, I think the governor did, too,
and I have warned my Democratic colleagues not to sleep on Governor Kasich.
He is from the great state of Ohio, the great swing state of Ohio. He won
in 2014 overwhelmingly with some help from the Democrats because we did not
have a strong gubernatorial candidate.

MATTHEWS: Yes. He won with 60 points.

TURNER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about what wasn`t talked about tonight. And, you
know, I`m proud of the fact that on this show HARDBALL and other shows on
MSNBC we have been talking about denial of voting rights.

TURNER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I mean, almost every week because it would seem to be an
American value. That even though if you`re losing the campaign because of
demographics, you figure, well, I got to get our act together. But you
don`t start preventing people from voting.

TURNER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Shows to the polls, some of these traditional African-American
ways of voting, African-American ways of voting.

TURNER: On Sunday. Yes.

MATTHEWS: And just saying well, let`s tighten that up a little bit. We
can get it.

TURNER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And then states like Pennsylvania that openly said this is how
they can win elections, the Republicans.

TURNER: Right.

MATTHEWS: Well, how about here in Ohio? And by the way, it never came up
tonight in this two-hour debate.

TURNER: No. And this is the 50 -- well, you know, past midnight but the
50-year anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and none of the commentators
had the courage to ask the candidates where they stood on voting rights and
the Republicans had the pure unadulterated gall to send out a tweet saying
that they want to give homage to those who sacrifice. Well, the way that
you support those who gave their blood, sweat and tears for voting rights.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TURNER: Is to increase access to voting, not to suppress it. And so I say
that sometimes my Republican colleagues subscribe to if we can`t beat them,
we cheat them, and the way we cheat them is to redistricting in a way that
the voter doesn`t get a chance to choose those are running for office and
then through trying to suppress the vote. We live through that.

MATTHEWS: Gene, it`s hard to sell young people on the fact but you know
it`s a fact.

ROBINSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: When voting rights and civil rights passed in `64 and `65.

ROBINSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: The Republicans voted almost to the last man.

ROBINSON: Absolutely.

TURNER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Only a handful opposed in the whole Congress.

ROBINSON: The Republicans never would have passed because of southern
Democrats who blocked it.

TURNER: That`s right.

ROBINSON: Never would have gotten through. I grew up in Southern
Carolina. Voting Rights Act is very personal. It`s the place to be, to
say the least.

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: That`s right. That`s right.

ROBINSON: You know, and this happens whether today or yesterday, appeals
court struck down the Texas Voter ID law the Republican passed and promoted
because it curtails voting rights. It violates the voting rights or what
is left of it.

MATTHEWS: So it just bothered me again tonight when I see, Kasie, how the
two political parties are ships passing in the night. Hillary Clinton will
talk about child development, education, all the things that parents,
especially mothers, care about. Republicans really didn`t get to any of
that stuff tonight. Really?

HUNT: It did not.

MATTHEWS: It just -- as if they don`t have kids, they don`t have families.
I mean, those issues become almost Democratic issues, and tonight, a lot
more talk about Republican stuff, you know, security particularly.

HUNT: One thing that I would actually watch for as we heads towards this
general election is the question that Megyn Kelly asked Scott Walker on
abortion in particular. She talked about the life of an unborn child
versus the life of a mother because in some instances Walker has opposed
abortion when --

MATTHEWS: Even not health but life.

HUNT: And life.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HUNT: And that could, I think, carry through in the event Walker is the
nominee, something you can hear again in the general election.

MATTHEWS: But is there any hospital, by the way, Catholic or not, Mormon
or not, that honors that, better the child than the mother?

ROBINSON: Not that I know of.

MATTHEWS: I`ve never heard of that. I`ve never heard of that protocol.
Does that exist?

TURNER: But whether Walker makes it or not, and I agree, but just the
disdain that was shown for women in general, I mean, everybody has a
mother.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TURNER: You know, some woman that you love and to just blanketly say that
you don`t care, treating women as if we`re just carriers and that`s it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TURNER: It was just totally --

MATTHEWS: Well, it was worse than that.

