The Washington press corps has been atwitter today about the possibility that Rahm Emanuel will soon depart the White House to run for mayor of Chicago.
The news came suddenly that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley will not seek another term, and Emanuel has made little secret that the job appeals to him. In January The Washington Post reported that Emanuel had told people he viewed his White House tenure as an 18-month gig and that he was considering a run for mayor at the end of Daley's term.
"One day I would like to run for mayor of the city of Chicago. That's always been an aspiration of mine even when I was in the House of Representatives," Emanuel told Charlie Rose in April.
A senior administration official told the Post today: "I'd be shocked if he didn't run."
Or, put another way, one White House reporter tweeted: "Rahm-shaped hole in wall of the West Wing."
But how would Rahm Emanuel fare, if he did run? Would he enter the race as an automatic favorite? Two Chicago political strategists said he'd enter as a top-tier candidate.
"I think if he did, I think he comes with two unique assets. Everybody talks about what a great fundraiser he is, but I think the real asset that he has is people in Chicago think being mayor is a very big job," said strategist Peter Giangreco of The Strategy Group, a Chicago-based Democratic consulting firm. "I think people look around in the city of Chicago, and if you ask people if you think a guy who was the White House chief of staff can handle the job, they'd say yes."
A Rahm Emanuel candidacy has "been talked about a lot more amongst the Washington pundits and press corps than it has amongst the Chicago pundits and press corps," said Kitty Kurth of Kurth Lampe, a communications and consulting firm based in downtown Chicago.
"I think he would certainly be an A-list candidate right off the bat, but that's not to say there aren't other A-list candidates as well," Kurth said.
Chicago will hold a nonpartisan general election in February, then a runoff in April between the top two vote-getters.
Right now, most of the candidates being discussed are aldermen ("you've got 50 aldermen who wake up every day and see a mayor in the mirror," Giangreco says), but a few other big-name candidates could emerge. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. has eyed a run at mayor in the past; Congressman Luis Gutierrez, also rumored to have harbored mayoral ambitions, told The Hill in April that Rahm wouldn't get his endorsement if the chief of staff departed to run for mayor. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart may be in the mix, and the Chicago Sun-Times (unseriously) floated White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and (perhaps more seriously) other members of the Daley family.
One facet of this election to mind: although Daley is stepping down, his extensive political infrastructure isn't going away. Whoever secures the backing of the Daley network could enjoy significant advantage.
"They will have a candidate," Kurth said. "I just don't know who it is yet."