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updated 4/28/2014 2:57:01 PM ET 2014-04-28T18:57:01

HARDBALL
April 25, 2014

Guests: Rep. Steven Horsford, Jon Ralston, Jon Ralston, Stephanie Schriock,
Dana Milbank

STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Conservatives wish they knew how to quit
Cliven Bundy.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews.

Leading off tonight, the conservative movement`s Bundy problem.
Republicans like Dean Heller, Rand Paul and Sean Hannity, who all once
defended Cliven Bundy, now can`t run away fast enough. Unfortunately for
them, Bundy doesn`t seem very eager to go away, though. After doubling
down yesterday on his comments that maybe African-Americans were better off
as slaves, Bundy this morning moved even further down the rabbit hole. He
said that Martin Luther King, Jr., has been on his mind a lot lately.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLIVEN BUNDY, NEVADA RANCHER: Maybe I sinned. Maybe I need to ask
forgiveness. And maybe I don`t know what was -- what I actually said. But
you know, when you talk about prejudice, we`re talking about not being able
to exercise what we think and our feelings.

I say Negro or black boy or slave, I`m not -- I`m not -- if those
people cannot take those kind of words and not be offensive, then Martin
Luther King hasn`t got his job done yet. They should be able to -- I
should be able to say those things, and they shouldn`t offend anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: So what if Bundy often wonders whether black people were
better off as slaves? Why should they offend anyone?

The Cliven Bundy saga will eventually simmer down, of course, but the
drama raises tough questions. Why are people like Bundy attracted to the
conservative movement? And why do conservatives, in turn, seem so willing
to make them into folk heroes? Whether it`s Bundy or Ted Nugent or "Duck
Dynasty`s" Phil Robertson or even the rodeo clown with the Obama mask
before them, these people seem to find a comfortable home on the political
right. At least until they go just one step too far.

Michael Steele is the former chair of the Republican National
Committee. Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer for "The Washington
Post." Both are MSNBC contributors.

And Michael, I`ll start with you. I guess the question that this
whole saga raises for me when it comes to sort of the Republican Party, the
conservative movement -- you know, I guess, what does it say to you that so
many prominent conservatives -- and not all, but -- like Sean Hannity.
Look at the audience he commands. You know, Rand Paul, Dean Heller --
we`re talking about some pretty big, influential names here -- what does it
say to you that they looked at this guy, they looked at a guy who is being
backed by a militia that had people talking about using, you know, women as
human shields, a guy who wouldn`t recognize the existence of the federal
government?

What does it say to you that they`re able to look at him, and it
doesn`t even register to them that, hey, there might be some kooky ideas
that are going to come out with this guy. Let`s just -- let`s just link
arms with him right away.

What does that say about the conservative movement and the Republican
Party?

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I
think -- I think you got two parts there. The one is there might be
something kooky about this guy, let`s link arms with him -- I think the
linking arms with him is the first part of this. It`s the general
argument, the general principled idea that is talked or espoused. In this
case, you know, the government right to do what it was doing with respect
to the land that was in dispute, the use of the land over the last 20 years
and all of that. And so...

KORNACKI: But I -- I didn`t even get that part of it, Michael,
because there was -- we still don`t even know what the real dispute there
was. I mean, from a legal standpoint, this guy...

STEELE: No, there`s no standing here. There is no standing for this
guy. That`s not...

KORNACKI: So why -- why would conservative...

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: ... without a legal argument...

STEELE: I can`t -- I can`t -- well, I`ll be honest with you. I can`t
speak to all of that because I don`t know what -- what is the ultimate
motivation beyond, you know, sort of the popular sentiment among some
conservatives, you know, that the Constitution is under assault, and things
like that. And so these become rallying cries, until they`re not. And
that`s the situation here.

Look, you know, there -- there is -- there is conservatism that is
about individual opportunities and freedoms. And then there`s what this
guy, apparently -- and I don`t even call this conservatism. I mean, this
is not what the conservative movement or the party is about, from my
standpoint.

But somehow, we seem to wrap our arms around it, and it always
invariably comes back to bite in a very important way. And I think leaders
like Rand Paul and others need to be much more careful and smarter about
how you articulate these principles and how you allow people to attach them
and adopt them in a way that distorts the underlying essence of it.

KORNACKI: Yes, can I just -- I just -- I want to follow up on that
just really quickly because you mentioned Rand Paul, and I just -- I want
to know what you think of this because this isn`t the first time something
like this has happened Rand Paul. I mean, this is the Rand Paul who talked
a few years ago about maybe having problems with part of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964. This is the Rand Paul who had that guy, the "Southern
Avenger" who was on his staff, who ghost wrote his book, who he wouldn`t
distance himself from.

I mean, what -- Rand Paul, it seems, has been down this road before
and keeps going down this road. This is a guy who`s one of the top
contenders for your party`s nomination in 2016. Are you worried about the
prominence that he has, given this history?

STEELE: No, I`m not worried about it, in this sense -- I mean, look,
I don`t think there was any knowledge or forethought what Mr. Bundy thought
about these issues, and certainly now bringing Martin Luther King into it
is the height of ignorance, as if Martin Luther King would be standing side
by side with him on this point.

