updated 11/5/2015 1:46:23 PM ET 2015-11-05T18:46:23

Show: HARDBALL
Date: November 4, 2015
Guest: Jay Newton-Small, Carol Lee, Rebecca Berg, Betty Boyd Caroli

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Trump lets it rip.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews on a day that it appears Donald
Trump is now convinced he`s got a real chance to be president.

After months of gobbling up free media attention, he`s going to start
peeling off the dollars to get his brand across the American way. He`s
about to spend a chunk of his billions in paid on-air advertising.

Well, the big question is how he will use his personal financial heft
to bury the few rivals still in the field against him, painting Ben Carson
as a loser, Marco Rubio for living off the Republican Party`s Florida
credit card, anyway.

Having already survived a pair of governors, Rick Perry of Texas,
Scott Walker of Wisconsin, he has far outlasted and outperformed pretty
much all expectations, except for his own.

And I`ll stand with my own modest assessment. If Donald Trump is
still high up here in November, which is now, why do we not expect him to
be high up there come February, when the actual voting begins in Iowa?

David Plouffe, a former adviser to President Obama, had a warning for
Washington pundits -- Don`t underestimate Donald Trump or Ben Carson.
Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID PLOUFFE, FMR. OBAMA ADVISER: I find it interesting. Carson`s
getting dismissed, but here`s someone who`s leading in all the polls, is
building a huge following, has a lot of social media skill, apparently a
lot of grass roots support (INAUDIBLE) materialize.

So I think sort of in the Acela corridor, there`s a dismissive
approach to Carson and Trump. But they`re both sitting there, if you
combine them, over 50 in most national polls.

See, my assumption has always been, maybe thinking too conventionally
is, whether it`s a Bush or a Kasich or a Cruz, this period will end and
they`ll emerge. But I don`t know. We`re getting pretty deep into this.
It`s still very early, but you know, we`re almost at Thanksgiving, and
you`ve got two people with significant leads.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Agreed. I`m joined right now by NBC`s Katy Tur,
"Washington Post" columnist Eugene Robinson and Washington correspondent
for "Time" magazine, Jay Newton-Small.

Katy, it seems like he`s going to start spending money. What do you
got for us on that front?

KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: He may be starting to spend money. "The
New York Times" is reporting that those ads that he`s going to be releasing
this week starting tomorrow, which will be unveiled, if you will, on
"MORNING JOE" tomorrow morning, are actually radio ads.

And radio ads, as you know, cost significantly less than the TV ads,
just a few thousand dollars compared to tens of thousands of dollars, if
not hundreds of thousands of dollars, for TV buys. So Donald Trump is not
really spending a lot of money, if these are radio ads in just Iowa, New
Hampshire and South Carolina.

The money really would be spent if he was buying long-term TV ads. So
it`s more like Donald Trump is dipping his toe into the water here, seeing
how these ads affect his poll numbers in these states.

But again, he is still not spending that much money out of his own
pocket. He hasn`t really needed to. He`s been atop the polls. But so
far, only about $2 million. He`s spent more of his donors` money than he
has spent on his own, of his own money so far this campaign.

And that is really telling for people who say that he`s really not
taking this campaign very seriously. But again, he hasn`t really needed to
because he`s still getting a lot of air time, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I`m wondering when the right time is for him to
unload. If he`s got $11 billion, he does have the freedom to spend it.

Anyway, Donald Trump has said he`s holding off running ads so far, has
done so because of all the free media attention he`s received. And that`s
changing. Trump said he will begin now airing his first radio ads, as Katy
said, in several early voting states in the next few days. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m going to be spending a
lot. And I`m going to be very positive with my ads. I`m not going to be
hitting anybody. I will say this, however. If they hit me, they will get
smacked like they never got smacked before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, isn`t that interesting.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I want to go to Gene Robinson and Jay here. This thought
about the ad -- I think he`s doing what he has to do to stay in this game,
and I think he`s going to be in this game.

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly.
I mean, if he up to this point had been tossing money around left and
right, we`d all be saying what a novice he is, how he`s wasting his
money...

MATTHEWS: Like Jeb is.

ROBINSON: ... right -- when he`s getting all this free air time. But
now that -- especially now that Ben Carson has clearly -- well, not just
crept up on him in the polls, but has surpassed him in some national polls,
although Trump is generally ahead, still ahead in New Hampshire...

MATTHEWS: But he did come on tax (ph) beat (ph), didn`t he.

ROBINSON: Yes. Right.

MATTHEWS: Ben doesn`t make a lost of noise coming in the door, does
he. Just all of a sudden, he`s there.

ROBINSON: Doesn`t make a lot of noise. But I think you`re right. I
think trump is doing what he thinks he needs to do to keep his poll numbers
up in the early states.

MATTHEWS: Jay?

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I agree that Ben Carson is sort of
walking softly and carrying a big stick here, and he`s certainly a threat
to Donald Trump. But you know, Trump -- the idea that he would still be
ahead in three months` time and that the field would be absolutely frozen
to me seems unrealistic. I mean, it`s a horse race. You`re not going to
have any other horses gain or lose, you`re not going to have any other...

MATTHEWS: Yes, but there`s only about four candidates in this race
right now. Let`s be honest.

NEWTON-SMALL: That`s true. There are...

(CROSSTALK)

NEWTON-SMALL: There`s always the dark horses.

MATTHEWS: Yes, which one -- I think the dark horses have been running
a long time, running hard and they`re not getting anywhere.

