The intelligence and fun of this hour-long conversation have made and Maggie Haberman of Politico, who share the host’s enthusiasm about policy, her playful sensibility, and sometimes her liberal outrage.(I’ve been a guest several times; on good days, the conversation just clicks.)“Alex has that one rare quality that is imperative for success in this business,” says MSNBC president Phil Griffin, who dealt Wagner a significant promotion in December—moving her show from noon to p.m.MSNBC’s Griffin spotted her as a guest on —and surprised her with an offer to host her own show. “I don’t even know what this script is,” she may declare, laughing, when it’s time to look at the teleprompter for a transition.What she lacks in polish, however, she makes up for in substance.As a toddler, she would climb on a chair, pick up the kitchen phone, and bark, “Give me the numbers!”—an imitation of the way her dad used to call for Kennedy’s tracking polls at the end of the day. “I felt like I was on the bleeding edge of hipster culture, and I wanted to switch gears.” Through White House adviser John Podesta, an old Washington neighbor, she got a job in New York as “minister of culture” for the Center for American Progress.We’re at Kass’s duplex apartment in Washington’s Logan Circle, and Kass is slicing serrano peppers to go with collard greens while Wagner sets out cheese and olives and searches his bachelor’s refrigerator (champagne, mustard) for a bottle of rosé she remembers from her last visit.
“Some people grow up with parents who discuss politics, and some don’t.(She will fill the hour formerly held by Martin Bashir, who resigned from the channel after making ugly comments about Sarah Palin.) “She is totally authentic on the air.She’s smart, genuine, and connects with her audience.”Born and raised in Washington, D.Wagner, 36, and Kass, 33, live different lives, in different cities, and pursue two distinct, demanding jobs.“They’re both really vibrant people at the top of their fields,” says Wagner’s longtime friend Gabe Tesoriero, a senior vice president at Island Def Jam. Sam has a strength and a confidence to him; Alex has a boisterous, larger-than-life personality.”The couple’s status and influence derive not from their accumulation of credentials or glittering public appearances but from their pursuit, away from the spotlight, of interesting life experiences and easygoing taste-making.