So you know, I can`t speak to it, and I don`t think that Rand Paul or
Sean or anyone else had any idea that this is what this guy`s views were
and this is what he ultimately -- how he ultimately felt about black
people, or seeing black people sitting in their neighborhood on a stoop and
thinking, Oh, gee, they`d be better off as slaves. I mean, that is the
height of stupidity.

So I don`t think that`s the case. I think, for a lot of these folks,
it was the initial cause celebre about, you know, the Constitution and his
rights to -- you know, to be the rancher and to defend his property when,
in fact, legally, he was wrong.

KORNACKI: Right. Well, that`s it. And I wonder if somebody like
Rand Paul is going to sit back at some point and say, Why does this keep
happening?

But GOP spokesman Sean Spicer strongly objected to the idea that Bundy
had anything to do with the Republican Party. Let`s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE SPOKESMAN: The issue with
Clive Bundy has absolutely nothing to do with this party. Zero. He is a
Nevada rancher that had a beef with the federal government`s continued
overreach. And suddenly, this became a question, when he made some
inappropriate comments, about what every Republican needs to answer for.
That`s absolutely ridiculous!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Jonathan, what do you make of that because, you know, it`s
not like there were no Republicans, no major Republicans who were standing
up for this guy and making a huge issue out of this?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right.
Here`s the -- there`s the thing. The Republican Party wouldn`t have the
problem it has with the Cliven Bundys in its midst if a grown-up had come
up at the beginning, when the Tea Party was getting up and running, and
said, What`s happening here within our party, on the fringes of our party,
is not right, and we have to do -- we have to speak out about this.

I went back because I remembered a "New York Times" story from
February of 2010. And it was so frightening to me because it talked about
how there`s a loose alliance of protesters from the far right fringe who
were glomming onto the Tea Party...

STEELE: Right.

CAPEHART: ... the legitimate folks who had concerns about the deficit
and economic direction of the country, they were glomming onto the party.
And what was interesting and what`s quite ironic right now is that in the
lead paragraph of that piece, I said that -- I urged Republican national
party chairman Michael Steele and other Republicans to start speaking out
against these people before they lose control of their party.

Here we are, four years later, and we`re talking about a guy who`s an
outlaw, who`s breaking federal law, who is a hero to a lot of people within
now the base of the Republican Party, who`s in a bear -- they wrapped him
in a bear hug until, surprise, surprise, he says something untoward and
bigoted and racist about African-Americans. And we`ve seen it over and
over and over again.

KORNACKI: And that`s -- that`s the question, Michael. I mean, look,
you`re the former chairman. You`re no longer in the job, obviously. But
somebody who -- who had -- who has the role now or a role like the one you
had -- where is that leadership, where is that voice in the Republican
Party at the very beginning of this thing to put the brakes on it, to say
to Rand Paul...

STEELE: Well...

KORNACKI: ... to say to Dean Heller, to say to Sean Hannity, Stop,
don`t go down this road?

STEELE: Well, I can go back, and I know exactly what Jonathan is
talking about, and I remember that piece. And I remember at that time
having conversations with Republicans, as well as true Tea Party activists,
who as Jonathan rightly noted, were more concerned about the Constitution
and budgets and federal spending than they were anything. I mean, this was
just as much an outlier for them then as it is now.

And the fact of the matter is, we very much were concerned about how
this thing exponentially grows into something that distorts, ultimately,
what this party is about and what it stands for. We`re at that doorstep at
this moment, and I think we all need to take hold and -- I think this is an
opportunity of leadership for the likes of Rand Paul to make it very clear.
Where are you on this? How do you want to lead this party as a reflection
of how you`re going to lead the country? How do you speak to the country
about matters of race when you embrace this kind of hate-filled racism?

KORNACKI: Well, speaking of Sean Hannity, last night on Fox News, he
joined the stampede of conservatives who are running away from the Bundy
ranch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I believe those comments are downright
racist. They are repugnant. They are bigoted. And it`s beyond
disturbing. I find those comments to be deplorable, and I think it`s
extremely unfortunate that Cliven Bundy holds those views.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And yet, here`s what Bundy said after being asked how it
felt being abandoned by his former supporters like Hannity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUNDY: I don`t think I`ve been abandoned. I think maybe they
misunderstood me a little bit. But I think Fox and I, I think Hannity and
I are just right on. And I have no doubt that he would support me if he
understood my -- really, what`s in my heart. And I think he does
understand me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Well, Jonathan, I mean, you know, Hannity just called him
every name in the book. He heard it. And he says, Oh, yes, I think he
still understands me. I mean, it says to me there`s something deeper here.
There`s something deeper about the messaging that has been sent out to
Cliven Bundy, to people like Cliven Bundy. It tells them, Hey, we -- you
know, we got a kinship here.

What is drawing somebody like -- you know, like a Cliven Bundy to the
conservative movement?

