Joe Scarborough was just speaking at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in New Hampshire. His name was included in the presidential straw poll until MSNBC talked the organizers into taking it off.
At least theoretically, the media is supposed to serve as a watchdog. If Scarborough's going to be running around the country making noises about running, he needs to resign from his morning show. You can't leave a presidential candidate in charge of a highly-rated political show, where he has the power to make or break other candidates. Even in these amoral times, that stinks to high heaven. So MSNBC, you need to make him put up or shut up:
The audience seems to like his speech, and there is a long line of people waiting to buy his book. But it's not exactly a "run, Joe, run" groundswell. A dozen attendees tell me they've heard no talk of a Scarborough candidacy and find the idea implausible on its face. Linda Paul, a homemaker from Bedford, New Hampshire, tells me she "won't even turn on MSNBC," and while she was impressed with Scarborough's remarks, she'd like to see a presidential candidate with a more recent record in elected office.
Others were not on board with Scarborough's plea for party unity. "He hasn't always been kind to the Republican Party," says Kris Hammond, an attorney from Washington. "RINO stands for Republican In Name Only, and that means you're not really a Republican. We need to hold the line on what we believe in."
"I watch his show," says former Representative Frank Guinta, who's running again for his old seat in New Hampshire. "Sometimes I'm yelling at the TV because he's not tough enough on Mika."
Scarborough tells me that whether he plunges back into politics will depend on how the 2016 field takes shape. There are, he believes, two candidates who could plausibly capture the hearts of Wall Street and the GOP establishment: Chris Christie and Jeb Bush. Of Christie, he says, "If he comes out of all these investigations unscathed, I think Chris'll be a really strong candidate in 2016." Of Bush: "He was a great governor and I think he'd be a great candidate, but there's an awful lot of questions about whether Americans want another Bush."
But if neither man runs, Scarborough believes there will be a void. "You take those guys off the playing field and suddenly it is wide open," he tells me. "Who else is there? It's the most open Republican field, my God, since Eisenhower was trying to figure out whether to run or not in 1952."
And then, perhaps, just as it once implored a military commander and university president to be its champion, Scarborough's party will seek him out as its only hope. My time with Scarborough is ending, so I ask him whether being a member of the media has changed his outlook on politics. "It's a blessing and a curse," he says. "I've been debating three hours a day without a teleprompter ... so I'm thinking the debates may go okay if I ever decide to run! Nobody will have to put a packet on my back and an earpiece in my ear. I won't have to be shuffling nervously between notecards!"
On the other hand, it could be a problem, he acknowledges, that "MSNBC, obviously, is seen as a liberal network .... But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. People meet you. They judge you by who you are."