Scarborough on Why GOP Lost Presidency: We Didn’t Nominate Jon Huntsman

Pseudo-conservative and liberal media darling Joe Scarborough is known for his whacky theories but on Thursday’s Morning Joe he posited a new one that puts the icing on the cake.

Speaking with co-hosts Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist, the MSNBC host said that if the GOP had selected former Utah Governor Jon Hunstman, the Republican Party would have done much better against President Obama.   [See video below break.  MP3 audio here.]

To his credit, Scarborough did point out that Hunstman’s biggest problem was that, “they started their campaign off doing something you probably shouldn't do, kicking your own party around.”  In other words, Huntsman did on the campaign trail what Joe does every morning on the Lean Forward network.

New York Magazine’s John Heilemann followed up by pointing out Hunstman was afraid to call himself a conservative, which makes it hard to win the Republican nomination.

Scarborough continued his daily anti-Republican rant by arguing that:

The litmus test now for being conservative in this Republican Party is not your position on abortion, your position on guns, your position on gay marriage, your position on taxes or your position on the debt. It's whether you hate the president or not.

Scarborough, who loves to reference his time in Congress as the model for all GOP candidates running for office argued that:

I get elected four times in four landslides, and I did it by going after aggressively any extremist on either side that came after me. Most of the time I was attacking extremists on my own side more than the other side.

Once again, Scarborough has shown his love for bashing conservatives and earning the praise of liberals at MSNBC, arguing that if only the Republican Party would nominate more candidates like himself they would be more successful. 


See relevant transcript below. 


Morning Joe

7:02 a.m. EDT

November 8, 2012

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Let's talk about, you know, we were just saying earlier last hour, it's very easy, as a Republican, my first reflex is, you've got just a weak presidential candidate, that's why we lost. That's legitimate in the presidential race. But then you start digging down into the senate races, the state-by-state Senate races, again, where you have to deal with a broader electorate than just a focused race. And we Republicans lost race after race after race. And as John Cornyn said accurately, it wasn't just one wing of the party. It wasn't just Todd Akin. It wasn't just Richard Mourdock, it was Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin in a state where the Republicans, Scott Walker Republicans dominated every state legislative race. There is something wrong with the national Republican Party.

RICHARD WOLFE: I think there are multiple things.  But there's a process question for start, primaries getting hijacked by the extremes when they got no interest in reaching out to the middle. But there's also a policy, a position problem that the Republicans face. And if you dig into those exit polls, you know, it's really easy to accept the conventional wisdom that people are generally conservative with a small C. They don't like change a whole lot. They like things the way they are, generally. But if you look at the positions in the exit polls, you've got big majorities that are against the litmus test that ran through the Republican primaries, on abortion, 50 percent, 60 percent say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. So forget the extreme stuff about rape talk. Just on the question of the exceptions that Republican Party is not, at its heart, where 60 percent of America is. It's not where 60 percent of America is on immigration reform, on finding a legal path for illegal immigrants. It's not where America is in terms of tax cuts. And tax hikes for the wealthy and for all Americans. You've got big majorities who are fundamentally not where republicans are. So both in terms of the primaries and the positions, there are some real soul searching for Republicans to do.

SCARBOROUGH: And John [Heilemann], when historians look back on this race, they are going to wonder how the Republican Party ended up with a Wall Street guy 3 1/2 years after one of the greatest Wall Street scandals and one of the greatest Wall Street collapses in American history. The party seemed to go out of its way over the past couple of years to alienate the middle.

JOHN HEILEMANN: Yeah. And you know, look. I mean, Mitt Romney was an unlikely fit with this Republican Party in a lot of ways, you know. You think about a party that's mostly southern and mostly Evangelical and mostly grass-roots populist now. He's not a populist. He's from the northeast. And a Mormon.  None of those things kind of fit with the Republican Party.  Also the fact that he championed the individual mandate in health care when the party was most animated by opposition to the individual mandate in health care.  So he was an odd choice in a lot of ways.  But mostly, the thing you said is most acute. It's the era of occupy Wall Street.  It’s the era of the Tea Party and you've got a guy who represents more than anything the 1 percent. 250 million and a car elevator in his house and all that stuff. It just made it so easy for him to be caricatured and/or accurately presented by the Obama campaign as someone who doesn't share your values. And if you look at those exit polls, in the end, President Obama's likability was a huge factor for him. But also the fact that people did not, in the end, think that Mitt Romney would fight for them. That he understood their struggles. Huge problem. You can't win in presidential elections like that.

SCARBOROUGH: Willie [Geist], you know what Occupy Wall Street and most of the Tea Party members have in common? They don't trust Wall Street.


SCARBOROUGH: They just don't.

HEILEMANN: That's what I mean.

SCARBOROUGH: Tea Party's a follow-up on Perot's United We Stand group, and it is populist. It is not pro-business. It is -- there's a populist strain running through it, and Mitt Romney offended both extremes.

GEIST: And somehow the President of the United States took that ground. I'm the champion. I'm the populist. I'm for the middle class. I'm the guy who's fighting it. But it was made very easy by having a guy who represented very well the 1%. That is a little revisionist, though. If you look back, who would you have rather had in that seat? If you talk about the primary process, would it have been better to have Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum or Rick Perry or Michelle Bachmann? Who was the alternative at least this time around? Who was it?

SCARBOROUGH: I mean I personally would say Jon Huntsman would have had the best chance. He couldn't get through the primary process.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Because they couldn't see his values.

SCARBOROUGH: Well and also, they started their campaign off doing something you probably shouldn't do, kicking your own party around.

HEILEMANN: Are you forgetting the Hermanator?  Everyone’s leaving Herman Cain out of this conversation. 