When it comes to Marco Rubio, however, Jeb Bush and even Ben Carson,
Trump is letting it rip. Here`s some of his attack on the other
candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think Rubio doesn`t have it. If you look at his stance on
immigration, he`s very weak.

You look at Rubio, he wants open borders. That`s why I don`t
understand why he`s doing as well as he`s doing, which isn`t that well,
frankly.

We need strength now. We don`t need Ben Carson. He`s a wonderful
man. I like him a lot. But we don`t need somebody that doesn`t make a
deal. He`s never employed anybody, maybe a nurse.

Jeb Bush says he`s not a good -- why would he admit that? I watched
him. I`m not an entertainer. He goes, I`m not a good talker. I don`t
speak well. I don`t debate well. I don`t do anything well. But you
should vote for me. That`s Jeb Bush.

Why would you say these things? This is what`s going to negotiate
with China? This is what`s going to negotiate with Iran?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I just don`t think this country`s in its usual mood, on the
right, especially. The whole idea is pick a guy who`s been -- he goes to
law school, he gets elected attorney general of the state, Fritz Mondale,
Bill Clinton, then he gets to be governor, then we make him president.

If you think that`s the route to greatness, check out this guy in
Kentucky, who just got his ass handed to him out there. This is not the
way the American people are looking for leaders anymore -- law school, make
it -- you know, like, law review, make AG, make -- we`re not looking for
Walter Mondale anymore or Bill Clinton!

ROBINSON: The other thing is that Trump and Carson, the outsiders,
each has a core issue, right, because Trump`s core issue is immigration.
He keeps coming back to that.

MATTHEWS: It`s not the resume.

ROBINSON: He made a -- he made a -- he made big bang with what he
said about immigration, and a lot of people in the Republican Party agree
with him. Ben Carson`s is gun rights. You know, I mean, he wants
everybody to have more guns. And there are a lot of people in the
Republican Party who agree with that.

So I think it`s unrealistic for the establishment to expect this
support...

MATTHEWS: What are the other guys...

ROBINSON: ... to evaporate...

MATTHEWS: But what are the other...

ROBINSON: ... when it`s based on something.

MATTHEWS: So well said, a chunk of reality behind their appeal. What
is the appeal of Marco Rubio? What does he -- what chunk of policy does he
bring to the table, some sort of youthful hawkishness so that the neocons
will like him, so they`ll wag their tails at him?

NEWTON-SMALL: I mean, that is his argument, is that he has the
strongest stool of anybody, right, the three-legged stool. So he`s -- of
any candidate, he is -- he`s sort of acceptable to the defense hawks. He`s
acceptable to the fiscal conservatives.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s not...

NEWTON-SMALL: He`s acceptable to the social conservatives. And he`s
not exciting on any of the issues, but he has the most stable (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: I think Trump`s as much in this fight as anybody.

Anyway, Trump slammed Marco Rubio over his finances, which are very
questionable, you know, living off a check -- I don`t know what he
(INAUDIBLE), something to do with credit cards and using the boss`s credit
card instead of your own. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Marco Rubio has a disaster on his finances. He has a disaster
on his credit cards. When you check his credit cards, take a look at what
he`s done with the Republican Party when he had access, what he had to put
back in, and whether or not something should have happened, you`ll
understand it.

Marco Rubio has a basic disaster on finance. So let`s see what you
find. Let`s see what kind of a reporter you are, OK? Good luck.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: It won`t be -- it won`t be hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He`s now the assignment desk, eh? Katy, he tells people
what to report and then what to do the digging on. Anyway, "The Tampa Bay
Times" reported on the story behind Rubio`s credit card.

They wrote, quote, "As speaker of the Florida house, Rubio was one of
about a half dozen lawmakers given Republican Party of Florida credit
cards. He routinely charged personal expenses, from a $10.50 movie tickets
to a four-day $10,000 family reunion." I don`t know what a $10,000 family
reunion is. "Over (ph) those two years, he charged about $110,000, and he
said he spent (ph) about $16,000 to American Express to cover personal
expenses, though the expenses were never detailed. In 2012, the state
ethics commission cleared Rubio of an ethics complaint, though an
investigator said the level of negligence exhibited by Rubio`s confusion
between the GOP American Express and his own Mastercard and failing to
recognize the error on monthly statements was, quote, `disturbing.`"

Anyway, Rubio defended his financial history early today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People need to
understand what they`re talking about here. It wasn`t a credit card. It
was an American Express charge card secured under my personal credit in
conjunction with the party. I would go through -- bills would be mailed to
me at home. Every month, I would go through it. If there was a personal
expense, I paid it. If it was a party expense, the party paid it.

Now, I`ve recognized in hindsight I would do it different to avoid all
this confusion. But the Republican Party never paid a single expense of
mine, a personal expense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Why does that sound like e-mails? I would have done it
differently. I used mine. I fixed it after the -- I mean, why is he in
the weeds there?

NEWTON-SMALL: But -- but...

MATTHEWS: Why is his life so complicated?

NEWTON-SMALL: Well, it`s a total train wreck of personal finances,
but there`s a lot of Americans, frankly, that can relate to that.

MATTHEWS: But they`re not running for president of the United States,
to be chief executive of the United States government.

NEWTON-SMALL: That`s true, but Marco Rubio`s personal finance
mistakes didn`t, say (ph), cost tens of thousands of jobs, the way that,
you know, Donald Trump`s...

MATTHEWS: Yes, but it`s an executive...

NEWTON-SMALL: ... mistakes did.

