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The Rising: Jack Markell, Risk-Taker



Delaware Gov. Jack Markell is the new chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. Photo by Dan Hedgepeth of the Washington Post

Most people didn't think Jack Markell would be the governor of Delaware.

After all, he was running in a primary last year against the sitting lieutenant governor who had the endorsement of not only the outgoing two-term governor but also the rest of the Democratic party establishment in the First State.

Markell won the primary, however, defeating then Lt. Gov. John Carney 51 percent to 49 percent -- a margin of less than 2,000 votes. He cruised into office last November, winning the general election with 68 percent.

It's that same "damn the torpedoes" approach to politics that Markell brings to his new role as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association in an election cycle where his party must defend 19 governorships -- 10 of which are open seats.

"I'm not afraid to take on tough challenges," Markell said in an interview with the Fix as part of our "Rising" series that looks at up and coming politicians and operatives.

The Rising

Markell's ascension to the DGA chairmanship -- he took over from Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer earlier this month -- is a significant step up for someone who has been in office for less than a year but is a sign of the confidence his colleagues as well as party operatives have in his skills.

Although Markell spent the decade before being elected governor serving as Delaware's state Treasurer, he made his name (and his money) in the private sector as a cell phone executive for a company called Fleet Call, which eventually became Nextel -- a name, interestingly, that Markell coined. (Markell met Mark Warner, former governor and current senator from Virginia, during his time at Fleet Call and the two remain close personally.)

Markell, unlike many successful businessmen who run for public office (see Checchi, Al among MANY others), understands that simply applying the rules that made him successful in the private sector to politics isn't a recipe for success.

The biggest difference between the two, according to Markell, is the way risk-taking and failure is viewed. "In business, you are expected to take risks, you have to take risks," he said. In politics, risk-taking is frowned upon because "you either read about it in the paper or it's used against you in the next campaign," said Markell.

Markell, in his short tenure as governor, has advocated a hybrid approach -- encouraging risk taking by his staff but with an understanding that failure (as it relates to the livelihood of his constituents) is not an option.

On paper, taking on the DGA chairmanship in a cycle with so many potential vulnerabilities and a national political climate working against his party is the biggest risk of Markell's career.

He acknowledges the uniqueness of the challenge of encouraging candidates to run for governor when state budget cutbacks have made the job decidedly unattractive and the total Democratic control in Washington has turned off many independents.

"The burden of proof is on us -- particularly with independent voters -- to prove that we can deliver," said Markell. "We have got to get our states through these challenging times in a way that shows that we are fiscally responsible but also positioned for growth."

But, Markell added that the economic crisis gripping the nation has put a premium on real leadership from elected officials; "at no point have decisions that are made by people in public office been more critical," he said.

Markell's star is clearly on the rise nationally but whether that ascent continues or slows depends heavily on what the composition of governorships looks like come January 2011.

His strategy is to try and shore up targeted Democratic incumbents -- the Ted Stricklands (Ohio) and Bill Ritters (Colo.) of the world -- and then target a handful of open seat races in Democratic-friendly territory like California, Vermont, Connecticut, Minnesota and Hawaii in an attempt to counteract near-certain open seat losses in places like Oklahoma, Kansas and Tennessee. "We're really focused on keeping the people we've got and beyond that let's be opportunistic," Markell explained.

If Markell can deliver a handful of wins for Democratic governors as the political world prepares for a nationwide redistricting in 2010, he's likely to begin to be talked about as a potential candidate on the national stage in 2016 or beyond.

Markell, like any good politician, dodges the question of his interest in national office. "I love being governor," he said. "My focus is on making Delaware everything it can be."

Of course, what's one more risky move for a man who has built his political career on them?

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 10, 2009; 11:34 AM ET
Categories:  The Rising  
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Comments

Sorry reason5 but your reasoning is flawed. Republicans will not pick up New York (Andrew Cuomo will be the next governor), Massachusetts (Patrick could lose to an Independent though), Maine, New Mexico, or Oregon. And if Dave Freudenthal seeks a third term in Wyoming they won't pick up that seat either. Barbour is a good strategist. But to say he "won" Virginia and New Jersey is a stretch. Bob McDonnell was a great candidate and ran a stellar campaign against a terrible candidate who didn't know what he was doing. Chris Christie ran against a horribly unpopular governor whose couldn't clear 45% in polling.

