Friday, September 10, 2010

Can Emanuel overcome ‘ABR’ sentiment?

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel may well be hoping these days to create the concept in the minds of Chicago's electorate that his ascension to the post of mayor is inevitable. As the Star Trek fanatics might joke, “resistance is futile.”

Emanuel has in the past couple of days had his current boss, President Barack Obama, say nice things about him (while also making it clear his favorable comments were NOT endorsements).

HE EVEN HAS something of a campaign fund (about $1.2 million) remaining from his days as an elected official (he was once a member of Congress from the Northwest Side). There are measures he’d have to go through to convert that money so that some of it could be used in a local political race, rather than a federal one.

But Emanuel is also the Democratic party bigwig who knows the ways of raising significant amounts of campaign cash, and also has enough of a mean streak to know how to crack down on people in ways that won’t attract the attention of the FBI. He won’t have much trouble getting people to donate to him – if he decides to run for mayor.

In short, he has the potential to come into next year’s campaign and crush the competition with cash and name recognition. I’m sure he’d like to think that his election, should he decide to take on such a mission, is inevitable.

It’s just that I realize that for the great number of Chicagoans who in the past have voted for Emanuel, part of the attraction was that they were picking him for an office that was somewhere else (as in the District of Columbia).

I WONDER HOW many people in the city are going to take on an attitude of Anybody But Rahm should he actually decide to seek the mayor’s post.

I noticed the poll taken Wednesday by the We Ask America group, which by its own admission considers its poll to be, “for fun.” The way they picked the types of people to poll, and the candidates they chose to include (nobody thinks Bill Daley is going to run for mayor to succeed his brother, Rich) are questionable enough that I almost think I should ignore this.

Anybody who thinks Rahm Emanuel is a shoo-in for Chicago mayor might want to note the middle headline (enlarged) on Page One of Thursday's Chicago Sun-Times.

Except for the fact that it shows Emanuel with a significant lead overall (29.66 percent, when no other candidate can even reach 14 percent). Among black, white and Asian voters surveyed, Emanuel leads. When it comes to Latino voters, he comes in second (21.94 percent), well ahead of everybody except for Rep. Luis Gutierrez (50.63 percent).

Already on other sites on the Internet, people are making arguments about how stupid it is to think that Emanuel would take a significant share of the black vote (this poll has him taking more of a percentage than Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., and Rev/.state Sen. James Meeks combined).

I’LL POINT OUT the fact that I doubt Emanuel would really come in second among Latinos with any significant vote – largely because there are those activists who could be influential among the electorate who are convinced that the main reason Obama has been so weak and tepid on pushing forth with immigration reform is that he has been listening too much to Emanuel; who as chief of staff has preferred to ignore the issue and focus on other things such as healthcare reform.

This is about name recognition. Many people may well have read or heard the stories coming out that insist on treating Emanuel as a frontrunner so that he’s the first name that popped into their heads when they were polled – similar to how Scott Lee Cohen won a Democratic primary for Illinois lieutenant governor because his campaign advertising was so intense that his was the only name some voters were familiar with.

Once we get into the guts of the campaign, an Emanuel bid will get bogged down with the baggage of the first two years of President Obama’s term. I wonder how many people here who voted for Obama eagerly in ’08 are going to feel a need to “punish” someone – and will take it out on Rahm.

There also are those people who have their ideological hang-ups about Emanuel from his days in the Clinton administration, and were probably disappointed that his career in electoral politics didn’t come to a crashing halt a decade ago. They will creep out of the woodwork to speak out against Emanuel.

I’M ALSO WONDERING about Nancy Kaszak these days. She is a former state legislator from the Northwest Side who also was once the lead attorney for the Chicago Park District. She tried back in 2002 to move up to Congress, portraying herself as a good Polish girl from the neighborhood who wanted to go to Washington. She might have made a fine member of Congress, except that her desires ran head-on into Emanuel’s need to get himself elected to a political post so he could resume the chase of his political dreams.

I remember that campaign turning into a nasty one between Rahm and Anybody But Rahm. Rahm won, leaving a slew of voters disgusted. I expect the spirit of that Congressional campaign to spread city-wide, should he actually decide to run and succeed in filing enough valid signatures of support on nominating petitions to get on the ballot.

So will Emanuel prevail? Is resistance truly futile?

Or, like Star Trek’s mythical crews of the Enterprise always managed to do with The Borg, will Chicago voters thwart an Emanuel mayoral dream in favor of someone, anyone, else?


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