(LAUGHTER)

TURNER: This (INAUDIBLE) of women.

MATTHEWS: His glossary of words choices like dog.

TURNER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I mean, I don`t want to get through them all but Megyn mentioned
a lot of them today.

TURNER: Oh my gosh.

MATTHEWS: And I thought, I think he actually did look for Donald Trump
embarrassed while she was reading the particulars. I mean, he was almost
blanching, almost.

TURNER: But the audience clapped, though, Chris. The audience -- some
folks in that audience clapped at that. And so that to me shows a problem
that sexism is still OK.

MATTHEWS: Well --

ROBINSON: In part that was the dynamic, though. And part it was the
dynamic of Megyn going after Trump and Trump hitting back and some of the
applause I heard more for the hitting back, I hope.

TURNER: Well, I would hope, too. I`m not so sure.

ROBINSON: I`m being optimistic.

HUNT: This is tricky dynamic, too, because it`s usually always a winning
issue for Republicans to go after the media and there have been so many
moments in debates in the past where a candidate has gone after the
moderator and succeeded.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HUNT: In the case where you have FOX News doing it.

MATTHEWS: Well said.

HUNT: You have a woman, Megyn Kelly, she`s shown a willingness to get
these candidates under --

MATTHEWS: So ironically tomorrow there may be some Democratic ad writers
who are calling out Roger Ailes, can we use -- can we have rights to use
Megyn Kelly going after Trump and his response?

ROBINSON: Really.

MATTHEWS: That would be fascinating with a little FOX thing at the bottom.

Anyway, Nina Turner, thank you.

TURNER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Good luck in politics. Thanks for being with us about the
Voting Rights Act.

Gene, of course, Gene Robinson of the "Washington Post." Kasie Hunt is
going to stick with us as our live coverage from Cleveland continues after
this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back on this. I have to tell you, a beautiful night.
If you`re going to stay out all night, stay out all night in this kind of
weather in Cleveland. This has been about -- this is like San Francisco
weather out here tonight. About 72 degrees and no apparent schnitzing.
It`s not bad. And you went out here. We have to see if tonight`s debate,
how it`s going to affect the polls.

HUNT: All day.

MATTHEWS: Of course in the next couple of days but it always will. But
there is no question that Donald Trump will remain the center of attention
for now. He clearly is. Look at the wire stories for tomorrow. Every
paper in the country is going to lead with what he said. I`m not
guaranteeing I`m going to run with the Republicans.

Of all the other candidates Rand Paul of course was the most aggressive in
attacking Trump. Here is how Paul went after him when Trump said he
wouldn`t rule out an independent bid for the White House, a third party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He buys and sells politicians
of all stripes. He`s already -- hey, look, look. He`s already hedging his
bet on the Clintons, OK? So if he doesn`t run as a Republican, maybe he
supports Clinton or maybe runs as an independent but I`d say that he`s
already hedging his bets because he`s used to buying politicians.

TRUMP: Well, I`ve given you plenty of money.

BRET BAIER, DEBATE MODERATOR: You can`t make -- we`re going to move on.
You`re not going to make the pledge tonight.

TRUMP: I will not make the pledge at this time.

BAIER: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Chip Englander is Rand Paul`s campaign manager. Thank you. And
also with us, our MSNBC guys, Kasie Hunt is with us again, and the great
Steve Kornacki who is always in short sleeves. Always on top.

(CROSSTALK)

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC`S "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI": Think weather.

MATTHEWS: Always in short sleeves.

Anyway, was this a connect or did you guys plan early on you were going to
take on the Donald? Right out of there, right out off the bat you went
after him.

CHIP ENGLANDER, RAND PAUL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I think Senator Paul, he
won the debate in the first two minutes when he was the only candidate
willing to hold Trump accountable for saying hey, I`d run as a third party
and hand the White House to Hillary Clinton. I mean, that`s what it`s
going to take to win this primary, really to beat the Clinton machine.

MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s possible to get into a tango -- a tangle with
Donald Trump who seems to own the home court advantage on television to get
a mano-a-mano with him like that? Do you think he`d win?