CAPEHART: Well, I think -- the problem with Cliven Bundy, in that
answer you just showed, in his interview on CNN, in his radio interview,
where he tried to say that "The New York Times" got his quote wrong...

STEELE: Right.

CAPEHART: ... and wants a retraction to the story -- Cliven Bundy is
in his own world. He is in this delusional world, where he thinks what he
said is perfectly fine just because he said "I wonder" if black people
would have been better off under slavery. He clearly does not understand
that, you know, equating black people and slavery and today and that life
would be better under slavery is someone who is not in touch with reality,
not in touch with where things are in this country now.

And I wish that Republican politicians, who are -- who are, you know,
guilty of using slave imagery to talk about opposition to the president`s
policies or opposition to Democrats, that they adopt the position that --
just don`t talk about slavery. Do not talk about slavery being better,
talk about slavery -- comparing slavery to today because what you`re
talking about is an institution that robbed people of their liberty, robbed
people of their dignity, robbed people of their humanity.

And so if Republicans want to be associated with people who think that
that life was better, then they can just be happy to watch the Republican
house burn down.

STEELE: Well, and just to make that clear...

KORNACKI: Quickly, Michael, yes.

STEELE: Yes, real quick. To make that point real clear, if they
associate themselves with that kind of rhetoric and that kind of thought,
then they deserve everything they get as a result of it, period.

KORNACKI: All right. Well, let`s -- let`s see what -- you know, we -
- I said Rand Paul`s been down this road a number of times. Let`s see if
it happens yet again in the future, keep a close eye on that.

Thank you, Michael Steele, Jonathan Capehart.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Steve.

KORNACKI: And you can catch Jonathan Capehart filling in for Melissa
Harris-Perry this weekend.

Coming up, Cliven Bundy`s cows still grazing on federal land. His
taxes are still unpaid. And there are militiamen, the self-described
"patriots," all over Bundy`s home town. So what happens next?

Plus, here`s when you`ll know that Democrats really do feel better
about "Obama care." When they start running on it, not away from it. And
guess what? A few of them are starting to.

And John Boehner sticks it to his more right-wing colleagues for
refusing to move on immigration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Here`s the attitude.

(LAUGHTER)

BOEHNER: Oh! Don`t make me do this! Oh! This is too hard!

(LAUGHTER)

BOEHNER: You should hear them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: It`s that refusal to do anything on immigration that`s
helping to make the GOP the place where the Cliven Bundys of the world feel
comfortable.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with the heku (ph) who changed history --
yes, the heku who helped make George W. Bush president.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams has learned
that Republican congressman Michael Grimm of Staten Island, New York, will
face charges as early as next week. They say the charges will likely
involve Grimm`s private business dealings, separate from his time in
Congress. Grimm`s lawyer says the U.S. attorney`s office has pursued a
politically driven vendetta against Grimm, and that Grimm maintains his
innocence.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Cliven Bundy`s gone from hero to
zero on the right since his racist remarks were made public Wednesday. But
as support for Bundy wanes, the issues at the heart of the dispute are
still unresolved.

Bundy`s cows still graze on federal land. Grazing fees remain unpaid,
and militia members supporting Bundy are steadfast, despite the gravity of
the rancher`s explosive comments. Yesterday, "The Las Vegas Sun" profiled
militiaman Brendan Rapola (ph), who plans to return to Bundy`s home town of
Bunkerville in the coming weeks.

Here`s how he characterized the media`s coverage of Bundy`s racist
comments. Quote, "That`s not our focus here at all. It`s part of a --
it`s part of misinformation to maintain the divide. Things like this will
be put out there to discredit Bundy. It`s a weapon to create division."

The article goes on to say that many of Bundy`s staunchest supporters
have ignored reports of Bundy`s racist remarks. So now that Bundy has
thoroughly discredited himself and his cause, how will this finally wind
down?

With us now is Democratic congressman Steven Horsford from Nevada. He
represents Cliven Bundy`s congressional district -- and Jon Ralston, host
of "Ralston Reports."

And Congressman, I`ll just start with you. I mean, this is your
district. These are your constituents. Not all militia members,
apparently, are your constituents, but the people in this community
certainly are. And I just wonder -- how -- we lose sight of it sometimes
just by focusing on the militia presence. There`s a whole community here.
How has that whole community been dealing with this?

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD (D), NEVADA: Well, many people in Bunkerville
and the surrounding area in Moapa Valley and Mesquite feel terrorized by
these outside armed militia groups. They are not from our community.
They`re not from Nevada. They`re coming here.

And they actually have set up kind of a military police state, where
individuals who live in the community have to go through their checkpoint
in order to get to their house.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: You have checkpoints set up from this militia?

HORSFORD: The militia groups have set up their own checkpoints. And
so the people who live there actually have to go through those checkpoints
to get to their home. We have people I met with yesterday who told me that
their kids can`t walk around the corner from their house to their school
because there`s armed militia in the hills. They tried to go to church on
Sunday, and there were armed militia in and around the church because
Cliven Bundy was there. They want them to leave so that our community can
go back to normal.

