"Nikki Haley: Endorsed By Morning Joe!"
That's hardly the kind of support that someone seeking the Republican presidential nomination would welcome. To the contrary, it could be the kiss of political death for Haley or any of the Republican contenders.
But while the praise for Haley was not overly enthusiastic, the former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador was clearly the winner of last night's debate in the eyes of today's Morning Joe panel.
Indeed, no one other than Haley was mentioned as a possible winner. Joe Scarborough, Willie Geist, Jonathan Lemire, and Elise Jordan were all in agreement: Haley was "the adult in the room."
(This echoed Rachel Maddow shortly after the debate ended, touting "She's the most skilled, effective candidate among all these non-viable candidates.")
Scarborough began the segment by casting a curse on the houses of all the Republicans. He quoted unnamed sources labeling the debate "a mess, an embarrassment, a disaster."
But Scarborough, along with others on the panel, singled out one line from Haley as the evening's best. In calling out Vivek Ramaswamy's defense of his involvement with TikTok, Haley said:
"Honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say."
Scarborough mistakenly attributed the original line to the Happy Gilmore movie. Charlie Sykes later corrected him, pointing out that it came from Billy Madison [which also starred Adam Sandler.]
Morning Joe closed the segment with Haley repeating her line, and then the clip of the original from Billy Madison.
Jonathan Lemire and Elise Jordan also suggested that it would behoove Republican voters and donors interested in stopping Trump to coalesce around Haley.
For all this praise today, if Haley ever did become the Republican candidate, you could count on Morning Joe to train an endless stream of attacks on her!
Here's the transcript.
6:01 am EDT
JOE SCARBOROUGH: So, Willie, the debate last night. We're going to get to it, and play more of the clips. But just overall --
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: A mess!
SCARBOROUGH: -- I had one Republican leader, one contributor, one, everybody, one after another, they just, they were texting, calling, all saying the same thing: what a mess, what an embarrassment, what a disaster.
WILLIE GEIST: It was. It was a lot of what we just showed in that clip: talking over each other, the moderators having lost control of things. Some very cringey moments, awkward moments.
Nikki Haley, if you wanted to pick somebody, she had several adult moments . . . It's hard to say anybody won last night. Did anybody stand out?
GEIST: I don't know. We all watched. And I guess you could say Nikki Haley did pretty well.
. . .
SCARBOROUGH: And you looked on that stage, and everybody yelling at each other last night. And I do think that Nikki Haley probably stood out the best.
. . .
JONATHAN LEMIRE: There is some chatter among Republican donors right now that maybe Nikki Haley could be that person, because, in the head-to-head polls, and we're very early, but in the head-to-head polling, she fares the best against President Biden.
So maybe she would be that choice. And she has done pretty well in these debates. I'd argue a little better in the first one than last night. But she is sort of the adult in the room.
But the question is, with Trump's lead so big, are Republican donors going to throw their money at Haley right now, if potentially it's a waste. That's going to be the choice here. Are we going to see some of these candidates drop out, potentially to give Haley a chance to be the alternative? At least right now, no one is.
SCARBOROUGH: As far as lines of the night go, I've gotta say, Nikki Haley, borrowing from Happy Gilmore, was a great move. After Vivek's answer, and basically using the Happy Gilmore line: every time you talk, I feel a little bit more dumb. You are awarded no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
That's basically what she did. And so, let's give her, let's give her props at least for, you know, borrowing from Happy Gilmore.
ELISE JORDAN: No, Governor Haley had the best sense of reading the room. Actually speaking, and following the flow of where the arguments were going, and answering questions, than any other candidate on that stage. And I think that's where some of the other candidates just really fell flat . . . I, but you know, Nikki Haley really emerged somewhat the winner of a very weak night overall.
And, would it be in the Republican party's best interest to coalesce around one candidate and for the donors to get behind one candidate, if they do not support Donald Trump? Yes! Is that going to happen? I doubt that that commonsense will take hold.
. . .
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Here's that moment with Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, in an exchange that started when the businessman was asked about having a TikTok account. Then I want to get to Charlie on the other side of this. Take a look.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: So, the answer is, I have a radical idea for the Republican party: we need to win elections. And part of how we win elections is reaching the next generation of young Americans where they are.
So when I get into office, I've been very clear: kids under the age of social, under the age of 16, should not be using addictive social media. We're only ever going to get to declaring independence from China, which I favor, if we actually win.
NIKKI HALEY: This is infuriating. Because TikTok is one of the most dangerous social media apps that we could have. And what you've got, honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber, for what you say.
Because I can't believe, here you've got a TikTok situation. What they're doing: 150 million people are on TikTok. That means they can get your contacts, they can get your financial information, they can get your emails, text messages --
RAMASWAMY: Let me just say, this is very important. This is very important for our party.
HALEY: They can get all of these things. China knows exactly what they're doing.
RAMASWAMY: This is very important for our party, and I'm gonna say --
HALEY: And what we've seen, you've gone and you helped China build medicals in China, not in America. You now want kids to go on get on this social media that's dangerous for all of us. You went and you were in business with the Chinese. The Chinese that gave Hunter Biden $5 million.
We can't trust you! We can't trust you.
. . .
CHARLIE SYKES: By the way, Joe, I think that that quote is from Billy Madison.
GEIST: Yes it is.
SYKES: I think that it's a Billy Madison quote. One of my favorite quotes of all time.
SCARBOROUGH: Billy Madison: you are right.
MIKA: Oh, damn good.
JORDAN: Good fact check.
GEIST: Billy Madison. Delivered by the great Jim Downey, legendary SNL member, who was playing the principal, the principal, in that scene.
. . .
HALEY: I honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say.
CLIP FROM BILLY MADISON: At no point, in your rambling, incoherent, response, were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought.
Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it.