Since the announcement that Mayor Richard Daley won't seek re-election, nearly everyone assumes Rahm Emanuel is running. He's said before that he would like to be mayor, and Chicago political insiders agree that he'd enter the race as a top-tier candidate. A "just for fun" automated poll by an Illinois firm shows him as a clear favorite among Chicago voters.
If Emanuel does run for mayor, the timing of his announcement will be an issue for him, and for the White House, to navigate. The national midterm elections will take place November 2, and President Obama indicated today that he doesn't expect an announcement from Emanuel before then.
"One thing I've always been impressed with about Rahm is that when he has a job to do, he focuses on the job in front of him," Obama said in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos that aired this morning. "And so, my expectation is he would make a decision after these midterm elections. He knows that we've got a lot of work to do."
The administration's opponents surely would use Emanuel's pending departure as an opportunity to attack the White House, pointing out that Obama's chief of staff has one foot out the door with Democrats slated to lose big on Election Day.
But we'll probably know whether or not Emanuel is running before the midterms. In order to run, he must file 12,500 signatures with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners by November 22, and while Emanuel could probably get those signatures rather quickly, a mayoral bid will require some legwork.
Being mayor of Chicago isn't something one can just waltz into. He'll need to go to Chicago to gauge his chances, shore up support, and feel out prominent Chicago players for endorsements, most notably Mayor Daley, whose extensive political network is expected to unify behind a chosen successor.
While Emanuel would enter the race as an A-list candidate, and probably an outright frontrunner, he may not necessarily win, and he could face intense competition. If he waits to make an announcement, it will give competitors time to get into the race and edge him out.
"He's got to make a decision soon to discourage potential candidates," said Loyola University political science Prof. Alan Gitelson. "The sooner he...makes it clear you're gonna have to contend with Rahm Emanuel, the sooner folks are gonna have to get serious."
While an official announcement could wait until after the midterm elections, expect Emanuel to at least make his intentions known to key Chicago political figures, including his potential competitors, well before then.
President Obama and senior administration officials quited in news reports have been quite open about the fact that Emanuel will probably run, and by all indications, they support him in that effort. They don't seem to care that the world knows it. And if he does indeed run, the world will know about it before the midterms, regardless of whether an official announcement comes by then.
Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.