KORNACKI: So what`s happening with local law enforcement? I mean,
there still are police out, right? I mean, if there`s checkpoints being
set up, I mean, the cops can do something about that, can`t they?

HORSFORD: Well, this is part of why I met with the local elected
officials yesterday, including representatives from the sheriff`s
department, so that we could get a resolution. But what we need first is
for these armed militia to leave our community, to leave the state of
Nevada so that we can solve our own land use issues on our own.

KORNACKI: No, I understand that, but with these checkpoints and
everything -- I mean, so what did the sheriff`s -- what did the sheriff`s
department tell you? I mean, what -- what -- are they planning to do
anything about it?

HORSFORD: Well because this is information that we have just received
-- it was actually through an e-mail to my office from a constituent --
we`re now working with those agencies to try to see what can be done. But
most importantly, we need Cliven Bundy to tell these armed militia to leave
Bunkerville and the surrounding communities.

KORNACKI: All right.

Jon, let me ask you. I mean, you would know the stakes as well as
anyone. We hear back in the East about how, you know, the issue of federal
land is something that`s supposedly generated a lot of sympathy for Bundy
from people out there, at least before all this started.

Was that true? Was there, before -- before the racist comments came
to light, a fair degree of sentiment supportive of or sympathetic to him in
Nevada? And how much is left? Is it just the militiamen who are with him
now? Or is there still a chunk of the population that is supporting him?

JON RALSTON, "RALSTON REPORTS": Well, there`s a divide in Nevada, as
there is in the country, Steve, between rural and urban America.

And there`s a lot of rural folks out here in Nevada who think the feds
own too much of their land out there, 80-plus percent. And, so, yes, they
sympathize with Bundy. Now, he is a terrible, terrible person for them to
put up as their avatar, because he`s been breaking the law for 20 years.
And it`s not his land. It`s federal land.

And many other ranchers in the other parts of the state pay their
grazing fees. But we have even had five conservative legislators,
Republicans from the Assembly and the Senate, write a letter demanding a
state investigation of the BLM`s actions here as a way to get into this
issue of transferring the federal land to the state land, never asking some
key questions, such as, really, can the state really take care of that land
any better than the feds?

And does anyone think that Cliven Bundy, who got away with not paying
his bills for 20 years to the federal government, would have paid the state
government? So, yes, there`s still that out there. Sure, some of the
prominent folks, Dean Heller is finding it repugnant. And Sean Hannity got
out his pejorative words thesaurus, and started spewing all of that, but
they still sympathize with this guy, there`s no question about it.

KORNACKI: So, the sheriff out there actually gave a preview of what
he thinks has to happen in order for this thing to be resolved.

This is Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie. And he hopes cooler
heads will prevail. And here`s what he had to say on KNPR Public Radio in
Nevada yesterday.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DOUG GILLESPIE, CLARK COUNTY, NEVADA, SHERIFF: He knew very well from
my position that I felt that the federal government was within their bounds
to do what they were doing in regards to the grazing area.

As I explained to Mr. Bundy over two years ago, there`s a federal
court order. And, you know, he lost in court. He needs to fight this
fight in court. And that would be my counsel to him today.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KORNACKI: So, Congressman, you were starting to talk about this a few
minutes ago, the idea that he needs to stand down, he needs to get the
militia to stand down.

I guess my question is, look, every respectable politician in America
is running way from and media figures running away from Cliven Bundy, but
the militia that`s gathered there seems sort of immune to all of that,
seems sort of to not even want to admit that that`s going on and is
perfectly content, the way I can tell, to just sort of camp out there
indefinitely.

How -- you need Cliven Bundy`s cooperation here, it seems. If the
plan is that you have got to get the militia to stand down first, Cliven
Bundy is the only one they is going to listen to, isn`t that right?

HORSFORD: Well, and it does seem that way.

Based on some of the accounts that I saw prior to the escalation of
this situation, it was actually the Bundy family that called for these
armed militia to come to the community in the first place. And that`s why
we need him to tell them to leave. That`s what the residents of
Bunkerville want. That`s what the surrounding community wants.

This is a very small community of only about 1,200 people. They`re
law-abiding. Some of them are ranchers. As Jon said, they have paid their
grazing fees. Where they are permitted to graze, they have done so. They
have cooperated with local, state and federal agencies. And Cliven Bundy
needs to do the same thing. He`s a lawbreaker. He`s not a hero.

KORNACKI: Boy, I -- it`s so hard to see. He`s got his heels dug in
so much here -- to see him finally saying, hey, to the militiamen, get off
my property, but I guess that`s what it`s going to take.

Anyway, thank you, Congressman Steven Horsford, Jon Ralston.

Up next, do you remember the Republican presidential candidate who was
a pizza king? Contestants on "Jeopardy" certainly didn`t. The "Sideshow"
is next.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Like every folk hero, he
deserves a folk song.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

COLBERT (singing): Cliven couldn`t understand. Why should he have to
pay for land? This land belongs to you and me. That`s what he told Sean
Hannity.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: This is the ballad of Cliven Bundy.

Take it, Cliven.

