‘Morning Joe’ for Huntsman? Scarborough and Brzezinski make the ‘centrist’ case

Jeff Poor Media Reporter
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Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who served as the ambassador to China in the Obama administration, seems to have won the favor of the cast on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” On its Monday broadcast, co-host Mika Brzezinski praised Huntsman, suggesting he makes Obama vulnerable in a way none of the other Republican contenders could.

“I think it’s exactly what makes Obama vulnerable,” Brzezinski said. “I think this candidate potentially has the tools in his tool chest to really take on President Obama unlike any other in the Republican field.”

And “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough, who often has had his conservative credentials questioned by critics, suggested a Huntsman candidacy might be somewhat of a breath of fresh air for the process.

“You know Mika, after two and a half years — after two and a half years, and this seems counterintuitive, but if Republicans behaving very badly, calling the president a Marxist, and a fascist — a Nazi – hurting the party, hurting the brand in these swing states – what stronger position than to say, I like the guy,” Scarborough said. “I worked with the guy in China. I just think he’s dead wrong on foreign policy, on health care and take it out of the personal and go to the American people and say this isn’t a personal thing. We just need to go in a new direction.”

Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan agreed with the strategy, but she said it doesn’t deal with some of the political realities in the GOP.

“I agree, but what you’re talking is centrist talk,” Noonan said. “One of the questions for Huntsman will be – he’s been away for two years. Before that he was governor of Utah, a very polite state. Is he in touch with how deeply primal the Republican base looks like it is right now.”

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But Scarborough protested that viewpoint and said it’s only “primal” in the early stages of the Republican nominating process. He alluded to Sen. John McCain’s ability to win the 2008 nomination, crediting the centrist wisdom of the electorate, despite other candidates like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Fred Thompson undermining the chances of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney against McCain.

“How deeply primal the Republican base is – Peggy, it’s primal in one or two of the early states,” Scarborough responded. “But once you start chugging and churning and get to Florida and you go to the Midwest, it gets very centrist, very fast. [Sen.] John McCain, you know, with every talk show host in America trashing John McCain day in and day out – trying to kill him because if he lost on January 29 in Florida, then McCain would be out and Romney, the nominee. You had Hannity, you had Limbaugh, you had Beck, you had Laura Ingraham, you had Fox, you had everybody dedicated to the proposition that politically John McCain must die. And John McCain waltzed through Florida, waltzed through the Midwest – waltzed to victory. It is primal early, but it gets centrist down the road. And if you don’t believe that, ask how John McCain and Gerald Ford and Bob Dole win nominations.”