Headlining in Chicago: Bill Clinton, stumping for Rahm Emanuel
Former President Bill Clinton visits Chicago to support Rahm Emanuel's bid for mayor.
Former President Bill Clinton injected star power into the Chicago mayoral race Wednesday, delivering a speech in downtown Chicago to support candidate Rahm Emanuel. He said that his former fundraiser and top advisor would become “a gale force of leadership” for the city if elected.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Clinton called the involvement of Mr. Emanuel in his first presidential campaign one of the “pivotal” reasons for his election and said he possessed “the skill set and the values and the sheer raw determination” to be mayor.
But did Emanuel need the help? He is already polling in the double digits ahead of his competition, he has the greatest name recognition and war chest, and the challenge to remove his name from the ballot due to residency issues appears to be languishing in the state court system.
US Rep. Danny Davis (D), an early candidate in the race who dropped out to endorse former US Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, warned Clinton in late December not to come to Chicago on Emanuel’s behalf, saying it would jeopardize the former president’s goodwill within the black community that had supported him for nearly two decades.
IN PICTURES: Where has Bill Clinton been?
“Some of that relationship may be fractured and perhaps even broken should [Clinton] … participate overtly in efforts to thwart the legitimate political aspirations of Chicago's black community,” Davis said in a statement.
Clinton ignored the call and arrived in town anyway. His appearance shows both the resilience of his support within Chicago’s black community, and also Emanuel’s need for credibility within those circles.
“The combination of Clinton and [President] Obama is overwhelming” in Chicago’s black neighborhoods, says William Grimshaw, professor of political science at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, so it’s no surprise that Emanuel is exploiting his White House connections: six years as Clinton’s political director plus two years as Mr. Obama’s chief of staff.
But Dr. Grimshaw, author of “Bitter Fruit: Black Politics and the Chicago Machine, 1931-1991” calls Clinton’s connection to the black community dubious, a perception born in 1998 when writer Toni Morrison dubbed him the nation’s “first black president” and that he embraced thereafter for political advantage. The reality about his relationship with black voters is more complex than what Grimshaw calls “superficial links.”