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As the city adjusts to the idea of life without a Daley as mayor, the speculation is growing about who will replace him.
And the person who has generated the most buzz is President Obama’s chief of staff.
Emanuel has some of the same qualities that have served Richard M. Daley well: He’s in love with the city, has a reputation for being ruthless, and he’s a fierce power-wielder who is more known for his use of four-letter invectives than his eloquence.
In one famous story, he and several colleagues sent a dead fish to a political enemy.
Unlike Daley, he’s a Northsider and a Cub’s fan, and he doesn’t have the same sort of citywide power base that Daley built up. His career has been in national politics; he has less experience with the cutthroat, machine-driven dynamics that can drive local elections.
Emanuel is still weighing his options, but he’s already received one powerful endorsement from his current boss. Emanuel would be “an excellent mayor,” Obama told ABC’s Good Morning America on Thursday. He added that he expects Emanuel will not make a decision until after the midterm elections – perhaps revealing his own feelings about what his chief of staff needs to be focused on for the next few months? – but it’s doubtful that would leave him enough time to run.
Chicago's primary is Feb. 22, and the filing deadline for candidates is Nov. 22. Emanuel has a head start due to his strong name recognition and powerful connections, but it is still certain to be a crowded, tough field of candidates.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs didn’t do much to quell rumors of Emanuel's departure either, telling reporters Wednesday that “something like [the mayor opportunity] doesn’t come around a lot” and that “it’s no surprise that’s a job he’s been interested in.”
Emanuel has indicated he will likely make up his mind in the next week or two. If he does run, it’s no certainty he’ll be elected, despite his clout.
South Side doyen and Congressman Bobby Rush has talked about the importance of having a strong African-American contender, and told the Sun-Times that the media’s focus on Emanuel is “childish” and that Emanuel’s skills are “not transferable to Chicago.” Richard Mell, the powerful alderman and estranged father-in-law to ex-governor Rod Blagojevich, told the press that any winning candidate would need to be a “unifier” who has a lot of money and can mount “a full-scale, ward-by-ward operation.”
One endorsement Emanuel won’t get if he runs, despite a long-standing friendship: the current mayor’s. Daley has said he intends to stay out of the next race, telling reporters, “It can be the people of the city of Chicago that make that decision.”