General William Tecumseh Sherman—he of the razing of Atlanta and the unequivocal denial of any interest in being president—would not have been impressed with Joe Scarborough’s statement on Monday.
The host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe program, a former four-term congressman who has been actively flirting with the idea of running for the 2016 Republican nomination, spent the weekend in New Hampshire wowing and possibly wooing the party faithful.
“Joe Scarborough for President? Sure, Why Not?” shrugged the headline over the Atlantic magazine web site’s story about his visit to the first-in-the-nation primary state.
So, after extreme discomfort was conveyed by his bosses at the Comcast-owned cable news network, here’s what Scarborough texted The Daily Beast from his family vacation in his home state of Florida: “I have no plans to run for office. I do plan, in my free time, to continue a book tour focused on getting the Republican Party back to its winning ways and talking about the economic revival in America’s future if Washington starts getting a few things right.”
As the 50-year-old Scarborough well knows, the “have no plans” construction is far from an expression of lack of interest; indeed, among members of the political elite who faithfully watch Morning Joe every day, it is practically a declaration of candidacy. Sherman’s statement, by contrast, slammed the door hard. “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected,” the general said to discourage a Republican draft movement in 1884.
The twice-divorced Scarborough—an immensely popular congressman who resigned from office in 2001 to spend time with his children, after running unopposed from Florida’s 1st District—has been perennially mentioned, in nearly every election cycle since, as a possible candidate for high office in Florida, and news reports suggest that he seriously considered running for Senate.
Of course, Scarborough, a lone center-right voice on an otherwise left-leaning television outlet, has been an outspoken critic of the Republican Party in general and Republican presidential candidates in particular. GOP activists frequently tag him as a RINO—“Republican in name only”—and it’s more likely that his political base, at this point, consists of the Beltway establishment and the media elite than primary and caucus voters in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina. Yet he is a skilled communicator, and politics is a fluid environment, so anything is possible.
Scarborough was ostensibly in New Hampshire over the weekend not to test the presidential waters but to moderate a panel discussion about the 2016 campaign. He also gave a rousing speech. The Atlantic reported that Scarborough’s name was removed from the presidential straw poll of the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference at the request of MSNBC. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul came in first, followed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.