MATTHEWS: ... position. It`s not running for the Senate, when you
just give speeches. It`s about an executive responsibility running the
United States government.

NEWTON-SMALL: No, it is.

MATTHEWS: It is a job.

NEWTON-SMALL: I know. I realize that, but I`m also saying...

MATTHEWS: It`s not a speech -- it`s not a speech-giving contest.

NEWTON-SMALL: Donald Trump saying this about Marco Rubio is a bit
like the pot calling the kettle black here.

MATTHEWS: You know why I think Trump`s doing this race? Because --
Katy, and your last word here -- I don`t think the others fit the role of
chief executive, commander-in-chief. I don`t really believe Dr. Ben Carson
wants to run the American military forces around the world. I don`t think
he`s running for that. He`s running for some sort of spiritual chaplain of
the country, some -- "Do no harm" seems to be his national battle flag --
I`m not going to hurt anybody for the next four or eight years.

I see the same thing with the rest of -- Rubio is way too young and
seems to be, in terms of any experience to really be credible as commander-
in-chief of the United States forces around the world, head of the
executive branch, head of U.S. economic policy. Economic policy? His
training (ph) is insanity in the way he`s behaved himself.

So I don`t get the challengers and Cruz -- well, he`s nobody`s day at
the beach, Cruz. He`s absolutely the most unappealing of all the
candidates.

Katy, that`s why Trump`s (INAUDIBLE) You`re down on Trump. Why?

TUR: I -- I`m...

MATTHEWS: You seem down on -- you keep saying by the time we get
there, he won`t be there. There`s no reason to believe he`ll still be
there.

TUR: I`m neutral on Trump.

MATTHEWS: What`s with the doomsday on this guy?

TUR: I`m neutral on Trump. I do think Donald Trump is having a good
time with this. I also think Donald Trump enjoys seeing himself on these -
- on a grand scale, and this is the grandest scale of all in this country.

I do think that he`s very good at reading audiences. He`s also very
good at smelling weakness. And I think he sees a real weakness in the
Republican Party right now in terms of their candidates.

As you said, Marco Rubio doesn`t have a lot of experience so far. He
can be compared to President Obama, with just one term in the Senate. He`s
got financial issues. He has a Senate voting records that is getting
panned. Ted Cruz, no walk in -- no day at the beach, I think is what you
said. I think people agree with that. I think Ben Carson has got a very
low energy appeal to some people, but that won`t necessarily appeal to
independents down the line.

And when you talk to people in the RNC, and when you talk to
independents in the field, or even some Democrats, Donald Trump is
appealing to them because they believe he`s an outsider. They like that
he`s rough around the edges and he`s different.

I think there`s a lot of people in this country that want something
different, and Donald Trump is the epitome of different. And all along
the, way he`s very entertaining. If

he dips down to third in the polls, fourth in the polls, there`s a
part of me that thinks that he`s going to get out early because he doesn`t
want to let anyone see that he would have lost. If he gets out early, he
can say, If I`d gone all the way, I would have gotten more votes and I
could have won...

MATTHEWS: OK. I disagree.

TUR: ... but I got out because...

MATTHEWS: That`s an interesting thought.

TUR: ... -I got tired of it.

MATTHEWS: You`re on -- you`re closer to him than I am. I don`t think
he`ll quit. But Katy Tur, you are our watcher. You`re the one -- you`re
out front. You`re on point. And by the way, he has a pulse, which
separates him from at least half the candidates. And he has a mouth.

Anyway, Katy Tur, thanks for coming from the campaign route out there.
You`re with him. Eugene Robinson -- wise man. And Jay Newton-Small,
weekly magazines.

Coming up, the big Republican victory last night in Kentucky means one
thing for the 2016 election outsiders. In Kentucky, the new governor-elect
sounds a whole lot like Donald Trump. As I said, the guy in the suit, the
guy with the resume, the guy like Bill Clinton and Walter Mondale and all
the politicians we`ve known all our lives got his ass handed to him.

Plus, striking new poll numbers about the decline of organized
religion in America. A rising number of Americans now say they`re not
religiously affiliated, and those people are for the Democrats. And it`s
up to the point here now where the "nones" -- that`s N-O-N-E-S, not the
religious sisters, people with no religious affiliation -- are now the
second largest religious group in the Democratic Party.

And finally tonight, the HARDBALL roundtable will tell me something I
don`t know.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`ve got breaking news now. A U.S. official tells NBC
News that a bomb may have brought down that Russian jetliner over the Sinai
over this weekend, killing all 224 aboard. The official also says the
investigation is focused on the possibility that ISIS operatives or
sympathizers were directly involved in the bombing.

NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, is with us
now. What do we know?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: We know this from U.S. officials
and British officials. In fact, the British foreign secretary said that
there was a significant possibility that there was a bomb and that that`s
why they are suspending flights from Sharm el-Sheikh.

U.S. officials say they are looking into this, that it is one of the
two possibilities. There are only two possibilities here -- a bomb or a
mechanical failure. We know from Lockerbie, from TWA, that initial reports
can be very misleading and that it could take years and years to develop
the tiny pieces of evidence that actually concluded that it was a bomb, in
the case of Lockerbie. So we have to be a little bit cautious here.

But right now, they are -- the leading possibility is a bomb, a bomb
somehow that was placed on the airliner. And they are looking at the
security, the baggage handlers, the people surrounding the plane, the
mechanics, because U.S. intelligence and other intelligence agencies have
vetted the passenger lists, and the passenger lists per se did not arouse
any suspicions.

MATTHEWS: Now, passengers are mostly Russians, tourists.