CLIVEN BUNDY, RANCHER: I want to tell you one more thing I know about
the Negro.

COLBERT: OK, that`s enough of the song.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Back to HARDBALL. Time now for the "Sideshow."

No one could have summed it up better than Stephen Colbert did. After
two weeks of hailing Cliven Bundy as a folk hero, conservatives are fleeing
him in droves. It`s a wonder that those who took on Bundy`s cause fell in
love with this guy in the first place.

Here is how Jon Stewart portrayed the latest developments in the story
on "The Daily Show" last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": States rights
sovereign citizen Cliven Bundy is apparently also a professor of Negro
studies.

(LAUGHTER)

BUNDY: And I have oven wondered, were they better off as slaves,
picking cotton, having a family life, and doing things, or are they better
off under government subsidy?

STEWART: Well, it`s an interesting question. I guess history will be
the judge. Oh, what`s that? History already decided. And the answer is,
no, they`re not better off.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: If I may offer a bit of advice to the television outlet that
was promoting this gentleman...

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: It would be nice not to see this anymore.

BUNDY: I guess maybe I`m a little bit like the founding fathers.

STEWART: Well...

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: ... yes, a bit like the founding fathers. But the bit of
you that is like our founding fathers is the bit of them that we`re ashamed
of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Next up, if you have seen my weekend show, "UP WITH STEVE
KORNACKI," you might know that I love game shows.

Well, this week, "Jeopardy" featured a political blast from the past,
and I`m 99.9 percent sure that our HARDBALL viewers will have better luck
with this clue than the contestants did. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JEOPARDY")

ALEX TREBEK, HOST, "JEOPARDY": This pizza magnate and 2012
presidential candidate was a math major at historically black Morehouse
College.

How quickly you have forgotten Herman Cain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Oh, how have the mighty have fallen. But it`s not the
first time we have seen relics from the 2012 presidential election on
"Jeopardy." Last year, they named a whole category after Mitt Romney`s
unfortunate "binders full of women" statement.

Up next, the policy that dared not speak his name, suddenly it`s out
of the closet and on the campaign trail.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Craig Melvin. Here`s what`s
happening right now.

President Obama held a news conference -- or held a conference call,
rather, with European leaders to talk about new sanctions on Russia,
sanctions which NBC News` Andrea Mitchell reports will be imposed Monday.

One of the reasons for those new sanctions, Russia`s escalation of
military exercises along the border with Ukraine. Russian fighter jets
have also crossed into Ukrainian airspace several times.

Meanwhile, back here, a band of severe weather is rumbling across the
Central and Southern U.S., including North Carolina, where a tornado is
suspected -- now back to HARDBALL.

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In what appears to be a shift in momentum, some Democrats are
beginning to do what until now had been considered unthinkable, embrace the
Affordable Care Act. Last month, former President Clinton told National
Memo`s Joe Conason -- quote -- "I thought the Democrats had a tendency to
shy away from things they had done that were unpopular and talk about
positions they had that were popular," he said, "and that my own experience
had convinced me going back to `94 and even more when I was governor of
Arkansas that that was always a terrible mistake, that you had to turn in
toward all controversies and embrace them, even if you said you were wrong
or a mistake was made. You couldn`t not deal with it."

In Pennsylvania, one of the Democrats vying to take on the unpopular
Republican Governor Tom Corbett, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, takes
Corbett to task in a new TV ad for not expanding Medicaid under the
Affordable Care Act. She does something most Democrats running this year
haven`t been willing to do, standing up for the health care law that she
supported in Congress and openly embracing President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALLYSON SCHWARTZ (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I worked with President
Obama own the Affordable Care Act and getting health coverage to all
Americans. It was my legislation that said insurance companies can no
longer deny coverage for kids with preexisting conditions.

It`s something I`m proud of it because it also closed the gap in
prescription drug coverage for seniors. Tom Corbett has decided not to
take the Medicaid money. As governor, I will take the Medicaid expansion,
because 500,000 Pennsylvanians need health coverage.

It`s exactly the kind of leadership I will bring.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And the health care law still remains more unpopular than
popular by 11 points, according to the RealClearPolitics average, but as
some Democrats have searched for ways to distance themselves from the
president, Schwartz is running towards him. Will Democratic candidates
across the country follow her lead?

Stephanie Schriock is a Democratic strategist and the president of
EMILY`s List. And Richard Wolffe is vice president and executive editor of
MSNBC.com.

And, Stephanie, I will start with you because your group, I know, has
endorsed Allyson Schwartz in that race in Pennsylvania. And call me a
little cynical here, though, but I`m not sure this is so much her trying to
win a general election on Obamacare. This is her trying to win a primary,
because this is somebody nobody saw coming. She was the favorite when this
race started.

She got has this free-spending millionaire she`s running who is now --
we have seen polls putting him well ahead of her. This is a strategy to
rally the base. Right? She is telling Democrats, hey, I was with you on
Obamacare. If you like Obamacare, vote for me.

