Run, Joe, run! Why a Scarborough presidential run would be doomed and amazing

The hot buzz from No Labels circles is the TV host is "mulling" a bid. He can't win, but it'd be funny to watch

By Jim Newell

Published February 11, 2014 5:45PM (EST)

Joe Scarborough                 (NBC News)
Joe Scarborough (NBC News)

This is only slightly less embarrassing than engaging with a rumor about Donald Trump, how do they say, "mulling a presidential bid," so let's start with an apology: I'm sorry. Now that that's out of the way, let's get down to the lowly business of the day. Joe Scarborough, co-host of MSNBC's wake-up chat show "Morning Joe," is "mulling a presidential bid," according to a couple of anonymous people and Mark McKinnon, who spoke to Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller website. What a world.

So, is Joe Scarborough running for president in 2016?

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Thanks for clearing that up, Unsolicited Tweet from November. But let's humor the hot new buzz anyway.

From the Daily Caller:

It’s widely believed at MSNBC — including among network brass — that Scarborough is actively mulling a presidential bid, sources said.

Meanwhile, some of Scarborough’s guests are beginning to talk him up as a possible candidate. Mark McKinnon — the former adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain who co-founded the group No Labels and appears on Morning Joe regularly — said he has talked about the prospect of a White House campaign with Scarborough “ever since we first met years ago, but always in the abstract.”

“On paper, he’s a great candidate,” McKinnon told The Daily Caller. “He has the kind of confidence, ideas and media savvy required to make it on the big stage. And he’d be a lot of fun to watch because he wouldn’t be afraid to mix it up with anybody on any topic. I think it would be highly entertaining and good for the party.”

Added McKinnon: “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.”

Another Scarborough friend — a Republican who has appeared as a guest on Morning Joe many times — said the notion of a 2016 campaign is no joke: “I definitely wouldn’t fall in the laughing category.”

Well, if Mark "No Labels" McKinnon wants it and Joe Scarborough's friend thinks it would be cool, then what the hay? Let's just name him president for life, right now.

The DC outlines a case for his campaign. "The field is wide open." Not really? There are actually a number of well-known, qualified candidates "mulling bids" now, unlike 2012 where it was Mitt Romney and some grisly hobos found loitering outside a Kum & Go in east Iowa.

"Republicans won’t nominate a senator. They want a D.C. outsider." True, they'll probably want a governor, or just Paul Ryan. Joe Scarborough is neither a governor nor a Paul Ryan. And despite living in the (potentially even more evil!) New York area, Scarborough is, in spirit, about as much a D.C. insider as possible. Just check out Mike Allen's POLITICO PLAYBOOK on any given day.

"Scarborough would perform well in debates, which mattered in the 2012 contest." Eh, he'd probably get crucified over guns and taxes and stuff.

"Scarborough, through his recent book, has offered a blueprint for reform for the GOP." Sure, he's got a book. GOP primary voters won't like anything it says, but it is nevertheless ... a book.

So aside from the fact that he's on the record multiple times calling most of the things that GOP primary voters most care about stupid, another reason why a Scarborough bid might not go far is that he's just a TV chat show host who hasn't been in politics in 15 years after a measly two-term congressional career. He gets up each day, puts on a hoodie, drinks coffee with Mika and Willie and Mort and Mike and Jack and whoever for a few hours, and this is what he's done for many years now. Such a lifestyle tends to atrophy the ol' political skill set. Maybe he's not qualified?

The one thing that does ring true about this, though, is the part about "potential donors" being interested. Oh god, yeah, he could sucker quite a few New York Republicans and wealthy socially conservative-but-fiscally sadistic independents into dumping their purses. Michael Bloomberg, because he doesn't understand national politics, would probably provide $500 million in super PAC aerial support from the get-go. Same with Mort Zuckerman or Jack Welch or whatever. And then he would lose, and it would be funny. So sure, go for it.

Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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