MITCHELL: Mostly Russians, Russian tourists. Sharm el-Sheikh has
been the jewel in the crown of Egypt, and it was a prized possession and
construction of Mubarak, Hosni Mubarak. It`s where we go to cover summits,
to cover, you know, Israeli and Palestinian and U.S. peace talks for years
and years, for decades. And it is a place of lavish hotels and of extreme
poverty, surrounded by Bedouin tribes and a lot of terror groups.

I`ve covered terror incidents there in the past, obviously, under
close scrutiny because it is the Sinai of the Israelis and it`s one access
point into Gaza. So they keep close eye on it. And there`s a lot of
scrutiny, as well, by the other...

MATTHEWS: OK, in geopolitical terms, what will the Russians do if
they decide that it was, in fact, an ISIS attack on their people?

MITCHELL: Well, Russia has already, as of September 30th, become
engaged in the war against ISIS, they say, even though U.S. sources say
that what they have really been hitting is anti-Assad, other rebel groups,
not ISIS mostly.

But Russia has just become engaged in the region, going after Assad`s
enemies, and also, they say, going after ISIS. So it`s really hard to
disaggregate. But it could be that Russia is being targeted because
they`ve now become engaged in Syria.
/
MATTHEWS: I just keep thinking Russian nationalism and Vladimir Putin and
how he has been leading the band, but he`s also responding to Russian
resurgent nationalism.

What`s going to be the reaction of the Russian people when they
realize or decide that 200 of their people, their compatriots, have been
shot, you know, on purpose, killed on purpose?

MITCHELL: Well, I cannot...

MATTHEWS: Shot out of the sky.

MITCHELL: You can`t underestimate the popularity of Vladimir Putin in
Russia, with all of these moves, with his assertions. He is
extraordinarily popular. And it is a state-controlled media right now, so
they are only getting whatever he wants out.

MATTHEWS: OK. Andrea Mitchell, thank you. We`re going to continue
to follow developments in that story throughout the night.

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Last night`s wild and dramatic upset in Kentucky is a warning shot to
the country. A candidate dismissed and dismantled by the Republican Party
as a fringe candidate has been reborn in the mold of Donald Trump and is a
very convincing winner.

What was the fringe just a year ago is now very, very electable in the
Republican Party. Last year, Matt Bevin, a Tea Party red hot millionaire
with no political experience, got crushed by Senator Mitch McConnell in the
Kentucky Senate primary race. They dismissed Bevin as an East Coast con
man with delusions of grandeur.

They said he was part of the Tea Party fringe. They ridiculed his
appearance at a pro-cock fighting rally. Yes, cock fighting. Well, last
night, that fringe candidate won the Kentucky governor`s race in a surprise
landslide, defeating the state`s Democratic attorney general, Jack Conway,
by nine points. Bevin will become just the third Republican governor in
Kentucky since 1947.

Bevin ran as an outsider. He touted his business record and his
wealth. He was spotted last week traveling the state in a gold Cadillac
Escalade. He shunned reporters for unflattering coverage. He was not the
establishment pick.

Well, the Democratic Governors Association put out this statement
after Bevin`s win. "Attorney General Jack Conway ran into the unexpected
headwinds of Trump mania" -- this is the Democrats talking -- "losing to an
outsider candidate in the year of the outsider."

Well, here`s Bevin speaking about his victory last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT BEVIN (R), KENTUCKY GOVERNOR-ELECT: This will change the tenor
of what happens in the 2016 race. It truly will. This is going to change
the tenor of the state, just as it changed the tenor of this election and
the way we executed this campaign.

I truly think we as a state have the ability to change the tenor of
what politics looks like, what representation looks like, what a seat at
the table means, what it will mean when Kentucky shines like the beacon
that it will be.

I`m grateful to you. I`m thankful to you. God bless you and may God
bless the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Thank you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Here`s the Democrat Jack Conway`s concession speech. And I
love concession speeches.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACK CONWAY (D), KENTUCKY GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Folks, tonight was
not the result that we had hoped for. But it is a result that we respect.

So, while this is bitter tonight, I understand that life is very
sweet, and I`m looking out at a crowd of a lot of great friends. My
precious daughters, Eva and Alex, Eva, Alex, daddy`s going to be home a
lot.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That was a nice line. "Daddy`s going to be home a lot."

That is a nice consolation price for being a human being.

Howard Fineman`s the global editorial director at The Huffington Post.
And Perry Bacon is NBC News senior political reporter.

How often do we return to your beat of Louisville, Kentucky?

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you have got
an all-Kentucky contingent here.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, let`s talk about that. How national was this
movement? The DNC, the Democratic Governor`s Association said it was a
national splash, it was Trump mania.

FINEMAN: Well, I -- two people you did not see standing on the podium
there were the two Republican senators, Senator Mitch McConnell, the
Republican leader in the United States Senate.

MATTHEWS: Well, they didn`t want anybody else on that stage.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: OK. Well, but it`s important. And even Rand Paul wasn`t
there.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: Because this guy is so outside the mainstream that, when
people asked him who he might support for president in 2016, he didn`t even
say the Kentucky senator who`s running. He said Ben Carson.

And I -- there`s no question that this guy Matt Bevin is another
indicator of the strong yen for outsiders here. Jack Conway

MATTHEWS: A nine-point victory.

FINEMAN: It was. And, by the way, nobody predicted it, nobody.

MATTHEWS: The other guy was up by five.