STEPHANIE SCHRIOCK, PRESIDENT, EMILY`S LIST: This governor`s race
really just got started two weeks ago, when Allyson Schwartz went up on
television, as did another one of her opponents.

And this race is going to start changing, is starting to change
already. And we have got a few more weeks on this. What Allyson Schwartz
did in this advertisement is really talk about her leadership on health
care, which is really what the people of Pennsylvania are looking for, a
strong leader who will take the issues that matter to the women and men of
the state and get something done.

KORNACKI: But isn`t that -- this is really a test, because they`re --
we can get to it, and we will in the rest of this segment, of some other
interesting races around the country.

But right now the Schwartz thing to me seems like it`s really a test
of the appetite of the Democratic base to run on this. It is sort of a
test. She`s putting it out there. Hey, I`m voted for this law. I`m
willing to embrace this law. And she`s sort of challenging the Democratic
base to say, OK, this is who we want to put front and center. That`s the
test here in Pennsylvania, isn`t it?

SCHRIOCK: Well, I think we`re seeing numbers across the country where
voters, they don`t want to repeal this law that the Republicans want to
repeal every single day, if they could, I think, but actually want to look
to make it work and improve it.

And I think this is a great sign. And I really think, again, it`s a
sign of leadership that Allyson Schwartz is showing here and why I think
she has got a great opportunity not just to win this primary, but become
the first woman governor of Pennsylvania.

KORNACKI: All right, "The New York Times" writes -- quote -- "So far,
76 percent of all Republican-sponsored general elections spots in House and
Senate races this year have attacked the Affordable Care Act, making the
law the most mentioned issues in such ads, according to Kantar Media CMAG,
which tracks political advertising. The Democrats, who this cycle have run
largely on a fix, don`t repeal strategy concerning the law, are now
gingerly experimenting, mostly in prime areas and through outside groups,
with ads that endorse the law and also say what could be lost if
Republicans appeal it -- repeal it."

Ads like one from an outside group called Put Alaska First PAC. Take
a look at it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was born and raised in Alaska. I`m a mother,
a runner, and a breast cancer survivor. I was lucky. I beat cancer.

But the insurance companies still denied me health insurance just
because of a preexisting condition. I now have health insurance again
because of Mark Begich, because he fought the insurance companies so that
we no longer have to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: So Mark Begich, first-term Democratic senator from Alaska.
It`s always going to be a tough fight for a Democrat on a ballot in Alaska.

And, Richard, what I notice about this ad is, I`m wondering if this is
sort of the template, if this is the formula for Democrats to find a
political advantage on this issue, because we put the stat up earlier that
still, when you ask people about Obamacare, the name Obamacare, the concept
of Obamacare, it still is less popular than it is popular.

But when you don`t mention Obama, you don`t mention the word
Obamacare, like that ad didn`t do, and you just talk about the benefits
that would be lost if it`s repealed, there`s a political advantage for
Democrats maybe.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

So, first of all, the numbers you put up haven`t really changed a
whole lot. And that`s an average of polls. If you take the more recent
polls, the numbers are much closer.

You have also got to remember that in that opposition to the law, in
those general broad strokes of a national poll, especially an average of
national polls, you have got among the opponents of the law people who
didn`t think it went far enough, so people who supported the public option.

There`s still a good chunk of progressives in there who thought the
law wasn`t good enough. So, the numbers have always been pretty evenly
split. And, of course, when you drill down into the actual issues,
preexisting conditions, extending health care coverage, Republican
governors who are denying Medicaid expansion, those things poll through the
roof.

You`re talking about 20, 30 percentage advantage for the Democratic
position. Now, what this ad really is evoking are the ads we saw in the
last presidential campaign. You didn`t have the president saying, I got
you all those jobs. The recovery is on its way. Stay with me.

He got auto workers to tell the story. It`s always more effective
when you have real people telling how some politician has helped them
because people don`t trust the politicians to tell their own story.

KORNACKI: But we have a couple more examples actually of this, and I
just want to play a couple of these and then just talk about them for a
second. For instance, this is a Democratic ad in West Virginia against --
for an open house seat in West Virginia a state that clearly did not vote
for President Obama in 2012.

This is how Democrats are using the issue in a House race in West
Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) and I went on our first date when we
were 15. I`ve been with him ever since. For 35 years, he works in the
mines and I worry about him every day. Now I worry we both could get hurt
if Evan Jenkins goes to Congress. He vowed to repeal black lung benefits
and support letting insurance companies charge women more for health care.

Mr. Jenkins, we can`t go back to those days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: So, Stephanie, again, what I`m hearing in that ad, is the
benefits are mentioned, specific benefits for West Virginia. You`re not
hearing the president`s name. You`re not hearing the term Obamacare. And
I just wonder if that, does that solve this disconnect? Because how many
polls have you seen in the last two years where you ask about these
individual components of the law and the support is through the roof? And
then, when you apply, you know, Obamacare, it gets polarized and it goes
right down partisan lines. This is how you thread the needle, it looks
like.

