I was planning to write about this before Ed beat me to the punch so let me ask my two questions belatedly. One: Would this be a bona fide run to try to win the nomination or a niche candidacy a la John Bolton or Peter King? King and/or Bolton won’t run because they think they can win but because they want someone to answer Rand Paul on foreign policy and don’t trust any of the big-name candidates to do it effectively. Scarborough may feel the same way about Ted Cruz’s brand of tea-party conservatism. He won’t do any better than Huntsman did with “No Labels” style Republicanism, but he can land some shots on the right at the debates and maybe serve as a lightning rod to draw conservative attacks away from a more plausible centrist nominee. He’d be in it to win it — not for himself, but for the centrist wing of the party.
Two: If he is in it to win it for himself, how does that happen, exactly? There are no fewer than five major candidates thinking of running who could plausibly serve as a centrist champion in 2016 — Christie, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, and Scott Walker. Walker is slightly different from the other four in that he still enjoys enormous credibility among conservatives for winning his fight with the public-employee unions in Wisconsin, but as a low-key governor and midwesterner who’s agreeable on immigration, he’d have no problem getting the GOP establishment to line up behind him if the alternative is Rand Paul or Ted Cruz. Scarborough is basically the sixth man off the bench here. I can imagine Christie blowing up before the primary campaign gets going (it may be happening already, in fact); I can imagine Jeb deciding the “Bush” name is too high a hurdle; I can imagine Rubio concluding it’s smarter to protect his Senate seat right now than to roll the dice on the presidency; I can imagine Ryan passing because he’d rather set America’s fiscal agenda as chairman of Ways and Means; and I can imagine Walker losing his gubernatorial reelection bid in a massive push by Wisconsin’s left. What I can’t imagine is all five of those things happening, leaving a giant hole in the center that no one more prominent than Joe Scarborough is tempted to try to fill. Even Bobby Jindal, whose brand is conservative, would probably tack left to become the centrist candidate if a vacuum that big opened up. Any one of those guys would be a natural pick over a guy who served six years in the House and is now known for being the most conservative host on the most over-the-top liberal media organ in America. And of course, if Scarborough ran anyway, it’s as likely that he’d siphon off key votes from the centrist/establishment champion as he’d help that guy bloody the nose of the right. (New Hampshire 2016: Rand Paul 40%, Jeb Bush 35%, Scarborough 10%?) Why run to win if you’re the sixth man?
Oh well. Here’s a clip via Politico that raised an eyebrow this morning after I saw the “Scarborough 2016?” item at the Caller — Citizen Joe nudging his pal Chris Christie towards the exit at the RGA, knowing full well that if Christie quits that group, it means he’s all but done as a presidential candidate. Hmmmm.