FINEMAN: It was -- at best, it was a wash going into Election Day.
What happened was that the Republicans turned out in bigger numbers than
expected. The Democrats were faced with a candidate who was standard issue
Insider politician.

MATTHEWS: Yes. But I described the pattern. You go to law school,
you go to be attorney general, you run for governor. It`s the pattern of
success.

FINEMAN: And, also, he`d run -- and he`d run and lost before. He was
trying once again. And Bevin...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, just like Bill Clinton tried it once.

FINEMAN: Bevin is the quintessential outsider. And if I were Trump
or Carson, I would say, this shows why I have got strength nationally. And
I think it does.

MATTHEWS: National, but neighborly here.

PERRY BACON, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I have a much
more conventional explanation.

A Republican won a state that is trending much more Republican every
day. Like, remember Alison Grimes last time. The polls showed she was
within three or five. She lost by 15. These polls showed...

MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute. Why are the polls off?

BACON: I think they`re -- the state is becoming more Republican very
quickly.

MATTHEWS: But why are the polls off?

BACON: Because they`re not -- all these people who say they`re
Democrats, you know, who are registered Democrats keep voting Republican.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So the model`s wrong?

BACON: The model`s wrong, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Just a minute. Is he on to something nationally?

Are you on to something nationally here?

BACON: I think it`s in Kentucky particularly, in these Southern
states.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m just saying, because everybody says, well, Trump
can`t last, Carson can`t last. Maybe they will do even bigger, do even
better.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Because for the reason that I think Perry is hinting at, was
a lot of people don`t want to necessarily admit that they`re going outside
the system, but they`re going to do it.

MATTHEWS: I remember Obama beat the spread.

FINEMAN: OK.

The other thing is that a lot of these polls are taken by media
organizations. And in Kentucky, another thing that Matt Bevin did was
basically cut off the entire state media, cut off "The Courier-Journal,"
the biggest newspaper in the state, cut of "The Lexington Herald," the
second biggest paper.

MATTHEWS: You mean no interviews.

FINEMAN: No interviews. Oh, he was at war with them, totally at war
with the media, which is another big theme of this year coming up.

Every Republican event you go to, you attack the media and it`s huge
in response. And that`s because the media also is viewed as part of being
the problem.

MATTHEWS: Don`t believe the press. Don`t believe the polls.

FINEMAN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, on the stump, Bevin embraced his similarities to
Trump. At a recent campaign event, he said: "I have no favors to pay back.
There`s not one person in this state who believes they`re going to have a
job in my administration. There`s not one person I have promised anything
to. Donald Trump is an interesting fellow. Part of what people appreciate
-- appreciate about him is the very same thing. He doesn`t owe anybody
anything."

BACON: Here`s the big difference. Mitch McConnell was standing
beside Matt Bevin campaigning on Monday. I was there on Monday in
Louisville, where McConnell was.

And in the last stages of his campaign, the RGA pumped a -- the
Republican Governors Association pumped a bunch of money in to campaign for
Bevin. Like, Trump is saying no one should spend money for me. Bevin was
very reliant on the party to support him at the end.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: They had cut him off. They`d said, hey, we don`t want to
have anything to do with this guy.

Mitch McConnell had put up another guy who they thought was a well-
groomed guy. This guy took it away. The interesting thing is McConnell
has achieved his lifetime goal, which is to turn Kentucky totally red down
to the grassroots, except the party is not really quite his party. He`s
got Rand Paul. He`s got Rand Paul, and now this guy.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you the $64,000 question, as we used to say.
The country doesn`t like -- the people of this country, in the latest poll
we put out, don`t like the direction this country`s in.

And I think it`s going to affect the general election. I think it`s
going to affect Bernie Sanders` advantages. People are going to do very
well as outsiders this coming year because of that.

Now, is the Republican Party going in the right direction, Howard
Fineman? Is it going too far right or has it got it right? Has it figured
out the country and it might just win the general election next year, even
against Hillary, giving her...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Here`s the thing. I think they have figured out the
emotions of their voters, who, I`m telling you, the Republicans and people
who think of themselves as conservatives are going to walk through walls to
vote in 2016, all over the country and especially in the presidential
election.

MATTHEWS: Is that a majority of the country?

FINEMAN: I don`t think it`s quite a majority.

What the Republicans have to do is find the person who can keep that
excitement going, and not excite the fear that will produce the same kind
of turnout on the other side. And I don`t know who that is.

MATTHEWS: I don`t know who it is either.

BACON: Matt Bevin cannot get elected president. He barely -- he
struggled to win in this very conservative state.

I really think the Trumps and the Ben Carsons, that -- if the
Republicans want to win the election, people are dissatisfied with Obama.
Why not just pick a normal, traditional candidate you might get over the
line?

MATTHEWS: Because two-thirds of the country is not happy with the
direction we`re in right now.

(CROSSTALK)

BACON: ... Carsons are going to be very hard to get elected.

MATTHEWS: I mean, maybe we`re looking at Rubio, the toy soldier.

I don`t know. But he`s such a hawk, I wonder anyway, although the
country may be more hawkish. You like my new term there, toy soldier?

FINEMAN: Yes, I do.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I know. That`s pretty scary stuff. I will pay for that.

Thank you, Howard Fineman and Perry Bacon.

Up next, losing their religion, striking new numbers on the declining
influence of religion in America.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger with
breaking news.

U.S. officials say evidence indicates a bomb was behind Saturday`s
Metrojet crash over Egypt`s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on
board. Investigators are now looking into possible involvement by ISIS
operatives or sympathizers.

