12/23/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

When Left Is Right: How Rachel Maddow Became A Star

"Can you believe that sellout, Barack Obama?" says Rachel Maddow, looking around the room. "Let's hit him from the left!" It's 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 5, and the six-foot-tall Maddow, wearing her trademark baggy 501 jeans and thick-soled sneakers, has just burst into her staff meeting in a small office at 50 Rockefeller Plaza, home of MSNBC. Her team of political junkies, mostly in their 20s and 30s, perk up, laugh and start talking about how Obama is looking at hiring former Clinton staffers. "Yes!" Maddow responds, beaming. "He's already triangulating, the bastard." It's the day after the election, and Maddow has had two hours of "drunk sleep." Just a few minutes before, her intense executive producer, Bill Wolff, was giving the staff a pep talk, and a warning: don't get too cynical too soon. They may be feeling "tired and cranky" because they were up late working and drinking, but "the country is still aglow," he says. "Holy s---, Barack Obama is president of the United States. People are almost universally feeling quite proud and quite moved by it and I don't think we want to be too fast to speed away from that." When Maddow arrives, she energizes the room. She flops to the floor, alternately lying on her back, throwing a small foam basketball in the air and kneeling to scribble in a notebook. Her ideas are all tough-minded: Who will be in the new cabinet? Who are the Republican bosses now? How will Bush handle his "lameduckitude"?

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