How Rachel Maddow Landed Barack Obama

On Monday, October 27th, Bill Wolff, the executive producer of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, got an email from the show’s booker Andy Dallos. Mr. Dallos had some good news: Senator Barack Obama wanted to sit down with Ms. Maddow for an interview on Thursday afternoon in Florida.

“I was like, woooh-hooo!” said Mr. Wolff.

Mr. Dallos had come over to The Rachel Maddow Show from its predecessor on MSNBC, Verdict with Dan Abrams. Since the show’s debut on September 8th, Mr. Dallos had been in constant communication with both campaigns. This was his biggest political get to date, and Ms. Maddow’s first opportunity to go one-on-one with a presidential candidate on her just barely month-old show.

On Wednesday, before Ms. Maddow jumped on a plane to Florida, she huddled up with Mr. Wolff to go over questions and talk strategy. They were only granted 10 minutes with Senator Obama. Mr. Wolff said his advice was simple. “Keep the questions concise,” he said. “Better to hear from him than to hear from us.”

Otherwise, he wasn’t too worried. Ms. Maddow is a relentless preparer. “I knew she wasn’t going to ask him his favorite flavor of ice cream and how he felt,” said Mr. Wolff. “She was going to be very serious about issues. And it wasn’t going to be pattycake. She was not going to play gotcha. I knew neither of those would happen. That’s not how she plays the game.”

On Thursday afternoon, Ms. Maddow attended Senator Obama’s rally at Ed Smith Stadium, the home of the Sarasota Reds. Afterward, she sat down with the Senator from Illinois.

Over the course of the fleeting interview, Ms. Maddow managed to ask about the economy, homeland security, and the war on terror. Ms. Maddow kicked things off with a question about campaigning: “Senator, you criticize the Bush administration frequently,” Ms. Maddow began. “But, you almost never criticize the Republican Party itself.”

“Much to your chagrin,” Senator Obama said, laughing.

How Rachel Maddow Landed Barack Obama