For the very latest on this story, we turn to NBC`s Tom Costello --
Tom.

TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Milissa.

Here`s where we stand at this hour. Several intelligence sources are
telling NBC`s Jim Miklaszewski that the indications are right now that a
bomb probably did bring down this plane. Intelligence sources telling
NBC`s Andrea Mitchell a bomb is a prime suspect, but they have not ruled
out the possibility of this being a mechanical issue.

The Associated Press reporting that the United States has intercepts
suggesting that a bomb is responsible. And, as you know, the British
government today, Number 10 Downing Street coming out and saying, because
of information which suggests a bomb may have brought down this plane, they
are suspending all flights into and out of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and now
they need to go through the process of evacuating their citizens who are
there on holiday, all of this as this evidence is now being sifted through
by investigators on the ground and looking at the black boxes as well,
trying to determine if they can pinpoint a cause.

But because of this possibility that a bomb brought down the plane,
Russia sent teams of investigators to the Sharm el-Sheikh Airport. They
did not like what they saw. They felt that the security cameras and an
overall lax air of security were clearly of concern. And, tonight, the
airport director at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, has been relieved of his
responsibilities.

As for the United States, no U.S. carrier flies into the Sinai, out of
the Sinai, or over the Sinai. And, in fact, a notice to airmen posted by
the FAA in March of 2015 tells U.S. aviators to avoid the area. But if you
fly into the Sinai, you need to get approval or notify the FAA in advance.
And if you`re flying over the Sinai, you need to fly above 26,000 feet,
because the concern had always been of the possibility of someone on the
ground with a shoulder-fired missile.

But, again, no U.S. carriers fly into, out of, or over the Sinai.
And, in fact, now many European carriers are also avoiding that area
altogether. So, at this hour, as we look at the total U.S. picture of
intelligence and the British picture, there is mounting concern that a bomb
brought down the plane, but it is not yet conclusive -- Milissa, back to
you.

REHBERGER: NBC`s Tom Costello, thank you very much.

Earlier tonight on "MTP Daily," Chuck Todd spoke with Republican
presidential candidate Lindsey Graham about the latest report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It could have
been a bomb. It could have been by a group outside of ISIL. It could have
been mechanical failure.

But this, I do know, that the desire of ISIL to kill people is only
limited by their capability. So if it`s not ISIL, it`s not like they don`t
want to do this. They want to do this and more. So, that`s what I do
know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REHBERGER: NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is in
Istanbul with more now on the capability of ISIS -- Richard.

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Milissa, ISIS has
once again claimed responsibility for downing that Russian airliner, and
today U.S. officials are increasingly suspicious that it was a bomb that
brought down the plane, and that the bomb may have been smuggled onto the
aircraft at the airport either by baggage handlers or someone who had
access to the aircraft.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENGEL (voice-over): If ISIS did bring down the Russian plane with a
bomb, then the group which few had heard of only two years ago will have
proved it has not just ambitions, but also deadly reach.

In just a year, despite 8,000 U.S. and coalition airstrikes and the
occasional, soon to become more frequent, special forces raid, ISIS has
spread far beyond its strongholds in Syria and Iraq.

In fact, U.S. military officials tell NBC News they worry about the
growing signs of ISIS presence in a half-dozen other places, Afghanistan,
West Africa, Libya, and in the Sinai Peninsula, where the Egyptian military
has been battling ISIS for months.

Why is ISIS spreading so rapidly? With its mountains of cash and
savvy online recruitment, ISIS is more open to newcomers than al Qaeda ever
was. Terrorists have always targeted planes. But in the post-9/11 world,
increased security has made them more difficult to attack in the U.S. and
many other places.

That`s one possible reason why ISIS would target the low-cost Russian
charter flying out of a small Egyptian airport. The other reason? Russia
has declared war on ISIS in Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENGEL: A senior U.S. official told me tonight, Milissa, that -- quote
-- "the confidence is there" that a bomb brought down the Russian plane and
he expects Russia will respond heavily and militarily, attacking ISIS in
Syria -- Milissa.

REHBERGER: Thank you, NBC`s Richard Engel in Istanbul.

We will continue to follow developments in this story throughout the
night here on MSNBC -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome to HARDBALL.

America is becoming less religious, and that decline is being driven
by young people. The headline of a "U.S. News & World Report" story reads,
"Millennials Are Slowly Taking America to Hell."

Well, that`s not my headline, I can tell you. Pew says the
generational replacement is chipping away at America`s most faithful --
quote -- "As older, more religiously observant generations die out, they`re
being replaced by far less religious young adults."

While the millennial generation, who was born between 1981 and 1996,
it`s the largest group of religiously unaffiliated adults in this country,
behind the silent generation, baby boomers and Generation X.

So, why are young adults increasingly less religious than their
parents and grandparents?

Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable.

Carol Lee is White House correspondent for "The Wall Street Journal."
David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones." And Rebecca Berg
is a political reporter for RealClearPolitics.

So, what do we make of this study? Because I find it fascinating that
although people don`t go to church like they did or temple, they do feel
themselves to be spiritual, spirituality is important in their lives, and
they pray daily.

David Corn.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that`s the interesting
thing here. Organized religion is going down. We`re just talking about a
few percentage points. It`s not a big drop.

But the people talking about their own spirituality and its
importance, that`s going up a bit. And I think that`s a greater trend with
younger people, who might be looking at organized religions the way you
look at other institutions and seeing them as being corrupt, having
different agendas, being too political or just not relevant to them,
particularly young people who care a lot about tolerance, and they look at
some religions and they see issues about that.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re right.

