White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel will have a campaign team ready when, as expected, he announces Friday he's leaving Washington to run for mayor of Chicago. Unless Emanuel changes his mind at the last minute, which associates say is highly unlikely, he will return to Chicago as early as Sunday to begin to collect signatures necessary to put his name on the ballot next Monday.
A campaign manager has been hired, aides have a plan to get Emanuel on the ballot, and Emanuel has secured private commitments from several Chicago-based political consultants. Several people said they have been contacted by people representing Emanuel but have been asked not to disclose the contacts. Candidates need 12,500 signatures to qualify for the ballot, but in practice, they'll find twice as many.
Emanuel's interim replacement is expected to be Peter Rouse, a senior adviser to the president. But White House officials insisted that no final decision had been made, which is a way of saying that, though a final decision has been made, it could become something less final if something happens during the next 24 hours to change minds. Others, like deputy national security adviser Tom Donilon and White House counsel Robert Bauer, have made it clear that they don't want it. Vice President Biden's chief of staff, Ron Klain, has also been mentioned as a possible temporary replacement. A request from the President might change their minds, especially if the tenure of the appointment is short. Many White House staffers are rooting for Rouse, who is well-liked and well-respected by almost everyone who works for the President.
Democrats said to expect a mid-morning announcement from the president Friday, where he will say good bye to the departing chief of staff and announce the promotion of his new chief of staff. Word of Emanuel's final decision is likely to be given to reporters tomorrow, along with the identity of his replacement.
Emanuel will not cruise to victory. Several prominent names, including Cook Co. Sheriff Tom Dart and Rev. James Meeks, also want to run. Dart is probably Emanuel's biggest threat.
Chicago politicos are unsure if anyone has what it takes to beat Emanuel, a campaigner of mythical status, but to a person, most believe he is vulnerable. He may even face challenges based on his actions as chief of staff, including the failure to pass immigration reform and his well-known revulsion for organized progressives.
A White House spokesperson declined to comment.