STEPHANIE SCHRIOCK, EMILY`S LIST: Well, and this is -- these
benefits, that`s actually what matters in this law. And so, the
Republicans really are running from the wrong playbook here because what
they want to do is repeal the pre-existing condition language that would
say to that mother who has a child with a pre-existing condition, no health
insurance for you. Or for women saying, oh, no, you`re a woman, you got to
pay more.

These are really, really powerful. And they are -- it`s really about
women and families in this country. They`re looking for a fair shot, and
they just a little opportunity here to make their families better. The
Republicans really I think are going to have to change their playbook
before too long on this.

KORNACKI: All right. Well, this will be, this will be the test.
They`re still pinning just everything on it and we`ll see what happens as
the months progress.

Thank you, Stephanie Schriock and Richard Wolffe.

Up next, look who`s had it with the right wing of his own party? John
Boehner.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: The Securities and Exchange Commission has now joined the
bridgegate party. It`s taking part in one of the criminal probes. That`s
according to a report from MainJustice.com, a legal news Web site.

That would bring at least five, that would bring to at least five the
number of entities that are investigating the scandal. And they are the
U.S. attorneys office in New Jersey, Manhattan D.A, both of them are
conducting criminal investigations, the Port Authority inspector general,
the New Jersey legislative committee and now the SEC.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: We are back.

And when you look at the demographics, it is no wonder that guys like
Cliven Bundy or Ted Nugent or even "Duck Dynasty`s" Phil Robinson feel
right at home in the Republican Party. The GOP has built a Caucasian
cocoon. As it stands, roughly nine out of every 10 Republicans are white,
and that figure has barely budged over the last 20 years, despite rapid
growth of minority populations all over the country, particularly in states
that border Mexico.

The party has done little to address the problem, which only exposes
tensions within its ranks. For example, yesterday, House Speaker John
Boehner openly mocked his colleagues for shutting down efforts to reform
the country`s broken immigration system.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don`t know whether
we`re going to get to it this year or not. I think we should, but the
appetite, the appetite amongst my colleagues for doing this is not real
good. There`s a guy back here with a camera, but here`s the attitude.
"Ooohh, don`t make me do this. Ooohh, this is too hard." You should hear
`em.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And he went on to say, quote, "We get elected to make
choices, we get elected to solve problems and it`s remarkable to me how
many of my colleagues just don`t want to. They`ll take the path of least
resistance. I`ve had every brick and bat and arrow shot at me over this
issue just because I wanted to deal with it."

Boehner was treated to a few more of those arrows courtesy of the Tea
Party, including Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham, who predictably
ripped Boehner`s comments.

David Corn is the Washington bureau chief with "Mother Jones" and an
MSNBC political analyst, and David Milbank is a columnist with "The
Washington Post."

David, I`ll start with you. You heard in that clip there, he
acknowledges, there`s a camera in the back of the room. My rooms are being
recorded. Somebody is going to hear this.

So, look, is this some kind of ploy on Boehner`s part? Look, there`s
a comprehensive bill last summer. It`s been languishing in the House since
then. Is this some grand 11-dimensional chess play to kick-start that or
did he just somehow screw up here?

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: If you think so. You know a different John
Boehner than I do. I think this was more out of frustration than any
strategic concern or a plan. And, you know, the thing is he talks to all
these guys, how hard it is. They want to take the least resistance.

All he would have to do is bring that bipartisan bill that passed in
the Senate and put it up for a vote in the House and it would probably
pass. Done deal. But if you asked him about that, he would probably say,
it`s so hard to do!

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: The minute he does that, then there`s a coup --

CORN: It may threaten his speakership if he did that. Indeed, that`s
right.

So, you know, he complains about the Tea Parties not wanting to do
this, well, he doesn`t want to do it, because he`s putting his own
political hide over what he admits something good for the country.

KORNACKI: Right. That actually gets into the dilemma that John
Boehner faces, is sort of the dilemma that every Republican member of the
House faces, or just about every Republican member of the House faces,
Dana, and that is, you know, that John Boehner pushed this to a vote, he
risks being betrayer to the conservative cause and risks the mutiny.

Any Republican member of the House votes for this, they risk getting
challenged in a primary and being called a betrayer to the cause. So,
they`re all in the same bind here.

DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST: This is true. But it`s been
speculated for a while, Steve, that John Boehner is waiting until the
primary period is over. And when his members are no longer vulnerable,
then he could slip something like that in.

That is a possibility. I think it`s unlikely, but it is a
possibility. I doubt that this was any sort of foreshadowing. You know, I
wouldn`t be surprised if we found out that merlot was being served at this
particular event before the speaker decided to make these remarks.

And we should also note that he was speaking to a country club. So,
these were the last of the country club Republicans who really want to have
comprehensive immigration reform.

KORNACKI: Well, Boehner also had strong words for the Tea Party
specifically, he called some of their members disaffected and anarchists.
Quote, "I`ve gone to hundreds of events, the make-up is pretty much the
same. You`ve got some disaffected Republicans, disaffected Democrats. You
always have a handful of anarchists. They are against everything." He
then backpedalled by saying, quote, "I don`t have issues with the Tea
Party. I have issues with organizations in Washington who raise money
purporting to represent the Tea Party."

