Joe Scarborough: Obama the Favorite in 2012

TCA: MSNBC president won’t talk about Olbermann

MSNBC "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough predicts Mitt Romney will emerge as the Republican presidential nominee, but that he'll be so weakened by the nominating process that President Obama will be hard to beat.

"I think actually if you look at the numbers … unemployment's going down. If those trends continue I think it's going to be hard for Mitt Romney to win," Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, told TheWrap. "And I do think these debates have really damaged the Republican brand. And these weak candidates that have come out that are a product of new media … really damaged the Republican brand."

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Scarborough and his co-host, Mika Brzezinski, spoke at the Television Critics Association winter press tour about "Morning Joe." In a brief interview after their panel, Brzezinski predicted outright an Obama win, but Scarborough stopped short of that.

"No. There's stil a lot of drama," he said.

Brzezinksi asked Scarborough: "Can you say the party has not produced a strong field that can really take this opportunity [to beat Obama]? An opportunity that is wide open?"

"No doubt about it," Scarborough said. "I think he's got to be the favorite."

Scarborough, Brzezinski, and "Morning Host" cohort Willie Geist appeared on the panel with MSNBC president Phil Griffin, who declined to discuss Keith Olbermann's recent spat with Current TV. Olbermann abruptly quit MSNBC just short of a year ago, and joined Current months later.

Griffin feigned unfamiliarity with Olbermann's current situation during the panel, and later told TheWrap, "I don't discuss it."

The "Morning Joe" team talked about how their relaxed, conversational approach to politics and issues of the day has helped theirs become the second-highest cable news show in the morning, behind Fox's "Fox and Friends." Griffin said MSNBC planned a New York Times advertisement for Sunday that will say, essentially, that "Morning Joe" has been often imitated but never equaled.

Scarborough and Brzezinski, who recently extended their contracts with MSNBC, confirmed CBS had talked with them about joining the network. But they ultimately opted not to, in part because a network news show wouldn't allow them to have the kind of 30-minute interviews that are a hallmark of the show, Scarborough said.

He said the show discovered the importance of long interviews in part because of a talk with Walter Isaacson about his Albert Einstein biography.

The author declined to come into the studio for an early morning interview, Scarborough said, so the host suggested they talk by phone. Scarborough's executive producer thought a phone interview about Einstein and 100-year-old theories in physics would be deathly dull television, but Scarborough insisted on pressing on and doing a second segment.

"And so we go on for another 15 minutes — 30 minutes with Walter Isaacson, talking on a phone, it's obvious that he just rolled over in bed, talking about Albert Einstein," Scarborough said. "The next day we get the ratings back. It was our highest rated 30 minutes."