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Just Getting Warmed Up

Scarborough hasn't completely gotten politics out of his bloodstream. In 2005, when Elizabeth Dole asked him to run for a Senate seat in Florida, he considered it -- but his current wife, Susan, and one of his sons was opposed. Scarborough also concluded that he would have to run against his own party's record.

When Scarborough first joined MSNBC, he said he would help counterbalance the left-leaning media. But now that he has gotten to know more journalists, Scarborough says, "saying they were liberally biased was an ignorant statement to make." He believes, however, that most journalists are culturally out of touch with red-state America.

On this particular morning, his guests range from liberal New York Times columnist Frank Rich (they find themselves agreeing on Iraq) to Johnny Cash's son, John Carter Cash (Scarborough gushes that he once met Cash's parents at Washington's 9:30 club and keeps a photo on his wall).

Scarborough delights in being able to conduct 15-minute conversations -- an eternity in TV terms -- and has chatted up such presidential candidates as Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee (even eliciting the revelation that the former Arkansas governor is a Jimi Hendrix fan). Big-name guests are easier to snag when all they have to do is phone in, the radio technique pioneered on television by Imus. Scarborough was an occasional phone guest for the I-Man, who once said Scarborough looked like "they grabbed him out of an Ace Hardware store and took off his red vest."

"Morning Joe" has not been a box-office smash. Its average audience last month, 210,000, is 42 percent below that of Imus earlier this year. But MSNBC, which tried out several possible hosts before settling on Scarborough, hasn't made a major promotional push. The program will shift to NBC's New York headquarters this fall when MSNBC, in a budget-cutting move, closes its offices here.

Whatever the numbers, the show is attracting attention. When Dan Rather accused CBS and Katie Couric of trying to "tart up" the evening news, he did it in a call to Scarborough. In a chat about former senator Fred Thompson's wife, Jeri, Scarborough drew flak for asking the seemingly suggestive question of whether she "works the pole" -- although this followed a chat in which a traffic reporter said she used a pole for exercise.

Fronting a three-hour show is no easy task, but Scarborough barely exhales as he holds forth for another hour afterward.

"My biggest challenge is getting everything into the three hours," he says.

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