So, David, let`s just -- you know, let`s just game this out a bit,
though. So, Dana raises the possibility that Boehner somehow wants to get
through the primary season and put this on the floor and get this to a
vote. And that would be the latest strike against him in -- in the eyes of
conservatives in four years of being speaker. We have basically been
waiting four years for that moment when it`s finally too much for
conservatives.

Are we fast approaching a point at the end of this election when, you
know, it comes time to pick a new speaker, that John Boehner kind of looks
around and says, look, I don`t want this job anymore, or I`m not going to
have the votes on the floor for this job anymore?

CORN: Yes. I hope he sings "take this job and you-know-what."

Looking ahead is, really, I think dependent on what happens in the
Senate. If the Republicans should happen to win control of the Senate,
then Boehner may want to stick around because actually he might pass some
legislation. Right now, historically speaking, he is known for one -- he
will be known for one thing as speaker. The guy who engineered 50 votes
that failed against Obamacare. If Obamacare ends up, you know, panning out
to work well, it`s deemed a success five, 10, 15 years from now, Boehner
will be remembered for trying to stop that.

So, he has, I think, a big interest in trying to do something else.
But at the same time, remember, when he is complaining about these whining
Tea Partiers -- and, you know, one reason the complaint is there, these
guys do represent the base of the party. Not the country club Republicans
he was talking to.

So, these people really, you know, the nine out of ten white
Republicans that you mentioned, the demographically old, they don`t want
immigration reform. So, the only way this will happen is if John Boehner
says, hey, I want to try to pull the party in a direction against its base.
And that takes a lot of fortitude that he hasn`t shown yet.

KORNACKI: All right. Thank you, David Corn and Dana Milbank.

And up next, the he-coon that changed history.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Let me finish tonight with the he-coon who changed history.

Maybe you saw the news that former President George H.W. Bush
apparently wants his son, Jeb, to run for president in 2016. It`s news
because his wife, former First Lady Barbara Bush, seemed to throw cold
water on the idea a while back when she said, "We`ve had enough Bushes."

But his son, Neil Bush, is now saying that, quote, "If you ask dad the
same question, should Jeb run, he`d say yes." If you listen to those who
know the family, you know why George H.W. Bush might feel this way.
Because of all his sons, it`s supposed to be Jeb and not George W. who he
always saw as political heir, the one who would take his place on the
political stage.

And 20 years ago, it looked like that was about to happen. Bush Sr.
lost to Bill Clinton in 1992 and immediately stepped out of the spotlight
and into a quiet retirement.

And then, Jeb stepped up in 1994 to run for governor of Florida.
Florida was a redder state back then, and `94 was shaping up as a brutal
year for Democrats. Plus, the incumbent Democratic governor of Florida, a
man named Lawton Chiles, wasn`t very popular at the time.

So, Jeb was supposed to win. Polls put him ahead. Once he won that
race, he`d be on his way to the national stage, just like his father
wanted.

And that`s where the he-coon comes in. The he -- what? I don`t know
if you remember Lawton Chiles, if you remember this moment, this is the
moment that changed history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAWTON CHILES (D), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: My mama told me sticks
and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.

(APPLAUSE)

But let me tell you one other thing about the old liberal -- the old
he-coon walks just before the light of day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Lawton Chiles said that, Jeb Bush stood there looking
confused. He had no idea what Chiles was talking about.

But a certain type of native Floridian did. The he-coon is a
character of old rural Florida lore, supposed to be the wisest of the pack
of raccoons. And Lawton Chiles was one of those old-time Floridians. He
liked to brag that he spoke cracker.

For the rest of the campaign, he traveled around Florida calling
himself the he-coon and forging a connection with voters a lot more
familiar with the way Lawton Chiles carried himself than the way Jeb Bush
did. When election night came around, there was a surprise in Florida.
Even as a Republican landslide swept across the country, Jeb Bush lost in a
squeaker to Lawton Chiles, the he-coon pulled off one of the biggest upsets
of the year.

There was another surprise that same night, just a few hundred miles
away in Texas, where Democratic Governor Anne Richards, whose personal
favorable rating was still at 60 percent, was upset by George W. Bush,
that`s Jeb`s older brother, the son that George H.W. Bush hadn`t figured as
his political heir.

So, it was that Texas Governor George W. Bush then got to spend the
rest of the `90s building a national profile, readying to run for president
in 2000 while Jeb stayed in Florida to mend fences and take another shot at
the governor`s office. And he did end up winning that office in 1998. But
by then, he`d been lapped by his brother.

The rest, of course, is history. The disaster of W.`s presidency, the
tarnish to the Bush name, the sense that maybe the country`s had enough
Bushes. But, apparently, the old man is still holding out hope for Jeb and
wondering how differently it might have all played out if it wasn`t for
that pesky he-coon.

That`s all for HARDBALL now. Thanks for being with us. Chris is
going to be back here Monday. I hope you join me tomorrow morning and
Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. Eastern for "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI."

"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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