It's official: Rahm Emanuel can run for mayor of Chicago.
The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners ruled Thursday that Emanuel meets the Chicago-residence requirement despite living in Washington, D.C., for the past year and a half while working as President Obama's chief of staff.
On paper, he looks like a shoo-in. Emanuel leads his opponents by a sizable poling margin: In a Chicago Tribune/WGN poll released December 14, he led his nearest competitor by 21 percent.
This is a very good sign for Emanuel, but it doesn't mean he'll win it hands down.
The mayoral election works like this: All candidates will be on the ballot for the first round of voting February 22, then the top two vote-getters will run against each other in an April 5 final election.
Given that electoral system, Chicago strategists and longtime observers started wondering, almost as soon as Emanuel announced, whether a Stop Rahm coalition would emerge and coalesce around a single opposing candidate. Demographics also could play a big role in the election, and Emanuel could be defeated if a competitor carried a large majority of black or Hispanic votes.
After Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart dropped out of the race in late October, just under a month after Emanuel announced his intention to run, Rahm became an even heavier favorite to finish first in the February 22nd round of voting. The question is what happens after that.
Polling shows that there's still room for an anti-Rahm coalition to emerge.
Emanuel came out just two percentage points ahead of "undecided" (32 percent to 30 percent) in the aforementioned Tribune/WGN poll. He leads among both blacks and Hispanics, but many of them are undecided as well. The black vote is split among "undecided" (30 percent), Emanuel (19 percent),
Gregory James Meeks (10 percent), and Carol Moseley Braun (10 percent). The Hispanic vote is split between "undecided" (36 percent), Emanuel (27 percent), Miguel del Valle (14 percent), and Gery Chico (12 percent).
All of this is speculative, and anti-Emanuel sentiment would have to be pretty strong for the Rahm's opponents all to rally around a single candidate in April, but the numbers show it's possible at least.
Emanuel remains the heavy favorite, but he doesn't have the race locked up yet.