On Today: Scarborough Proclaims Republicans Are 'Afraid of Barack Obama'

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough appeared on Monday's Today show to deliver a forecast of doom for Republicans on the budget fight and their 2012 presidential prospects. On their skirmish with Democrats in Congress the host of Morning Joe told NBC's Matt Lauer he thinks Republicans "have the most to lose" and in explaining the late start for GOP entrants into the 2012 race proclaimed, "they are afraid of Barack Obama," as seen in the following exchange:

(video, audio and transcript after the jump)

(MP3 audio)

MATT LAUER: Let's go to the GOP side. If you and I had been talking four years ago, at this time, there would have been nine Republicans who had either already declared for president or they had formed an exploratory committee. The New York Times calls this, "a leisurely start to the campaign season." Why?

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Well first - well for a lot of different reasons. First of all, you've got a process that begins later. You know we were out in Iowa on New Year's day in 2008. The process was really over by the end, at least on the Republican side, by the end of January. Now Republicans have decided they are not gonna make the same mistake again. They begin the process in February. It's not gonna be a winner take all process in the bigger states. So you're going to have a process that drags out much further into 2012. And so part one - members believe they can wait later, but the second part of this is, the people that want to run think they can wait later. But the second part is they are afraid of Barack Obama. They look at a President that's sitting at a 50 percent approval rating, 9 percent unemployment. He's been pulled to the...middle by the Republican victory in 2012. They just don't think - and if you look at the candidates that could beat Barack Obama they just don't think they can beat him in 2012.

Scarborough then went on to diagnose the political ailments of two possible contenders, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich ("he's got serious problems") and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee ("he can't raise money.")

The following is a transcript of the relevant exchanges from the March 7 Today show segment:

MATT LAUER: Former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough is the host of Morning Joe on MSNBC. Hi Joe, good morning.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Hey how ya doing, Matt?

LAUER: I'm alright. Let's talk about this budget battle. It's a high stakes political and financial game of chicken. Who has the most to lose in this, Joe?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I think right now the Republicans do, but they have the most to lose with their base. A lot of people go back, they look at what happened in 1995 and say the Republicans can't have another government shutdown. It will blow up in their face and hurt them. It's important to remember while Bill Clinton got reelected in 1996 the Republican congressmen that decided to shut down the government and stare down Bill Clinton, ended up getting reelected. Republicans kept control of the House of Representatives for six terms straight. So I think we're gonna, I think we're gonna have Tea Party members in the House being more interested in being true to their base than being worried about what people say in Washington about a government shutdown.


LAUER: Savannah [Guthrie] also talked, in her piece, about the potential field of candidates for the 2012 election. Let's go to the GOP side. If you and I had been talking four years ago, at this time, there would have been nine Republicans who had either already declared for president or they had formed an exploratory committee. The New York Times calls this, "a leisurely start to the campaign season." Why?

SCARBOROUGH: Well first - well for a lot of different reasons. First of all, you've got a process that begins later. You know we were out in Iowa on New Year's day in 2008. The process was really over by the end, at least on the Republican side, by the end of January. Now Republicans have decided they are not gonna make the same mistake again. They begin the process in February. It's not gonna be a winner take all process in the bigger states. So you're going to have a process that drags out much further into 2012. And so part one - members believe they can wait later, but the second part of this is, the people that want to run think they can wait later. But the second part is they are afraid of Barack Obama. They look at a President that's sitting at a 50 percent approval rating, 9 percent unemployment. He's been pulled to the member [sic], to the middle by the Republican victory in 2012. They just don't think - and if you look at the candidates that could beat Barack Obama-

LAUER: Right.

SCARBOROUGH: -they just don't think they can beat him in 2012.

LAUER: Let me, let's go over a couple of those candidates. You know Newt Gingrich very well. You watched him rise and fall in Congress-

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

LAUER: -as a former congressman yourself. Is, is his toughest challenge, Joe, going to say to the American people, "I am the President to lead you into the future," or is he, perhaps, too closely aligned with the past?

SCARBOROUGH: I don't think you have to go back to what he did in the 1990s to understand he's got serious problems. This is a man who continually calls the President of the United States a socialist. This is a man who compared one of the three great world religions to Naziism. He calls the President's cabinet secretaries, compares them to Joseph Stalin. You don't have to go back to Newt Gingrich's past to find that he's gonna be unelectable for a lot of people in the Republican primary. He may draw headlines. They may love him online on some, on some conservative Web sites but he is not going to be electable.

LAUER: Right.

SCARBOROUGH: Again, not because of what he did in the 1990s but because of what he did in 2008, 2009, 2010.

LAUER: And you know me, I'm always tight for time Joe, but in the few seconds I have left the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll about who people might vote for on the Republican side puts Mike Huckabee up top. He had an interesting week, last week to say the least. He spent a lot of time defending his own comments. Is he presidential, in your opinion?

SCARBOROUGH: I think Mike Huckabee could win the nomination. He had an interesting week. I would say a disappointing week last week, confusing Indonesia and Kenya, talking about the Mau Mau revolution when he should be talking about jobs. This is a man who could be elected President but he can't raise money. So I think, right now, he's more focused on selling books.

LAUER: Alright Joe Scarborough. Joe it's always nice to have you here.

—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.