Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were among the first in the media, going back months, to take Donald Trump seriously. In contrast, Bill Kristol has repeatedly declared that we have reached "peak Trump," only to find The Donald confoundingly continuing to climb in the polls.
Things boiled over on today's Morning Joe. Despite a fresh poll showing Trump with an astounding 48% of GOP voters in Massachusetts, Kristol blithely declared that Trump "is not going to be the nominee." That elicited sarcastic laughter from Scarborough, who shot back "we can show you clip after clip after clip after clip of your incorrect predictions about Donald Trump and his imminent collapse." Later, Kristol seized on a new poll from Iowa showing Ben Carson having overtaken Trump. Claiming that "you guys have been overestimating Trump and underestimating Carson," Kristol said he was "just trying to be helpful." An exasperated Scarborough exploded: "you're out of your mind. You're not trying to be helpful. You're trying to cover your a--. It won't work with us."
Scarborough wouldn't be mollifed. When he painted a scenario in which Trump could be denied the nomination if other candidates can win in Iowa and New Hampshire, Kristol was quick to agree. A conciliatory Mika Brzezinski said "we can end coming together." But a still seething Scarborough said "we really can't, but we can pretend we do."
Watch the skirmish between Scarborough and Kristol.
BILL KRISTOL: The establishment candidates aren't doing too well in that poll.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: No.
KRISTOL: I don't know what's going on in Massachusetts. Barney [Frank] can speak for that state. Look, I think things are going according to plan, as I told you before we got on the air. Paul Ryan is going to be Speaker of the House. That's an upgrade from John Boehner and frankly an upgrade from Kevin McCarthy, so that's fine. Joe Biden is not running: I think he would have been the strongest Democratic nominee. Biden and Warren would have been the best ticket. That's not happening. Now there's this Trump thing going on, I gather. He's been doing okay in the polls for awhile. But he's not going to be the nominee.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: [extended sarcastic laughter]
KRISTOL: So, we'll be fine, we'll be fine. The Rubio/Fiorina, Fiorina/Rubio ticket is going to win in November. I want you to calm down. The establishment, can I say the establishmenthasn't totally ignored Trump. I mean, I'm not pro-Trump but I did write an editorial four months ago saying take Trump seriously. The establishment having ignored Trump for three or four months is now in total, because they've looked up and there are a few polls that show him nationally at 28% --
MIKA: A few?
KRISTOL: Yes, well, every poll shows him at 28%.
JOE: Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill.
KRISTOL: He's not going to be the nominee! Joe, do you -- you keep saying --
MIKA: I have bet.
KRISTOL: I will bet anyone on this stage a nice dinner that Donald Trump is not going to be the nominee. It's very -- Joe loves saying, oh, you guys are all underestimating Trump. Joe, do you think he's going to be the nominee?
JOE: No, no, no --
KRISTOL: Okay, so.
JOE: We can show you a clip after clip after clip after clip of your incorrect predictions about Donald Trump and your prediction of its imminent collapse.
KRISTOL: I didn't predict his collapse. I thought he peaked a little early.
JOE: The Republican establishment has been wrong.
. . .
WILLIE GEIST: He's obviously doing well [in Iowa], Ben Carson, but so did Rick Santorum last time around, so did Mike Huckabee the time before that, so this can be an isolated phenomenon.
KRISTOL: Yeah, but Carson's second in the national polls. I've been bullish on Carson for quite awhile. And I think Carson will likely win Iowa, and Trump might be third or fourth. So you guys have been overestimating Trump and underestimating Carson.
JOE: Oh, Bill, you're out of your mind.
KRISTOL: Just trying to be helpful. Moving forward, just trying to be helpful to your analysis.
JOE: No, no you're not trying to be helpful. You're trying to cover your ass. It won't work with us. Thank you so much Bill --
KRISTOL: Oooh, oooh. A little sensitive there, Joe? Geez.
JOE: I'm just, I'm just, just having fun. But I've been saying for some time, you got back to Robertson in '88. We have been saying: if there is a way to knock Trump off, the way you do it is with Ben Carson in Iowa, who could win in like Pat Robertson, like Mike Huckabee, like Rick Santorum, like all these other candidates that don't have staying power, and then you find somebody to knock him off in New Hampshire, and suddenly, the inevitability of Donald Trump and all these huge poll leads, all across the nation, evaporate.
KRISTOL: Totally agree. I'm glad we're in agreement, Joe.
MIKA: Okay, we can end coming together.
JOE: Well, well we really can't. But we can pretend we do.
MIKA: We can pretend.