Posted by: fable104 | December 11, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

For all of this "2016 & beyond" talk begins for Markell, as college football commentator Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friends. Let's first see how the DGA does in 2010. Remember, his counter-part, RGA chairman Haleigh Barbour is doing a great job and is one of the best strategist's in the game, on either side. I think Barbour & Markell both have their work cut out for them, but Barbour has a head start. Republicans have a shot to pick up alot of seats: New York, Mass., Maine, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, Colorodo, New Mexico, & Oregon. Barbour won both Virginia & New Jersey here in 2009, they change in Jan 2010. Merkell will have to defend those 13 seats and/or try to minimize the losses by winning some Republican held seats. Democrats must target seats: Hawaii, Minn., California, Conn., RI & Vermont. Now, Barbour has already choosen preferred candidates in Hawaii, California & Vermont. Merkell has lots of work to do and he's at a big disadvantage in doing it. Barbour will likely stay Miss. governor and run the RGA until 2013. Then, Thad Cochran will likely retire from the US Senate allowing Barbour to run for that Senate seat, becoming a great US Senate strategist.

Posted by: reason5 | December 11, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I've only heard good things about Jack Markell. Here's hoping it pays off and he can become a national figure.

Posted by: fable104 | December 10, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Shrink2, I was in touch with my inner motivational speaker. She is one cheerful woman!

Posted by: margaretmeyers | December 10, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Beg to differ, shink2, it's not fascinating, it's depressing. It's depressing because Republicans and their supporters have simply stopped caring about telling the truth. Not only do they lie, they lie about easily disproven things, and when exposed they just tell the same lies again. And with all too many Americans, it works.

I was raised to believe that telling a lie is a really lousy act, that it shows poor character and denotes an inferior and desperate mind. I continue to believe that.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 10, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

"Why do you still read it?"

Who knows what he will say, but as for me, it is fun to see what the Republicans are doing and "thinking". Most lefties like their echo chambers as much as the right wingers do. Getting any insight into how the Republicans put themselves together each morning, it is fascinating.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 10, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

for the same reason I'll poke at a sore tooth with my tongue

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 10, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

"I only know what I read here and the bias here isn't subtle, it's glaring."
-gold
==
So then i just have to ask: Why do you still read it?

Posted by: elijah24 | December 10, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

His poor health will be taken care of through the public option.

==

Maintaining one's health with exercise and diet is a personal responsibility, to need healthcare often means one has failed to sustain this responsibility.

Most industrialized nations have public information campaigns to make certain its citizens know these things, our "market-based" system omits to inform its citizens.

I travel to Việt Nam every year, I can read Vietnamese, I see signs everywhere telling people about nutrition. Why not here?

I eat a very healthy diet, don't drink or smoke, go to the gym 4-6 times every week. I won't be getting any obesity- or malnutrition-based ailments.

You red state types on the other hand ... fattest and most out of shape. Look it up.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 10, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Hey scriv maybe if you joined a gym and improved your diet you wouldn't be depressed and experiencing "weakness, exhaustion, mood changes, head and body aches, physical and neurological impairment" all the time.

It's not microwave torture, it's poor health.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite
-----------------------------------------
His poor health will be taken care of through the public option.

Posted by: leapin | December 10, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

We spend a little time in Delaware each year and happened to be there last year for the primary in which Markell upset Carney.

Markell is very popular in this little state.

Now it looks like Carney will take Mike Castle's House seat, Beau Biden will beat Mike for Joe Biden's Senate seat, and the GOPers will be cleaned out but good.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | December 10, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

We spend a little time in Delaware each year and happened to be there last year for the primary in which Markell upset Carney.

Markell is very popular in this little state.

Now it looks like Carney will take Mike Castle's House seat, Beau Biden will beat Mike for Joe Biden's Senate seat, and the GOPers will be cleaned out but good.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | December 10, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Hey scriv maybe if you joined a gym and improved your diet you wouldn't be depressed and experiencing "weakness, exhaustion, mood changes, head and body aches, physical and neurological impairment" all the time.

It's not microwave torture, it's poor health.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 10, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

ATTN. Gov. Markell: This is going on all over Delaware, PA, NJ and in every state -- officially-enabled vigilantism and misuse of federal "programs" to destroy unconstitutionally "targeted" Americans.

