You can take Rahm out of the Chicago, but you can't take the Chicago out of Rahm.
The White House chief of staff admitted, in a taping of PBS' "Charlie Rose" show Monday, that he wants to run for mayor of Chicago, finally affirming widespread speculation that he's interested in the job.
The acknowledgement from Rahm Emanuel came with a host of qualifiers: He's plenty happy serving President Obama in the White House. He fully supports the sitting mayor, Richard M. Daley, and hopes Daley will run for reelection.
But if the era of the Daley political machine ever ends, Emanuel made clear that he'd like to take the helm at the heart of Chicago politics.
"If Mayor Daley doesn't (run), one day I would like to run for mayor of the city of Chicago. That's always been an aspiration of mine even when I was in the House of Representatives," Emanuel said.
The chief of staff lamented how he misses "the contact with constituents" and publicly pined for a return to on-the-street city politics.
"Right now I'm a chief of staff -- I'm in the Cabinet ... one day I want to run again for office," he said. "I want to repeat because the mayor's a dear friend of mine, and I support him, I hope he seeks reelection as you know, Charlie, you've been out to Chicago, he's done a fabulous job, and one day I would like to -- but if he doesn't at some point, that will be something I'll do."
One of Emanuel's colleagues, though, ribbed him for talking about an "ambition" he described as somewhat of a fantasy -- at least for now.
"We all know that Mayor Daley is running for reelection," White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters Tuesday. "It's something that many kids in Chicago dream of growing up to be a mayor, so it's one of the great jobs in American politics. But it's just an ambition -- when I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut. (White House Press Secretary Robert) Gibbs probably wants to ride in the Tour de France. That doesn't mean we're all leaving the White House."
He added: "I think the president thinks that Rahm Emanuel is a great chief of staff and enjoys having him in that job right now. Maybe 'enjoy' is the wrong word."