For clues about who might be next to get a show on MSNBC, viewers need not have looked further than “Countdown” earlier this month. For eight nights beginning just before the Fourth of July, Rachel Maddow, the host of a program on Air America, the liberal talk-radio network, served as a substitute for the vacationing Keith Olbermann.
Rachel Maddow holds up a Keith Olbermann mask as she filled in for him on his show “Countdown.”
“At some point, I don’t know when, she should have a show,” said Phil Griffin, hours before he was promoted on Wednesday to president of MSNBC. “She’s on the short list. It’s a very short list. She’s at the top.”
At the moment every slot at night on MSNBC is taken, with David Gregory at 6 handing off to Chris Matthews at 7, and with Dan Abrams at 9 following Mr. Olbermann at 8. But some shuffling could be in the offing; Mr. Matthews’s contract, for example, is up next year.
For her part, Ms. Maddow, who has been a ubiquitous presence as a political analyst on MSNBC this campaign season, said she is ready whenever the call should come. To hasten that process, she recently hired Mr. Olbermann’s agent, Jean Sage.
“They know I would love to do it,” Ms. Maddow, 35, said over a recent lunch below 30 Rockefeller Plaza. “I’m going to let them decide what they want to do about me. I’m saying yes every time they ask me to be on television.”
The steadily rising profile of Ms. Maddow — until earlier this year she was also seen regularly on CNN before she signed an exclusive, one-year agreement with MSNBC — is all the more remarkable considering she does not own a television. (She said she was worried it would be too distracting.) Less than a decade ago she was working odd jobs in western Massachusetts, including one at a Northampton coffee-bean factory where she cleaned out buckets, while finishing a doctoral dissertation on AIDS in prisons.