After GOP denials, Scarborough says he was courted for a Senate run

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Friday said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has asked him about running against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) in 2012.

Scarborough said in an interview with The Hill, "John suggested last month that I consider running for the Senate against Bill Nelson. His intent was clear and unambiguous and echoed his quotes in The Hill. However, I love the job I have and have no intention of running for the Senate."

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Scarborough's comments confirm The Hill's report Thursday night that Cornyn, who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), and the "Morning Joe" host had discussed the Florida race.

Both the NRSC and Cornyn strongly disputed the story on Friday morning, calling it "not true" and "wrong" in separate tweets. NRSC told The Hill and other media outlets that the story was completely inaccurate.

On Friday afternoon, the NRSC also said Scarborough was wrong, Cornyn was talking to him about a possible New York Senate bid.

"In his past conversations with Senator Cornyn, Joe Scarborough had expressed an interest in perhaps running for a U.S. Senate seat in New York.  To quote Joe’s own words today, his intent was ‘clear and unambiguous’ and we took him at his word that his interest was, and is, in New York.  So not only did Senator Cornyn not ask him to run for the Senate in Florida, but for a number of reasons it stretches the bounds of credulity to even see why he would be considered a strong, viable candidate in Florida this cycle.  There are already a number of far stronger candidates looking at the Florida Senate race and we are confident that any one of them can beat Bill Nelson in 2012.  But we wish Joe the best of luck in his New York Senate pursuits and we remain fans of his cable show,"  NRSC executive director Rob Jesmer said in a statement.

In response to Jesmer's statement, Scarborough told The Hill: "This morning I read that John Cornyn was going to ask me to run for Senate 'for the third time.' There is no need. I have no interest in such a campaign. Judging from the NRSC's bizarre behavior today, his comments obviously upset potential Florida candidates. I too would have preferred that he said nothing about his efforts to have me run for the Senate. I have no desire being part of this story and once again let me state that I have no interest in running for the US Senate."

Cornyn told The Hill on Thursday that he talked to Scarborough a couple of times about a Senate bid against Nelson. He indicated that he wasn't finished trying to persuade him.

"I'd be delighted to talk to him a third time," Cornyn said.

Some on the right were infuriated that Cornyn backed centrist Republicans in the last cycle, including then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) in the GOP primary. After Republican Marco Rubio overtook Crist in the polls, Crist left the GOP to mount an independent bid. Rubio subsequently defeated both Crist and then-Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) in the general election.

Cornyn this year said he learned some lessons last year, adding that the NRSC would be taking a more a hands-off approach in primaries during the 2012 cycle.


Scarborough has his share of critics on the right. He has not been shy in publicly criticizing former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), Rush Limbaugh and other GOP heavyweights.

In his tweet in response to The Hill's initial story, Cornyn wrote, "Rumor control: Last cycle, Joe and I talked about his interest in NY, not FL Senate race, so this story is wrong."

During the interview with Cornyn on Thursday, The Hill asked the Texas Republican about Scarborough challenging Nelson in Florida. New York was not mentioned, though sources say the two have talked about New York as well.

-- This story was last updated at 3:17 p.m.