Jack Markell's Politics, Personality, and His Future In (or Out of) Office
Heavy hitter: Jack Markell racked up early victories as governor, but he’s taken some tough shots of late. Could the likable leader have his sights set on an even bigger prize?
(page 2 of 6)
But Markell has received plaudits from both sides of the political spectrum while broadening his profile nationwide. He is chair of the National Governors Association, a position that, among other duties, took him in January to the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in the Swiss Alps. Last December, he led a weeklong trade delegation to Korea and Japan, and in February he spent 10 days in India, speaking at an IT trade conference and attempting to drum up business for Delaware.
His appearances on national media outlets are increasing, largely due to Hinton Communications, a Washington, D.C., public relations firm hired last year by his political action committee, the Committee for a Better Future, with $90,000 in campaign funds. Since then, he has appeared in the Wall Street Journal and on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC and Bloomberg.
Noting the high-powered public relations firm, the increased national exposure and Markell’s—for the most part—middle-of-the-road political tack, Nancy Willing, author of the Delaware Way blog, says, “Everybody strongly feels he has ambitions beyond Delaware.”
Markell denies this. His media appearances, he says, are limited to “vehicles that appeal to people who make decisions about where to invest and where to hire. I look for every opportunity to tell the Delaware story to those people.”
He insists he has given no thought about what he will do when his term ends, never mind any designs on national office. “I happen to be in a job here which demands 100 percent of my attention. I want to be the best governor I can possibly be, and that is all I’m focused on. I do no thinking whatsoever about what happens in 2017.”
If Markell does decide to run for elective office, the timing somewhat limits his options. Democrat Chris Coons’ Senate term ends in January 2015, two years before Markell’s term expires in January 2017. Coons probably will run for re-election, and almost certainly will win a six-year term in what is fast becoming a one-party state, especially at the top of the ballot. Democratic Sen. Tom Carper’s term ends in January, 2019, two years after Markell leaves office.
That leaves John Carney, whose seat in the U.S. House is up for election every two years. It’s conceivable, but unlikely, that Markell could run against him in the 2016 Democratic primary. (Markell bested then party-backed Lt. Gov. Carney in the hard-fought 2008 gubernatorial primary.) There is a feeling that the House isn’t a big enough enticement.
Some even say Markell may have presidential potential, or a shot at vice president (See: Biden, Joe). Perhaps more realistic is a cabinet position for the former three-term state treasurer: Secretary of the treasury? Secretary of commerce?
Then again, he could return to the private sector, which he left in 1998 to run for state treasurer. At the time he was a driving force behind Nextel Communications, serving as vice president for corporate development. Or he could follow his father’s footsteps into the academic world. And he could write a book, as most public figures seem compelled to do.