Rebecca, what about -- is this part of the anti-institutional attitude
people seem to have towards everything now, except the military?

REBECCA BERG, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Absolutely. Absolutely.

As a card-carrying millennial, I can speak to this personally. I have
seen it up close with some of my peers. And, yes, it`s the organized part
of religion that is really turning a lot of millennials off. It`s the same
reason that you see very low voter turnout among millennials. It`s the
same reason that they are kind of -- there`s this backlash against
institutions in general. And religion is a big part of that.

MATTHEWS: Carol, is this like they don`t want to watch the TV show
when it`s on; they want to watch it at that their convenience two or three
days later?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Everything is Xfinity, Xfinity. Let`s watch "Homeland"
later, not tonight.

CAROL LEE, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Spirituality is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I can`t go to church 8:30 Sunday morning. I`m going to
dial it up around -- Tuesday night around 8:30 after supper. Is that it?

LEE: Maybe there`s an element of that.

But I think, if you look at generations, families have changed too. I
mean, when I was growing up, it was -- we all went to church on the
weekend.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Did your parents -- you`re much younger than me.
Certainly, you`re at that age over there, Rebecca.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Did your parents say, get up and get your church -- get to
church? Did they say...

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: Yes. It was -- the family was a little bit more centered around
that. Now you...

MATTHEWS: Because your father was a minister.

LEE: Family is -- well, my father was a minister.

MATTHEWS: Well, that helps.

LEE: So, it was kind of embedded.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Rebecca, were you pushed off to church or temple in the
morning?

BERG: You know, I wasn`t. I was bat mitzvahed. But it was -- I grew
up in a very secular family. And so, that I think -- I`ve become even more
that way as I`ve grown older.

MATTHEWS: You had no choice. You get to choice it`s late, it`s 8:30,
ten minutes to get here.

Then my very youngest brothers, there are five of us, I found out
later on when I got back from Africa in the Peace Corps, they were sneaking
off to Dunkin Donuts on Sunday morning and their only concern was they had
sugar powder on them that gave them away.

My two older -- you know, closer in age brothers and I wouldn`t think
of not going. Now our own kids we would push them to go, but after a while
you sort of stop, you don`t push it all the way. If they really don`t want
to go, one kid really doesn`t want to go, you don`t push them like you used
to.

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: This is an interesting --

LEE: No, that`s totally right. There`s not this sense of -- there`s
families are raised in different ways now. There`s a lot more freedom with
giving, you know, children choices. I have a 2-year-old son. He`s already
getting choices. Has been for --

CORN: Uh-oh.

LEE: -- a year now. And he makes those choices. And I think there`s
just a general more openness.

CORN: But we also have a changing idea about community too, when
church was the center point of your community growing up. There are
different ways that people find community now, and it`s not always
religious.

MATTHEWS: Let me tell you how we grew up. Holy Name Monday night.
Sit out Tuesday night. Off night. Knights of Columbus Thursday night.
Knights of Columbus bowling and poker Friday night.

CORN: There you go.

MATTHEWS: And you golf with your Knights of Columbus best buddies
Saturday. It was a whole religious week growing up.

Anyway, those who are religiously unaffiliated are the largest
religious groups among Democrats, at 28 percent. That`s up nine points
since 2007. Evangelicals make up the largest group among Republicans, at
38 percent.

Rebecca, that makes perfect sense from what we know. Evangelicals are
increasingly Republican.

BERG: Exactly. And what we`re also seeing is that non-religious
voters are decreasing in their support among Republicans. So, for the past
15 years, people who identify as non-religious, fewer and fewer of them are
voting --

MATTHEWS: So the Democrats are becoming a secular party, Carol?

LEE: Well, I don`t know about that. But the demographics -- if you
look at what`s happening in this poll, there`s a long-term implication for
the Republican Party because it`s not just -- you know, there`s obviously a
decrease in religion among young voters who are eventually going to become
older voters. You know, the younger generation is more diverse. Their
views are more liberal, particularly on things like gay marriage, and that
all coming together does not play well for the Republican Party long term.

Like in terms of, you know, the upcoming presidential election you`ll
see the number of millennial voters is significantly increased from 2008
and 2012 as eligible voters but they don`t vote. And so, they will vote
maybe when they`re older but it`s not as huge an issue right now.

MATTHEWS: I`m not sure these arguments about same sex and abortion
rights. I just saw the numbers, being Roman Catholic -- 21 percent of the
Republican Party`s Roman Catholic, 21 percent of the Democratic Party`s
Roman Catholic. So, it`s a wash. It`s so interesting. After all these
fights we have, it still evens out.

Anyway, it`s a group that`s hard to herd anyway.

The roundtable`s staying with us.

Up next, these three reporters will tell me something I don`t know.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We`re here with our roundtable: Carol Lee, David Corn, Rebecca Berg.

Start with Carol. Tell me something I don`t know.

LEE: OK. So, Guantanamo Bay has been a very under the radar issue.

MATTHEWS: Gitmo.

LEE: Otherwise known as Gitmo, has been a very under the radar issue,
and it`s about to become front and center, and there will be a big fight
about it between the White House and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The White
House is increasingly signaling that they are willing to take executive
action to close the facility because the president is not getting what he
wants --

MATTHEWS: What about the NIMBY problem?

LEE: Well --

MATTHEWS: Nobody wants these prisoners in their backyard. How do we
deal with it?

LEE: If the president does an executive action he`ll just have to
reap the fallout.

MATTHEWS: You`ll have to live with it.

