It's even brought Emanuel praise from a conservative darling, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Yup, Chicago-style politics.
And Mr. Romney, the former management consultant extraordinaire, might turn orgasmic over the new empirical bent Emanuel has brought to the nation's third-biggest city. He's got a chief technology officer (via IBM) and a chief data officer who are harnessing technology and trying to bring efficiency and transparency to a long-calcified government -- and all for the ultimate goal of economic development.
Go to a city website and find well more than 200 "data sets," including calls to 311, breakdowns of crimes, vendors banned from city business, the rodent-baiting requests of individuals and businesses, processing time for building permits and the removal of fallen trees.
You want more? There are response rates to graffiti-removal requests and how long it takes to install a new 96-gallon plastic garbage can at single-family homes. Can't find your car where you left it last night? Well, maybe you can now discover quickly online whether it's stuck in a city pound on the city's new wasmycartowed.com.
As for the actual politics, Romney plays to a the moth-eaten image of a rough-and-tumble, blue-collar town with the packinghouse squeals of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle in the background. A sophisticated fellow like Stuart Stevens, one of his chief strategists, surely knows better, given the worldly fellow he is -- even if his client does not.
Even I, a snooty native New Yorker, must concede that Chicago is a cosmopolitan place these days whose economy is deemed in some academic studies as the fifth most globally important, after only New York, London, Singapore, and Tokyo. Hell, the former Sears Tower and Standard Oil Building, which remain two of the world's tallest, are now named after mega-insurance brokers, Willis and Aon. It's all very slick and white-collar.
There's world-class theater, probably the most dazzling new public space in the nation (Millennium Park), and a booming dining sector that's a mecca for young chefs, with some critics claiming a high-tech haute-cuisine bastion called Alinea is America's best restaurant.
Yes, yes, there is criminal skullduggery. But how many times must one point to Justice Department surveys on municipal corruption that show Illinois lapped by a bunch of other states, including New Jersey, with Florida far in the lead?
Is it a tough brand of politics? For sure, especially given a balkanized Illinois universe with many sophisticated players and competing centers of power. There may be no more savvy and potent player in any state legislature than Michael Madigan, a Chicago state representative who is the Illinois House Speaker. John Boehner and Harry Reid only wish they were half as effective as the Machiavellian Madigan, the state's most powerful politician.