ENGLANDER: I think we did win that one. I think it was pretty clear. I
mean, Senator Paul was aggressive and got the point across and I think
people really responded. I think people -- I don`t think that -- I think
that exchange really demonstrated quite a bit the senator`s ability to be
articulate and even do it against someone like Trump who thrives in these
situations.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of this, Steve? Because tonight I thought Paul
was good at doing what he does which is defend his libertarian values
against the security state. Now of course in a Republican fight, it always
seems to go back to Giuliani versus, you know, Ron Paul again. It always
goes back to that 9/11, say 9/11 and immediately you win the security
argument.

You know, I knew people that were killed. That sentiment, which is fair
enough, of course, just drives the audience and the audience goes -- they
don`t think in terms of who is in my pocket, who`s in my computer, who`s in
my house.

KORNACKI: Well, that was the other big squabble of the night. You had
Donald Trump versus the moderators and Rand Paul, but you also had Rand
Paul and Chris Christie and I think just politically Paul and Christie both
helped themselves there. I think, you know, we`ve talked in the last few
weeks about Rand Paul sort of falling out of the news a little bit. This
was a chance for him to reclaim some of his turf in this fight, picking
that battle with Chris Christie. At the same time, we said going in, Chris
Christie was looking for one of those moments where the Chris Christie that
the Republican Party fell in love with a few years ago, the guy will all
those beautiful moments.

MATTHEWS: The bully?

KORNACKI: So he got a chance to mix it up with Rand Paul. So one of those
things I think they both got something out of that moment.

MATTHEWS: Well, what about when they got high schoolish? When one guy
says, yes, you were out there hugging Obama and the other guy said, you`re
nothing but hot air. I mean, it did sound like just a high school
argument.

HUNT: Well, I mean, because that`s to a certain extent, when you get into
an argument with Chris Christie, you never know which way it`s going to go.
But at the same time, this is a place where, you know, Christie is really
speaking from a depth of personal experience on the 9/11 issue in a way
that some of these other candidates are not. I mean, to be able to say
look, I`ve gone to FISA court, I`ve had to get warrants, I tried to do
things, and that`s in part why I think the argument with --

MATTHEWS: He didn`t just do that. He get personal and went after your
candidate, Senator Rand Paul, where as he put it, giving floor statements
on the Senate and then in half hour putting them on the Web.

ENGLANDER: Yes, I think Senator Paul again, he was being bold, not backing
down, and demonstrated that he was somebody who will stand up for the
entire Bill of Rights. We can`t pick and choose which parts this -- the
debate was. It wasn`t just about platitudes and slogans and throwing
things out. But people are looking for somebody who`s out there, who`s
willing to stand up and defend the whole constitution and that they really
believe isn`t going to be just another politician sort of going along,
getting along, saying nice things.

MATTHEWS: And your guy is not just another politician. I give him that.

Anyway, after the debate tonight, Donald Trump explained on the show
"Hannity" why he didn`t make the pledge to not run as an independent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Why should I give up that leverage? If they don`t treat me well --
you know, you`re talking about the establishment Republicans, if they don`t
treat me well, Sean, why should I make that pledge?

You know, I may at some point do it because I`m starting to really like the
establishment people? Reince and the whole group have really been nice
lately and -- but, you know, at this moment it`s great leverage and I might
as well use it. I mean, this country should use leverage in trade deals.
They don`t believe in it because they don`t know what they`re doing so I
knew that was going to be a little bit controversial but it was exciting, a
really good way to --

(CROSSTALK)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: You`re not afraid to just say I`m not --

TRUMP: I`m not afraid.

HANNITY: You know what, you hope -- if you didn`t win, you would hope that
you would be able to support the Republican nomination.

TRUMP: One hundred percent correct. I just want to be treated well, be
treated with respect. One hundred percent correct.

HANNITY: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Steve, the -- we`re just seeing the militancy of Donald Trump,
no justice, no peace. I mean, that`s what he`s basically saying. No
justice, no peace, unless I get treated right, I`m going to war with you
guys.

