Which Republicans might toss their hats into the 2016 GOP presidential ring, and when? Speculation in the media usually centers on Washington figures like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio, and to a lesser degree about governors like Scott Walker and Susana Martinez. Earlier today, the Daily Caller’s Alex Pappas offered up another suggestion — MSNBC’s longtime Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough:

Last week, Scarborough was all smiles — even letting out a laugh — on “Morning Joe” when Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol suggested on the air that Scarborough could represent the “Jon Huntsman lane” in a 2016 GOP primary.

But behind the scenes, those who know Scarborough are not laughing.

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

Here’s the comment from Kristol, who offered up Scarborough as a candidate to the amusement of Scarborough himself, courtesy Newsbusters:

The suggestion created some laughter in social media, captured by our partners at Twitchy:

http://twitter.com/#!/oledi45/status/432924555347111936

Not everyone is laughing. Pappas lays out the argument at TDC:

  • 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.

There are just as many hurdles for Scarborough that would likely be turnoffs in a Republican nominating contest: His show represents the thinking of the Washington and New York political elite. He works for a liberal news network. He’s been divorced twice. He resigned from Congress.

Neither Alex or I could get Joe Scarborough to comment on the article; he declined when I asked personally. However, I did speak with an NBC insider with some familiarity of the show’s production, and the source thinks that this is more serious than one might imagine — but still a long way off from a decision. First, Scarborough just published The Right Path: From Ike to Reagan, How Republicans Once Mastered Politics–and Can Again, a book that reads very much like a political manifesto, or a campaign platform should he choose to use it as such. The book and the tour has been quite successful in its genre, especially considering the trough of an off-year publication. (I interviewed Scarborough about the book in November.)

According to this source, the thinking has deepened a bit since the Bridgegate scandal and its impact on Chris Christie’s chances — perhaps best considered as slightly more serious mulling than simply a flight of fancy. Plus, the insider points to some advantages Scarborough has with his current platform. The “entire life at Morning Joe is like a campaign,” the source told me, adding that the seven years Scarborough has spent engaging partisans on both sides has made him into an expert campaigner and communicator. Thanks to that long experience in the trenches and an “obsessive-compulsive” approach to show prep, Scarborough has developed “a ‘Rain Man’ memory” on issues and data.

None of this means that the consideration has gone beyond the spitballing stage. First, NBC won’t allow a show host to begin organizing a political campaign while keeping the day job, and the gig is … lucrative. Besides, no one in the GOP is in a rush to make themselves a political target this early in the cycle. At the moment, there’s nothing to show that this is anything more than theoretical, but it’s not being taken as a joke on the inside, either. If Scarborough doesn’t see any candidates following his right-leaning economic principles in the primary, he might feel “compelled” to give it a go, according to the insider.

We’ll see how serious this gets, but despite Scarborough’s amused reaction to Kristol last week, it’s not just a passing thought.