GEIST: Joe let me ask you, as Richard [Wolfe] said, the primary process rewards extremes in many cases. So how could a guy like -- let's say Jeb Bush, this is just for argument's sake, 2016, how does he get through a primary process given his stances on things like immigration? Can Jeb Bush survive that process?

SCARBOROUGH: Jeb Bush can survive it, Chris Christie can survive it. It's just what I say on immigration reform. You don't go half in. You don't stick your toe in the water and then have a blogger write something nasty about you, then pull it back. You keep going in and you crush the blogger and you keep moving. And if somebody that's an extremist in talk radio attacks you, you march over them, and you keep going, and you try to pick up voters along the way. Because for every one extreme voter you lose, you pick up four solid republicans in the middle. I said it. I wrote it back when Herman Cain and all of these other extremists were winning the Republican Primary. You know, extremists -- crazy never wins. Crazy never wins. You know, Richard [Wofle], the problem is Mitt Romney never had the courage of his convictions. He never had the courage to stand up to the extremes of his own party.

WOLFE: The biggest voting bloc, self-identified voting bloc in those exit polls, are moderates. You know, we always say there aren't enough Democrats alone out there. There aren't enough Republicans. You cannot win a majority just with Republicans. You've got to get moderates as part of your coalition along with your base. Otherwise Republicans and Democrats, they're never going to win on a national stage.

BRZEZINSKI: And with Mitt Romney, it was gaffe after gaffe, and some of them were just gaffes that alienated him, binders full of women, how he alienated the Hispanic vote, it did not help him along the way. He could not help himself. But about the party overall, you talked about Jon Huntsman making a mistake by criticizing the party. What happens to Republicans when they speak the truth about the party? You tell me because you know. What happens to a Republican when they actually tell the truth about what the party needs to do? What's happening to Chris Christie right now? What happens?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I think Chris Christie gets rewarded.

BRZEZINSKI: The party eats their young.

SCARBOROUGH: No, no, the party -- the voters don't eat their young. You know, again, I won four elections, and I won them by large margins.

SCARBOUGH: Do you think Jon Huntsman could have done better than Mitt Romney?

SCARBOROUGH: Oh, my gosh, yes.

BRZEZINSKI: So that's what I'm talking about. The party does not know what can help it win.

SCARBOROUGH: Mika, if you’re going to ask me the question. Let me answer the question. I get elected four times in four landslides, and I did it by going after aggressively any extremist on either side that came after me. Most of the time I was attacking extremists on my own side more than the other side. And I won 90% of the Republican Party vote and a hell of a lot of Independents and a lot of Democrats because I did that. Chris Christie is going to be fine. He's going to win big in 2013, and there are going to be a lot of Republicans that look at him going, okay, let's see. We've got a guy that a couple of bloggers don't like, who won a blue state twice in a row. He's got the highest approval rating of any Republican governor in the nation. He's a tough talker. He is taking on entrenched union forces.


SCARBOROUGH: In one of the most pro-union states, and he's won every battle. He is loved and respected by his base as well as by democratic leaders in the senate. Yeah, he may be a good guy to expand the base.

BRZEZINSKI: I hope they see it that way. But you made the very conclusion that jon huntsman spoke the truth about the party from the get-go, and that's what brought him down.

SCARBOROUGH: Jon Huntsman's people went out of their way tweaking Republicans, saying they didn't like science. There are better ways of doing it.  That’s subtraction. You don't want to engage in subtraction in your own primary process. It's addition. The big tent. Ronald Reagan always said, I wear the white hat. And he always expanded his base.

HEILEMANN: And Jon Huntman had the fundamental problem which was that you can’t, when he was asked, when he started his campaign, are you a conservative, he didn’t say yes.   And he was, he had a conservative record in Utah.  And instead of saying that he said well I’m a pragmatic, blah, blah, blah. You can't run in a Republican Party and not identify yourself as a conservative.  The Republican Party is a conservative party.

BRZEZINSKI: Right, so you can run if you have a plan that's called 9-9-9 and you can run if you don't remember your last name and if you're former Speaker of the House.

HEILEMANN: Those guys all lost. But those guys all lost. We're just talking about what jon huntsman could have done to win.  And he did a bunch of things that alienated the party that he was introducing himself to right at the outset.

BRZEZINSKI: That’s exactly the problem with the party. 

SCARBOROUGH: Erick Erickson and many other conservatives including myself said look at the guy's record. He's got the most conservative record. And he did have, of all the candidates –

BRZEZINSKI: You're talking about Huntsman.

SCARBOROUGH: Huntsman.  The most conservative record.  But here is one of the biggest setbacks, one of the biggest problems the Republican Party's had over the last four years, Willie [Geist]. You are considered conservative -- the litmus test now for being conservative in this Republican Party is not your position on abortion, your position on guns, your position on gay marriage, your position on taxes or your position on the debt. It's whether you hate the president or not. And you know what? I don't like saying that, but if you go out and say, I respect the president, I think he's a good man, as I do all the time, I think he's a great father, I think he's a great husband, i just disagree with him on virtually every policy, you're immediately a RINO. And that was one of Huntsman's biggest problems. Conservatives never stopped long enough to look at his record to see he had the most conservative record of everybody in the primary. They didn't like -- they didn't like his style.

GEIST: Well I think that's part of the reason anyway why Mitt Romney -- why conservatives never fell in love with Mitt Romney because he never went that far. I think they knew he was more moderate than he was letting on. And also that he did say things like the president has a good family. He's a good man. I just disagree with him. I don't think conservatives -- and you tell me -- felt like he savaged the president enough. Like he didn't bring out the knives sharp enough after the president.

Campaigns & Elections 2012 Presidential MSNBC Morning Joe Morning Joe Joe Scarborough John Heilemann Mika Brzezinski Willie Geist Jon Huntsman