GOP woos 'Morning Joe' for Fla. Senate

EDITOR'S NOTE: MSNBC's Joe Scarborough told The Hill that, despite denials from Sen. John Cornyn and the NRSC, he was asked about running against Sen. Bill Nelson in Florida. Read the story here.


Republicans in Washington are trying to recruit Joe Scarborough to run against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) next year.

Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), told The Hill on Thursday that he has talked to Scarborough a couple times about a Senate bid. And he indicated he’s still working on persuading the MSNBC host to run for the upper chamber.

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“I’d be delighted to talk to him a third time,” Cornyn said.

In 2005, Republican campaign operatives tried to get Scarborough to challenge Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) in the Senate GOP primary. Scarborough passed, and Nelson subsequently trounced Harris in the midterm elections.

Cornyn noted on Thursday that Scarborough’s name ID is higher now than it was back then. Scarborough has been with MSNBC for the past eight years, initially hosting “Scarborough Country” and now “Morning Joe.”

Scarborough is happy with what he is doing, Cornyn stressed. But Cornyn also made it clear that he thinks there is a chance Scarborough could run.

There has been speculation that Scarborough may launch a 2012 presidential bid or be a vice presidential candidate. Scarborough, a former House member, has not ruled out running for another political office. He will turn 48 next month.

Scarborough could not be reached for comment as of press time.

State Senate President Mike Haridopolos is already in the race for the Republican nomination, but the early days of his campaign have been dogged by an ethics controversy.

Other possible Republican candidates include former Sen. George LeMieux, Reps. Connie Mack and Vern Buchanan and former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner. Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has also been mentioned.

A recent poll by Mason-Dixon Polling Research shows that Nelson, who is serving his second term, is under the 50 percent mark against possible Republican challengers in five hypothetical match-ups. However, the only one who was ahead of Nelson is Bush, who is not expected to run. Scarborough was not included in that poll.

Scarborough would be viewed as a major recruiting victory for Cornyn. Democrats have a 53-47 majority over Republicans in the Senate, but they are defending 23 seats next year, while the GOP is defending only 10.

The Texas Republican has stressed this year that the NRSC will be far less involved in primaries than it was last cycle, when a few of its prized recruits were defeated.

In sharp contrast to other GOP figures, Scarborough has publicly ripped former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R). He has also sharply criticized conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who is expected to announce a bid for president this year.

Scarborough served with Gingrich, having been elected to the House in the historic class of 1994. He was easily reelected in 1996, 1998 and 2000. He resigned from the House in 2001.

Several Florida news outlets and conservative blogs picked up the story after it was posted on The Hill's web site.

The NRSC denied the story, tweeting Friday morning: "THE NRSC is not courting Joe Scarborough for #FLSEN. The story is not true."

Cornyn also sought to debunk the story, writing in a tweet Friday morning: "Story is wrong."

Cornyn also 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 Hill's interview with Cornyn, The Hill asked about challenging Nelson in Florida. New York was not mentioned.

-- This story was last updated at 11:33 a.m. on March 11.