KORNACKI: It`s interesting, you play in the FOX tonight. And I think this
is the big story in the next few days now. We saw a couple of weeks ago
Donald Trump made the comment about John McCain and the law of politics
says you can`t say what he just said and get away with it. Well, he did.
We learned that law didn`t necessarily apply.

Here`s another one. We`re going to find whether it applies or not. Can
you as a Republican candidate for president essentially go to war with FOX
News and survive? Because the coverage on FOX after this debate tonight
has been absolutely brutal on Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: Did he have this thing in there?

KORNACKI: From the minute --

MATTHEWS: Megyn, I`m coming for you if you won`t be nice to me?

KORNACKI: From the minute -- he went after their marquee personalities,
they have their focus on Trump.

MATTHEWS: I know it was coming.

KORNACKI: Everybody in the focus groups says this is a bad night.

MATTHEWS: I have been saying for days he`s going to meet his waterloo with
Megyn Kelly because you don`t go to war with her because she is in fact
judge and juror. She looks at you, she gets that look, like, no.

KORNACKI: And he stayed on, as you -- I think you had that interview with
him in the spin room afterwards. He -- you know, he kept on saying, look,
she wasn`t nice to me tonight. He didn`t back off.

MATTHEWS: He think she`s --

KORNACKI: He doubled down on it.

HUNT: And it`s dangerous. If Donald Trump loses FOX News, then it is
distinctly possible that will have a direct impact on his poll numbers.
Now who knows? They`ve been Teflon so far.

MATTHEWS: Well, Donald, come on over here to MS, we`ll give you a nice
platform and talk. It may work you over a little bit but we would like you
over here occasionally. Donald Trump.

Anyway, Chip Englander, thank you. Thanks for being with us on behalf of
Rand Paul.

When we come back, the other big story tonight, Jon Stewart. Well, this
was really history tonight. All the heroes, right, Letterman, they are all
going. Jon Stewart left the stage tonight. His final appearance on "The
Daily Show," a really, really brilliant show, and this is HARDBALL, a place
for politics. Live in Cleveland for the first Republican debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back from Cleveland and the coverage of the first
Republican debate. Tonight the "Huffington Post`s" Howard Fineman is here
with me, along with Kasie Hunt and Steve Kornacki.

Well, as the Republicans bashed each other on the debate stage tonight, Jon
Stewart signed off from "The Daily Show." After an unbelievable 16 years
he showed his emotions a bit in his farewell tonight and here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: I`ve been in show business a long time.
I`ve worked in a lot of different atmospheres at varying levels of
toxicity, and this is the most beautiful place I`ve ever been.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The most beautiful place I`ve ever been. That`s a common
sentiment among guys like him and even me.

Anyway, tomorrow night, watch our special on Jon Stewart, it`s called "Jon
Stewart Has Left the Building." And it airs here on MSNBC tomorrow night,
Friday night at 9:00 Eastern. 9:00 Eastern. That is going to be a novel
item for us all.

Howard, you`re with us. Where are you, Howard? There you are. You just
came in quietly. So tonight the big news he won`t guarantee he`s running
with the Republican Party.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST: Well, I`ll end the night the way I began
it which is by saying that this is not right now a debate between
individuals, it`s a debate between two ideas of politics. One of them is
the politics that we`re familiar with, that you and I have been covering
forever. The other is an anything goes, parties don`t matter, traditions
don`t matter, briefing books don`t matter, kind of politics and that`s --

MATTHEWS: Manners don`t matter toward women.

FINEMAN: And that -- and manners don`t matter. As a matter of fact, the
less manners you have the better apparently.

MATTHEWS: Carly Fiorina made noise tonight by saying Hillary Clinton lies.
She just said lies, lies --

FINEMAN: Well, that`s the nature --

MATTHEWS: That`s serious business.

FINEMAN: That is the nature of politics right now is the accusatory tone.
It`s the don`t mess with me attitude. It`s the paranoia and the legitimate
fears. I mean, Trump may have stumbled tonight. I actually think that he
stumbled a little more than you all are giving him credit or discredit for
doing.