SECRET MULTI-AGENCY FED PROGRAM SILENTLY TORTURES, IMPAIRS, PERSECUTES U.S. CITIZENS WITH NATIONWIDE MICROWAVE/LASER RADIATION WEAPONS SYSTEMS AND LOCAL 'COMMUNITY WATCH' VIGILANTE TERRORISM, SAYS VETERAN JOURNALIST

== DID THIS COVERT TORTURE MATRIX TARGET, INCITE FORT HOOD SHOOTER? ==

* Thousands of Americans, deemed to be "dissidents" or undesirables, targeted by Bush legacy program for debilitating microwave/laser assault, held hostage in their own homes to fed-supported vigilante "community policing" stalking units, equipped with warrantless GPS devices, who vandalize and terrorize as local police look the other way.

* "Directed energy weapons," a nationwide installation employing cell towers and satellites, induce weakness, exhaustion, mood changes, head and body aches, physical and neurological impairment, strokes, aneurysms, cancer -- and many victims do not realize what is making them sick.

* Regional Homeland Security- administered "fusion centers" reportedly serve as command centers for covert electromagnetic radiation attacks, pervasive surveillance, financial sabotage of those identified as "dissidents," "trouble-makers" or slandered as threats to society.

* Use of microwave weaponry to torture and impair political opponents recently confirmed by deposed Honduras President Manuel Zelaya.

* Pleas for justice, to local police and FBI, go unanswered -- as do demands for a Department of Justice Civil Rights Division investigation and congressional hearings.

"These are crimes against humanity and the Constitution, being perpetrated under the cover of national security and 'safe streets' by multiple federal and local agencies and commands -- an American genocide hiding in plain sight, enabled by the naivete of those who think 'it can't happen here.'" -- Victor Livingston, former reporter for WTXF-TV Philadelphia, Phila. Bulletin, N.Y. Daily News, St. Petersburg Times; producer/host, MSG Network Sports Business Report; columnist, NowPublic.com/scrivener.

http://nowpublic.com/world/gestapo-usa-govt-funded-vigilante-network-terrorizes-america
http://nowpublic.com/world/obama-wrong-west-point-u-s-does-torture-its-own-citizens
nowpublic.com/world/govt-tortures-me-silent-microwave-weapons-ousted-s-prez
OR (if links are corrupted / disabled): NowPublic.com/scrivener RE: "GESTAPO USA"

Posted by: scrivener50 | December 10, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

"You can fall UP as well as fall down."

Very nice, way to channel Shel Silverstein, learning from today's kids' books is one of the fun parts of being a granddad aged parent of little kids.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 10, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

"It extended unemployment compensation and COBRA for the people who lost their jobs in Bush's Depression -- oh yeah, we prevented Bush's Depression and kept it to just Bush's Reccession"

Posted by: margaretmeyers

-------------------------------------------
If you think that a nation can recover from a depression, which was a manufactured Obama-Rham it home "crisis", in a couple of months then it's neither a depression or a crisis.

Posted by: leapin | December 10, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

@elijah: I don't watch television and I'm never going to, I only know what I read here and the bias here isn't subtle, it's glaring. I don't have any "hard left" bias, that's absurd, there is no left in American politics save in the fevered imaginations of temperamentally paranoid right-wingers.

I get the impression, daily, that Chris is doing the same thing in his blogs about Democrats that zouk tries to do with his posts about other posters, to present distorted and unbalanced information to create false impressions. Cherry-picked polls, good news for Democrats ignored and good news for Republicans exaggerated. Excitement about undistinguished elected GOPers making noise to get attention. And Palin, Palin, Palin.

And I really resent the suggestion that politics between the two parties' represents some sort of "center."

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 10, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Leapin, the stock market is up, the dollar is up, unemployment is coming down. The Republican administration created TARP, and it has functioned pretty well under Democratic governance. The Democrats created the Recovery Act, which is also doing what it was intended to do. It extended unemployment compensation and COBRA for the people who lost their jobs in Bush's Depression -- oh yeah, we prevented Bush's Depression and kept it to just Bush's Reccession. Not bad for 10 months, and I do think the Recovery Act provisions for next year will also help us in the short term so we can succeed in the long term. :-)

My husband collected unemployemnt for 3 or 4 weeks back in February and March after he was laid-off from his firm. It was $500 a week in Pennsylvania, and it helped. His clients came out with him and he is now running his own small law firm and doing well. You can fall UP as well as fall down.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | December 10, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

"our GOP-adoring "gracious host"
-gold and tanzite
==
Gold, I could be wrong, but having watched Chris on MSNBC pretty regularly, and hearing his point of view, I don't find him to love the GOP at all. I think that in his own blog, he tries to be as balanced as possible, and he tries to be fair to the GOP, but I don’t think he gives excessive respect to their side. We (liberals) need to be very careful not to be the mirror image of the FAUX News crowd who thinks anything that isn’t hard left, has a conservative bias. I don't know if that’s what you are doing, but it looks that way to me.

