Confessions of a Professional Political Junkie

Politics
October 01, 2012

By the time most people are waking up, Reid Wilson, BA ’05, has read dozens of newspapers and blog posts from across the United States. As editor-in-chief of National Journal Hotline, Washington’s daily tip sheet on campaigns and elections, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I love politics. I love the game of it,” said Wilson, who studied classical humanities and archaeology while a student at GW. “I get to be a sportscaster for the only game that matters. We’re at this seminal moment in American politics where not one but both parties are reinventing themselves fundamentally.”

By 6 a.m., Wilson is poring over stories about Senate races, gubernatorial races, House races, and, of course, the upcoming presidential race. Consequently, he possesses a “horrible hidden skill” of knowing the entire “Senators” category on Jeopardy. “The way people love baseball stats, I love political stats,” he explained.

His love of politics started in elementary school. In the early 1990s, his parents took him to meet his state legislator, who drew pie charts and explained budgets to the second grader. Wilson followed his legislator’s career—watching Gary Locke, the current U.S. ambassador to China, serve as governor of Washington and as President Barack Obama’s first commerce secretary.

Wilson knew that he’d go into politics in some form or another. He enrolled at GW because it was the “right location, with the right set of programs to sustain an intellectual interest and allow for professional development.”

“I couldn’t have chosen a better place,” he said.

His first job out of college was as an assistant to Chuck Todd, ATT ’90-94, who was running Hotline at the time. He then worked on a presidential campaign in 2008 and realized that he was much happier writing about politics than practicing it.

Wilson opened RealClearPolitics.com’s Washington bureau, then worked for The Hill newspaper, where he covered congressional politics and campaigns. Before taking over Hotline’s top job, he edited the popular On Call blog.

So what advice does Wilson have for aspiring politicos?

“This city runs on confidence. If you act confident enough, you can walk into any room in this town. Nobody will hand you anything, you have to take it,” he said, noting that there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. “But overall, if you treat people well, keep a smile and good attitude, and act like you belong, nobody’s going to say no.”