With a highly publicized electoral race on the line, the panelists on MSNBC’s Morning Joe dropped their facade of objectivity on Tuesday and spent the morning stumping for Pennsylvania special election Democratic candidate Conor Lamb.
After an opening segment that met the day’s quota of obligatory Russia and Stormy Daniels coverage, host Joe Scarborough and his panel spent the remainder of the first hour praising the Democratic congressional candidate for running “a good campaign.” Of those present, most had all but concluded that Lamb was guaranteed to edge out his opponent, Rick Saccone. The show played a brief clip of Saccone claiming that many Democrats were motivated by a hatred of President Trump, America, and God, after which Scarborough gloated:
We're not saying that Rick Saccone, at this point, is extraordinarily desperate to claim that anybody not voting for him not only hates America, but also hates God. But let me just say: Rick Saccone is desperate. And that's pathetic, too.
Readers here may disagree with, or even be offended by Saccone’s choice of words. But optics aside, Scarborough’s emotional reaction betrayed his allegiance to Lamb. As if to further drive the point home, he later conducted an interview with Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton, who had recently been campaigning with Lamb. Scarborough sarcastically remarked that “despite supporting Conor Lamb,” Moulton might still “be seen as loving his country and his God.”
Scarborough’s temporary co-host, Katty Kay, laughed in agreement: “You might think so, right?” It quickly became apparent that Moulton had been invited onto the show in his capacity as a surrogate for Lamb. Throughout the interview, Kay lobbed a volley of softballs to the Congressman, such as asking “to what extent” Lamb was “a good candidate for this district.” Kay ended up answering that particular inquiry herself, declaring Lamb “a really good choice” before Moulton had a chance to speak.
As the show rounded the second hour, Scarborough grew increasingly bold with his analysis of the election, and Axios founder Jim VandeHei was compelled to repeatedly remind his fellow panelists that the election had not yet been decided. Kay ran with this point and decided to play devil’s advocate: “Let’s say Rick Saccone actually does win today, despite the polls leading into it that give Conor Lamb a slight edge. What will the conversation be then?”
The first portion of VandeHei’s answer was measured, if fairly obvious – that a Saccone win would mean “that maybe Republicans are right” and that the supposed “blue wave” of Democrats voting in the midterm wouldn’t be “as big as we think it is.” However, he went on to opine that a Republican victory would be detrimental to American politics:
The takeaway is going to be that the nastiness of politics, of saying that somebody’s anti-God, anti-America, that this district race should be about sanctuary cities, that that formula – and that formula, by the way, worked brilliantly for the President – that if it now works in this district, people will say, “Hey, that works and I’m going to adopt that formula.” And so the toxicity of politics, which is already off the charts, probably gets worse.
Daily Beast editor Sam Stein closed out the A-block of the second hour with a hedged bet, arguing that regardless of the outcome, the election constituted a preordained victory for Democrats. "Let's say Rick does win by a point or two here," he hypothesized. "It's hard to interpret that as a major victory so much as a sigh of relief for Republicans." Noting that Trump had won the district by twenty percentage points, he asked, "Wouldn't it theoretically be a huge, huge problem if they only win by one or two points?" The other panelists enthusiastically concurred.
Thus by the end of the third segment dedicated to Conor Lamb within less than 90 minutes, the election analysis on Morning Joe had amounted to an elaborate game of "heads, I win; tails, you lose."