Posted by: elijah24 | December 10, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

hey drindl give it up. It's clear as it could be that CC decided long ago to sanction zouk and JakeD, any and I mean ANY enforced rules would have to begin with their expulsion. Jake comes to bait and lie, zouk comes to fling poo. There are plenty of others here, myself emphatically included, who go over the top sometimes but the two trolls do nothing else, not ever, and if they remain it can only be because our GOP-adoring "gracious host" has decided to let them post, pedophilia and all.

It's disgusting but it is what it is.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 10, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

the libs are running for the door before they are thrown out.

==

A larger number of Republicans are running for the door before they are arrested and put in prison

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | December 10, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Drindle and ZOUK, both of you have a coke and a smile. This is a blog. We are all entitled to our opinions, which we are invited by CC and WaPo to share. Of course sometimes tempers flare when you start debating beliefs that people take very personally. Make your cases in print. Be funny if you like, but don't take things so personally that the cops need to enter the story.
BTW, Teabaggers may have a sexual connotation, but the term was coined by the teabaggers themselves. Unfortunate choice though that may have been, it was not intended to be sexual. They are what they are. Likewise, the South Carolina gamecocks, Joe's Crab Shack, and any number of other organizations have names that can be and often are taken in a sexual connotation. Should they all be censored? Would you even care if it were a liberal organization? I don’t think you would.

Posted by: elijah24 | December 10, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Mikek3, the economy is already improving. There is more recovery act money to be ditributed next year. Domestically, I think the Democrats need to keep their eyes on savvy party-building and steady recovery in the economy. Hopefully the voters will then recall which party grabbed their hand when the economy collapsed, and which party said there was nothing government could do.
Posted by: margaretmeyers
------------------------------------------
Are u some kind of government union member who got a payoff from the “stimulus” money?

Posted by: leapin | December 10, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Mikek3, the economy is already improving. There is more recovery act money to be ditributed next year. Domestically, I think the Democrats need to keep their eyes on savvy party-building and steady recovery in the economy. Hopefully the voters will then recall which party grabbed their hand when the economy collapsed, and which party said there was nothing government could do.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | December 10, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Andy: It's not that Biden wouldn't run, but that the Democrats wouldn't nominate him if he did.

And at this point I don't think Hillary would want to be VP. As SoS she has a portfolio and a world-wide 24/7 mission. As VP, her job would be largely ceremonial and the only actual responsibilities would be to break ties in the Senate and inquire daily about the health of the president. She'd rather be in charge of something substantial instead of being someone's shadow.

Posted by: Gallenod | December 10, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

sorry, wrong string

Posted by: shrink2 | December 10, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

"he's making the point that our two options of neutralizing the threat from obl / aq are: neutralize them, or change our behavior to remove their incentive"

Agree with drindl.

Whenever I am presented with an either we do this thing that looks pretty bad or we have to that absurd other option argument, I smell red herring. It is ok to think there were other better options, I and many others have explicated them in detail (no, not cut and run).

But we are not going to do anything else, we are going to surge and leave, the issue is moot. I support the President.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 10, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

coo coo

is that the black helos?

the most likely outcome is that the old bird will wind up in the rubber room, where she belongs.

Posted by: ZOUK | December 10, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Andy everything you say may be true (how about that!), yet we are all still worried about the absence of a job growth mechanism. Post- modern (relatively recent) recoveries have always depended upon consumer credit driven spending.

But now everyone is saving and unwinding debt, with good reason. Companies will not make stuff (the only sustainable hiring driver) if they are not sure people will buy. Risk taking (overhang) is passe.

The stock market 'recovery' is emphemeral, capital flows are instantaneous, short term speculation with borrowed money is not investment. Competing with China is a brutal prospect for American workers and small businesses

9http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/10/business/economy/10consume.html?em.

Bottom line, the only thing that matters is whether unemployment has in fact, peaked.


Posted by: shrink2 | December 10, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Andy, there is more going on here than you know -- like offline stalking. I'm trying to get Mr. Cilizza to discourage this individual so I don't have to bring in the police.

