MSNBC host and former Rep. Joe Scarborough drew rave reviews over the weekend in New Hampshire, where he strongly hinted he may make a presidential bid in 2016.
Republican Scarborough, who was a member of House Speaker Newt Gingrich's conservative revolution in the 1990s, told a packed audience on Saturday that he was open to the possibility of returning to politics despite the popularity of MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
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The daily morning cable program he co-hosts with Mika Brzezinski is considered a political powerhouse whose news roundups often set the daily agenda for other major media across the nation.
"We don't need to elect another Clinton for eight years," Scarborough bluntly told a panel he was moderating at the Northeast Republican Conference (NERC) in Nashua, N.H.
Scarborough, who represented a northern Florida district in the U.S. House, was mobbed when he arrived at the session by supporters, especially younger voters who many pollsters and analysts say are essential to the GOP taking back the White House.
His latest bestseller, "The Right Path: From Ike to Reagan, How Republicans Once Mastered Politics — and Can Again,"
has drawn sterling reviews and may offer a blueprint for Scarborough's campaign platform if he decides to enter the 2016 fray.
In "The Right Path," Scarborough argues the GOP must re-embrace the principled pragmatism of Ronald Reagan, who Scarborough says kept his core conservative values while reaching out to independent and Democratic voters to create a new political majority.
"Joe Scarborough was a rock star this weekend," said Republican New Hampshire state Rep. Joseph Sweeney. "He energized the crowd."
Sweeney, the youngest member of the state's Legislature, added "the Republican activists I have learned to trust over my time in the State House were inspired and motivated by Joe's speech."
Jazz Shaw, weekend editor of the popular Hot Air website, also tweeted that the former congressman received a "rock star welcome," pointing out that it took Scarborough 30 minutes to move 15 feet from the door to the check-in desk.
"Joe was swamped by supporters who wanted to shake hands, have photos taken, or ask for autographs," Shaw said. "Inside the hall during his speech he got a standing ovation, along with many generous pauses for humorous jabs peppered through his remarks."
Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, echoed Sweeney's sentiment, noting that of all the recent forums the party has held, Scarborough's was "extremely well received."
"He was engaging, humorous, and insightful in his remarks," she said, adding, "no one agrees with anyone all of the time, but Joe offered a vision for winning in 2014 that focused on the core GOP principle of limited government, and that is something we all feel passionately about."
Shaw noted that the biggest reaction came at the book signing.
"After his speech, the line to get an autographed book stretched from the center of the registration area out to the main lobby of the hotel and even blocked us from getting into the press room for a brief time."
Scarborough started his New Hampshire weekend Friday night with a standing-room-only speech at St. Anselm College's Institute of Politics. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham, a frequent panelist on "Morning Joe," interviewed Scarborough.
"Joe has a resonant message about how Republicans only win the White House when their candidates are conservative ideologically and moderate temperamentally,” Meacham said. "If the GOP wants to master politics again, it needs this kind of bracing thinking."
Scarbourgh's message also resonates with many older political hands.
Former New Hampshire state GOP Chairman Wayne McDonald said he would "absolutely" consider Scarborough in the same class as oft-touted 2016 contenders like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Mexico Gov. Susanna Martinez, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
"I read and thoroughly enjoyed his book … and liked the way he spelled out how Republicans could win in 2014, '16 and beyond," McDonald told Newsmax on Sunday. "If he ran, he would bring an interesting, different, and fresh perspective to the Republican presidential race."
Other political strategists noted that Scarborough's brand may resonate well in New Hampshire, the first primary state, with a GOP made up of many Massachusetts transplants who like independent-thinking Republicans.
"Scarborough was a pretty conservative congressman," McDonald added, "and he also says Republicans should never forget their principles. But he also says victory is what politics is all about. You can't govern if you can't win. And he offers a strategic perspective to the concept of how to win."
"Joe Scarborough was impressive," said Jim Merrill, veteran GOP strategist who ran Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in New Hampshire in 2008 and 2012. "Attendees seemed to like him and his message. New Hampshire has proven over the years that it gives all presidential comers a fair shot, even a guy who works for MSNBC."
Scarborough would be able to accumulate a substantial war chest quickly should he pursue the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, Republican political strategist Ron Christie told Newsmax
"He'd certainly have the ability to raise the money and to use the platform that he has on his show on 'Morning Joe' on MSNBC to get a lot of people to pay attention to him," Christie, now a columnist with The Daily Beast, told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
On Saturday Scarborough was asked by an audience member if a "certain MSNBC host" would please run for president. His deadpan response that it would be hard to get the Rev. Al Sharpton to New Hampshire drew uproarious laughter.
His declaration that America can't afford eight more years of another Clinton in the White House drew a shout of "amen." Scarborough, a Southern Baptist, raised his hands with a laugh. "And all the people said ..."
The crowd replied on cue, shouting "amen!"
As Sweeney told Newsmax, "Congressman Scarborough inspired us to keep fighting for Republican values and gave a great roadmap for how we start winning again."
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