LEE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: By the way, these super prisons are no place you can get
out of. I don`t know why people talk about people escaping from them.

Go ahead.

CORN: Ben Carson`s in the news. "Mother Jones" put up a video of a
speech he gave last year in which he said the media tries to shut him down
but thank God -- he actually thanked God -- for giving him FOX News and
saying without FOX News, we`d be Cuba. He said that with a straight face,
as if he really believes that not only are we living in a Nazi Germany-like
situation, we`re also living in a Cuba-like situation if it wasn`t for
Roger Ailes and Bill O`Reilly.

MATTHEWS: It`s funny how well he`s doing in the polls for a guy who
can`t get his message out.

CORN: Yes. Isn`t it?

MATTHEWS: Rebecca.

BERG: Well, Chris, we all know those of us who watched the last
Republican debate, that Jeb Bush didn`t quite land his punches against
Marco Rubio.

MATTHEWS: He`s down to four.

BERG: But the attack line is actually starting to resonate with
voters, his attack on Marco Rubio for not attending votes in the Senate. I
went down to Florida recently, talked to some of their home state voters,
Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, people who have voted for them in the past that
are now supporting Trump. Asked them why have you left team Jeb and team
Marco and they told me regarding Marco Rubio, Senate votes were the
problem.

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s tough being a no-show and a credit risk.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. Thanks to everybody at the HARDBALL
roundtable: Carol Lee, David Corn, and Rebecca Berg.

Up next, the power behind the president -- a revealing look at how
Lady Bird Johnson was the defining force behind LBJ`s path to the White
House.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton is far ahead of her Democratic rivals in
the South Carolina primary. According to a new Winthrop University poll,
Clinton has 71 percent of Democrats supporting her, that`s 71 percent.
Bernie Sanders 15 percent. Martin O`Malley just 2 percent.

I`ll be live at Winthrop Friday night for full coverage of the
Democratic forum hosted by my colleague Rachel Maddow. Join me from 6:00
to 8:00 Eastern, and I`ll come back again after Rachel speaks with each of
the candidates.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

She was a Southern gentlewoman, and he was as big, brash and ornery as
Texas himself. Ladybird and Lyndon Johnson were an unlikely couple who
forged marriage that somehow lasted.

The new book "Lady Bird and Lyndon: The Hidden Story of a Marriage
that Made a President" is about a first lady who came to power amid epic
tragedy and endured. You could almost say survived her marriage to one of
the toughest American politicians of our lifetime.

Joining me right now is author, Betty Boyd Caroli.

Thank you very much.

BETTY BOYD CAROLI, AUTHOR, "LADY BIRD AND LYNDON": Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Is it an amazing book? Let`s talk about the scene we just
saw on the Air Force One, November 22nd, 1963. All of a sudden, Lyndon
Johnson, who was miserable as vice president, all of a sudden is president.

CAROLI: Right.

MATTHEWS: What did Lady Bird, how did she react to all that?

CAROLI: She said that she was on stage for a part she never rehearsed
but, in fact, no first lady ever came into that job better prepared than
she. Remember, she had been in Washington for part of every year for 30
years. So she really took on the job in a way that nobody else has ever
done I think.

MATTHEWS: Lyndon Johnson was pretty much loathed by my generation,
the Vietnam generation. They felt that the war was being prosecuted with
no real hope of success. They kept asking for 100,000, 200,000 more troops
after Ted. Johnson pushing and pushing. No one knew whether he thought we
were winning no matter what winning meant and destroyed everything else
about him.

How did she get through that with him?

CAROLI: Well, she said the first two years in the White House were
wine and roses. She had a great time. But after that, it was pure hell,
and what she was talking about were the Vietnam years, and she said over
and over that it was like swimming upstream.

She said poverty, education, those are problems we know what we want.
We can work towards them. But in Vietnam, there`s just no clear solution
in sight. So, those were very tough years for her.

MATTHEWS: Let`s get a taste of the Southern world, Texas world.
Here`s a phone call, LBJ wasn`t the only politician in the family. Let`s
listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON: I hope you have a wonderful new year.
And wait a minute. A.W. wants to speak on behalf of me and Wesley and a
few of them here, AND SAY howdy, after this girl talks to you.

SEN. RICHARD RUSSELL: All right, sir.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON: Senator?

RUSSELL: Honey, how are you?

LAYD BIRD: Oh, I`m fine.

RUSSELL: I`ve just been seeing you with great approval in the
newsroom and in the paper.

LADY BIRD: There`s nobody`s approval that I want more than yours.

RUSSELL: Oh Lord, what a politician. No wonder Lyndon Johnson is
president.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What`s behind all that syrup? Syrup. So much syrup there.

CAROLI: She was a tough person. I mean, you see that from the first
essay she wrote in high school and many of the conversations with him. But
when she wanted to turn on the charm, she was a real people pleaser. I
mean, and he used her, Lyndon used her for that.

On Air Force One, coming back from Dallas that day in 1963, they
called Rose Kennedy which must have been a really tough call to make and
who did Lyndon put on the phone to make it seem to be gracious and warm and
in that difficult time? Lady Bird. He did it again and again.

MATTHEWS: Credit to her to put up with the guy.

CAROLI: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I`m sure it was not an easy marriage.

Anyway, we won`t go into that because the book gets to that.

Betty Boyd Caroli, a great book. Now everybody loves politics got to
read this one, "Lady Bird and Lyndon". Anyway, that`s the name. "The
Hidden Story of a Marriage that Made a President".

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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

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