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Reality check: 'Morning' Joe Scarborough is not going to run for president
The MSNBC host and former GOP congressman is reportedly serious about 2016. He shouldn't be.
Better stick to television.
Better stick to television. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
C

hris Christie's political troubles in New Jersey have thrown open the slot for an "electable," establishment-friendly Republican in the 2016 presidential primaries. The Week's Damon Linker predicts former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will likely step in (and win), while others name-drop Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), or maybe Gov. Bobby Jindal (La.). Few people are talking about Joe Scarborough, the host of MSNBC's Morning Joe and a former Republican congressman from Florida.

One notable exception, perhaps, is Joe Scarborough. "It's widely believed at MSNBC — including among network brass — that Scarborough is actively mulling a presidential bid," says The Daily Caller's Alex Pappas, citing unidentified network sources. Other people have also raised Scarborough's name — including The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, who did so on Morning Joe just last week:

Now, in Kristol's case, it comes across more as some combination of flattery and provocation than a serious suggestion or prediction. But Mark McKinnon, a Morning Joe regular and veteran of several GOP campaigns, sounds more serious about a Scarborough run.

"On paper, he's a great candidate," McKinnon tells Pappas. "He has the kind of confidence, ideas, and media savvy required to make it on the big stage.... I think Joe looks at the potential field and thinks, 'I could compete.' And I think there are potential donors and supporters who think the same thing."

Pappas then lays out the arguments for why Scarborough would be a strong contender for the GOP slot:

*The field is wide open.

*Republicans won't nominate a senator. They want a D.C. outsider.

*Scarborough would perform well in debates, which mattered in the 2012 contest.

*Scarborough, through his recent book, has offered a blueprint for reform for the GOP. [Daily Caller]

He even has a choice quote from Scarborough last November, when the MSNBC star, promoting a book on successful modern Republican presidents, didn't deny that he's thinking of running for office. "The reason I wrote the book and the reason I'm going around the country talking about these issues is because 2016 is going to be an extraordinarily important year," he told The Daily Caller. "We can't lose another election."

That's a lot of big talk. So let's just get this out of the way: Joe Scarborough isn't going to run for the Republican presidential ticket in 2016, and if he did, he wouldn't have any shot at winning.

His supporters argue that he's more conservative than his broad MSNBC audience might suspect, but if you look at any of his positions — take gun control, which he supports, or taxes, which he has argued are too low for the wealthy — it's hard to make the primary electoral math work for him.

Then look at his only named supporter, McKinnon: He's one of the cofounders of "No Labels," a bipartisan "third way" political organization that essentially argues that both parties (but especially the GOP) are too extreme. McKinnon also quit the John McCain campaign in 2008 so he wouldn't have to try to defeat Sen. Barack Obama.

Given his record and fan base, Scarborough is much more viable as a candidate for a moderate third party, like Americans Elect — on whose board McKinnon sits, incidentally — which tried to hold its buzzy nonpartisan 2012 primary online. Scarborough's natural constituency is like Michael Bloomberg's: Well-intentioned, self-styled centrists who believe our political system is "broken" and don't understand why Americans aren't flocking to a fresh third party.

Why would Scarborough give up his lucrative MSNBC gig for a quixotic third-party bid or Hail Mary for the Republican nomination? To make a point? To insert himself into "the debate" by giving up his outsize megaphone?

Ed Morrissey talked to his own source at NBC, who backed up Pappas' claim that Scarborough is seriously toying with the idea. And Morrissey gives the fledgling campaign more credence, noting at Hot Air that Scarborough has used his seven years engaging figures from across the political spectrum to become a master debater with a solid grasp of the issues from multiple vantage points.

It's a safe bet that Hillary Clinton (or Democrat X) would rather face a conservative stalwart like Paul Ryan than a Blue State-friendly, media savvy, moderate-sounding Republican like Scarborough in 2016. But I can't see why Scarborough would put himself through that, or how Republican primary voters would ever endorse such a decision.

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian, and plays in an Austin rock band.

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