MATTHEWS: On the women`s issue?

FINEMAN: On a whole lot of things. On the women`s issue, on the fact that
even though he`s claiming not to be a politician, he was slipping and
sliding around there on some explanations that made no sense that sounded
very much like a politician to me but when John Kasich, who we`ve rightly
been praising here tonight, also says listen to what Donald Trump is saying
on, for example, fears about immigration, that in a way is giving Trumpism
credit even if it`s saying Trump himself -- you used the phrase booster
rocket before.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: That`s sort of what I --

MATTHEWS: They want to --

FINEMAN: That`s how I see Trump.

HUNT: Well, and Howard, I think Howard hit on a good point which is that
the longer Trump stays in this and the more he veers toward actually
becoming one of these politicians, the more dangerous territory he is in
from the perspective of losing the people that he`s attached to, and I`m
also wondering a little bit what`s happening behind the scenes particularly
with Jeb Bush. One of my sources said that Trump was particularly
solicitous of Bush in private tonight when they interacted personally and
then Trump came out after the debate and praised Bush for being cordial to
him on the debate.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: Yes, that --

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: When Reince Priebus said he`s going to be OK, meaning that Trump
is going to be OK. There are the mistaken impression that they can
domesticate this guy because when Trump was out on the stage, you`re right,
Kasie, he was very nice behind the stage and after.

MATTHEWS: Yes. OK.

FINEMAN: But during the debate, he basically blamed the entire Bush family
for the modern failures of America.

MATTHEWS: I think FOX made news tonight. They may made some enemies
inside the fight but boy, they got their headline in the first minute.

Anyway, Fineman, let`s take a look at some of Trump`s most interesting
moments from tonight`s debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I cannot say I have to respect the person that if it`s not me the
person that wins. If I do win and I`m leading by quite a bit, that`s what
I want to do. I can totally make that pledge.

MEGYN KELLY, DEBATE MODERATOR: You call women you don`t like fat pigs,
dogs, slobs and disgusting animals. Your Twitter account --

TRUMP: Only Rosie O`Donnell.

RAND: News flash, the Republican Party has been fighting against the
single-payer system for a decade. So I think you`re on the wrong side of
this if you`re still arguing for a single-payer.

TRUMP: I`m not -- I don`t think you heard me. You`re having a hard time
tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: Well, I`ll tell you what, with Hillary Clinton I said be at my
wedding and she came to my wedding. You know why? She had no choice
because I gave.

We have a president who doesn`t have a clue. I would say he`s incompetent
but I don`t want to do that because that`s not nice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the courses of tonight`s debate was pretty much
surrounding us tonight because I think when somebody says you`re just hot
air and you know, you hug the guy, you know, and I go back to Fiorina`s
comment about Hillary Clinton who is probably the Democratic nominee, I
don`t know how you continue with the debate once you called a person a
liar. I`m sorry, it is a conversation stopper. You go into a debate and
all the moderator says, you`ve called this person you`re debating right now
a liar. What do you do after that? Stop listening or you stop talking?

KORNACKI: Here`s the thing I`ve said. Picking up on what you`re saying
and what Howard is saying. There`s two tracks here, right? You talk about
the Fiorina approach, you talk about the Trump approach. That`s one track.
You talk about the more conventional approach to politics and debating,
that`s the second track. And what interests me on that track, the non-
Trump track tonight, I think there`s two big stories.

One is this was not a good night for Jeb Bush and two, this was a very good
night for Marco Rubio, a very quiet and good night, because I think he`s
the most viable candidate outside Trump, the most viable candidate who had
a really --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK, I think Kasich did well, too, but I think you`re right about
him being the best tonight was Rubio.

Our coverage of the first Republican debate continues from Cleveland right
after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Howard Fineman, my friend. Thank you, Kasie. And
thank you, Steve Kornacki, my great surrogate. Anyway, thank you so much.

This is HARDBALL for tonight. Good night.

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

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