Posted by: drindl | December 10, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Gallenrod,
I wouldn't put anything by our VP. He may run with the promise that he will only serve one term. I'm not saying its likely, but its definitly a possibility. Its also possible that Obama runs with a different VP in 2012. Hillary has shown herself to be an excellent SOS and I could easily see a promotion in her future if Obama is looking for a change.

On a side note, Drindl have you never learned to ignore people? I scroll this blog from the bottom up when I see zook or any of his other tags I just skip it. I have started doing the same to your posts sometimes too just because all you ever do these days is argue with people who want nothing more than to be argued with. Just my two cents.

Posted by: AndyR3 | December 10, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Mikek3,
I would beg to differ. The housing market is looking pretty good, foreclosures are down, the unemployment rate has peaked, and the stock market is back on a good footing. That doesn't even take into accoutn that half of the stimulus is still going to be spent, and the fact that the TARP money is being paid back sooner than expected.
On June 30 2010, write back and see if you still agree with this statement.

"The economy is not going to rebound anytime soon. Maybe by the summer of 2012 things will have improved, but not much sooner"

Posted by: AndyR3 | December 10, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

*****************CHRIS CILIZZA *********************************

DO YOU HAVE RULES OR NOT? SO FAR, 5 PERSONAL ATTACKS TODAY. DO YOU HAVE RULES OR NOT?

"My greatest strength as a blogger has always been an ability to 'reach out and offend someone' — to relate to their insanity, get inside their cut and pastes....

anyone wish to hire an illiterati? will work for peanuts or other legumes."
Posted by: ZOUK

Posted by: drindl | December 10, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Do you mean 'independents' or -- 'teabaggers'?

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Cilizza, this overtly profane sexual and derogatory reference is contrary to the rules of this blog. Please remove it and forbid this poster from continuing the attack on civility.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Posted by: ZOUK | December 10, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

My greatest strength as a blogger has always been an ability to 'reach out and offend someone' — to relate to their insanity, get inside their cut and pastes....

anyone wish to hire an illiterati? will work for peanuts or other legumes.

Posted by: ZOUK | December 10, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Warning: Rational Discusion Alert!

Andy: I don't believe Biden will run for president in 2016. Aside from never having gained any traction in previous attempts, he will be 73 years old (and turn 74 just after the 2016 election).

Markell is definitely a potential player nationally for the Democrats, but it's hard to see where unless Castle wins the Senate seat in 2010 and Markell challenges him in 2016. Delaware's other senator, Carper, will only be 65 in 2012 and will likely run for re-election.

Running for president against his friend Mark Warner in 2016 probably won't happen, and while Warner could pick him as a VP choice that job might go to someone who gives more diversity to the ticket.

I'd guess that after Markell is term-limited out of office if he's not running against Castle in 2016 he's in the Cabinet if Warner wins the White House or chairman of the DNC if the gubernatorial elections go well under his stewardship.

Posted by: Gallenod | December 10, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Andy:
The economy is not going to rebound anytime soon. Maybe by the summer of 2012 things will have improved, but not much sooner.

Posted by: MikeK3 | December 10, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse


CHRIS CILLIZZA:

Here is the point in the day when all civil and rational discussion stops and the infantile insults start --when this person comes on AND STAYS ON ALL DAY. Watch now how the rest of the afternoon it will all be in the toilet.


"the libs are running for the door before they are thrown out.
The stack of failures of this present ident are rubbing off on others now.
Posted by: ZOUK |

Posted by: drindl | December 10, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

the libs are running for the door before they are thrown out.

The stack of failures of this present ident are rubbing off on others now. Keep your head down if you want to keep your job. Or simply remove the suspense and quit. In the end, the outcome will be the same.

Posted by: ZOUK | December 10, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Chris -- just a point that I feel is legitimate:

" total Democratic control in Washington has turned off many independents."

Would you like to offer some support for this statement? I don't recall you ever saying such a thing when Republicans held all the reins of power. Do you mean 'independents' or -- 'teabaggers'?

I would like, when you state somethng that is pure opinion and present it as a flat-footed 'fact' that you support it with proof.

Posted by: drindl | December 10, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Everything I have read about Markell is that he is very well liked and a pretty smart guy to boot. Also he may be joining the DGA at just the right time. If the economy rebounds then alot of the Democratic governors may win in a walk and those to CA, HI, etc and you've got the type of momentum that may push him over the top. That is all reliant on Joe Biden not running in 2016.

Posted by: AndyR3 | December 10, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

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