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Headlining in Chicago: Bill Clinton, stumping for Rahm Emanuel

Former President Bill Clinton visits Chicago to support Rahm Emanuel's bid for mayor.

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“[Clinton] was kind of duping them,” Grimshaw says. “He would go to church and then reform the welfare system in a way that put them at a disadvantage.”

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Emanuel’s commitment to Chicago’s mostly black and low-income South and West sides has been questioned, as he has made few public appearances at forums and other public meetings there. For instance, over the past weekend, as other candidates participated in candidate forums or made speeches at local churches and halls in mostly black neighborhoods, Emanuel stuck to the West Loop near downtown, where he greeted diners in a local restaurant.

His opponents frequently use his absences to suggest a lack of accountability. “It’s very important that [Emanuel] be held to account to he fact that [he is] not here tonight and we are to answer your questions,” Ms. Braun told a group of about 300 people at a public forum Saturday morning.

Emanuel’s “rose garden strategy,” a preference for controlled, as opposed to open, forums, will not put his campaign at a disadvantage, Grimshaw says, because he is outspending his competition with advertising. “His money is the key, his connections are the second key on the South Side. So he’s reaching a lot of people but he’s using money more than public appearances,” he says.

While no other candidates have had an endorsement as high-profile as Clinton’s, most have enjoyed single-issue support from local and even national leaders. For example, US Rep. Luis Gutierrez is endorsing the immigration reform of Gery Chico, former chief of staff to departing Mayor Richard J. Daley. Mr. Chico’s education agenda is similarly backed by former Chicago Public Schools President Paul Vallas, who is now the superintendent of Louisiana’s Recovery School District. The National Organization for Women Equality PAC endorsed Braun for her work with women’s issues.

Vying for endorsements that have national visibility is new in Chicago, says John Mark Hanson, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. “This is the first celebrity election in a good while. [Chicago] has tended to be a place with pretty well-defined career paths and you just sort of waited your turn,” Mr. Hanson says.

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