Primed for punditry
Waiting for a recent appearance on Ratigan’s show, Ball sat in a narrow, black-walled room staring at a camera and a blinking red light. Behind her was the primary reason multiple networks rent space at 400 North Capitol Street: a window with a picture-perfect view of the Capitol dome.
After her campaign ended, Ball appeared several times on Fox, often as the Democrat on a panel filled with Republicans. She also went on CNN. Now she has a paid deal with MSNBC and is essentially on call for that network.
Ball, her husband and their 3-year-old daughter spend the bulk of their time in New York, close to MSNBC’s Manhattan headquarters. She no longer has a house in Virginia, though she can stay with her parents back home in King George, 20 miles east of Fredericksburg, when she’s in the area.
Her recent booking was about the latest jobs numbers, but Ball also has to be comfortable talking about anything from Libya to labor policy. On Friday, she got the day’s topics roughly two hours before the show, giving her time to scroll through a few articles on her pink-cased iPhone.
“You pretty much have to be prepared to talk about whatever the news is,” she said. “Running for Congress was good practice for that.”
Ball’s sole political experience is her congressional bid. She has never advised, been employed by or volunteered for any other campaign or elected official. But the more she appears on television identified as a “Democratic strategist” and political expert, the more she is known as one.
Ball has some clear expertise on at least one topic — damage control. When Weiner became engulfed in scandal over lewd pictures of himself sent via Twitter, Ball wrote a piece for the Atlantic offering him advice: “Get it all out. Everything. All at once. Answer every question that is remotely related to the issue from every legitimate, non-tabloid news outlet.”
A future candidate
Ball is definitely not running for Congress or anything else in 2012, but the future is less clear.
“I haven’t ruled out another run for office at some point,” Ball said. She doesn’t think her move to New York would imperil her prospects back home: “I’ve lived in the state almost my entire life, so I think if I ever wanted to come back and serve in Virginia, it would be pretty hard to paint me as a carpetbagger.”
Ball has been collaborating with the Women’s Campaign Forum, which supported her during her campaign. She works with the group’s She Should Run program, which encourages young women to run for office.
And Ball is also writing a novel based loosely on her campaign experience, about two female candidates running for office. Will the plot include suggestive online photos? Ball wouldn’t say.
She may still be better known for scandal than for any of her other ventures, but she said she has made peace with her past: “It doesn’t keep me up at night.”