The White House on Thursday all but confirmed that Rahm Emanuel will resign as President Obama's chief of staff on Friday to begin his campaign for Chicago mayor.
White House chief spokesman Robert Gibbs said that Obama will make a "personnel announcement" Friday during a late-morning event in the East Room but deflected a number of questions seeking specific information.
Two people close to Emanuel said his resignation would be made official Friday and that he will return to Chicago over the weekend and begin touring neighborhoods on Monday.
"He intends to run for mayor," one of the people told The Associated Press.
Both people said they did not know when Emanuel would make an official announcement about his mayoral bid but that he would launch a website with a message to Chicago voters in the near future.
Emanuel's departure, though expected by the political world for days now, is still an unquestioned loss for Obama. The president has counted on Emanuel's intensity, discipline and congressional relationships to keep the White House focused and aggressive. The job comes with nearly unrivaled pressure and power.
Obama is expected to install senior adviser Pete Rouse, a calm White House presence with his own seasoned understanding of how Washington work, to serve as interim chief of staff. The president is likely to choose a permanent chief of staff after the Nov. 2 midterm elections.
Top contenders are Rouse, deputy national security adviser Tom Donilon and Ron Klain, the chief of staff to Vice President Biden, according to aides close to the president.
Emanuel's plans have been the source of widespread speculation both in Chicago and Washington, D.C. ever since Mayor Richard Daley announced this month he would not seek re-election. In an April television interview, Emanuel had called it "no secret" he'd like to run for mayor.
Daley, who has held the mayor's job since 1989 and carried on a family dynasty, surprised many with his announcement. The choice for Emanuel suddenly became whether he would make a dash for the political job he has openly coveted, at a cost of uprooting his family again and quitting his post of national influence sooner than he thought.
When he ultimately announces his candidacy, Emanuel instantly becomes the most recognizable name in what is already a crowded field of candidates and possible candidates. Already with well over $1 million in his war chest and his well documented ability to raise huge amounts of money for political candidates around the country, Emanuel"s campaign would be extremely well funded.
Other possible candidates include Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who has made a name for himself in the Chicago area for suing Craigslist, among other things; former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun; at least one state senator and a city alderman.
A number of African Americans besides Moseley Braun are considering running, including Rep. Danny Davis and James Meeks, a state senator and prominent black minister. Black ministers, politicians and others have discussed throwing their support behind a single candidate.
A number of possible candidates, including Moseley Braun, Davis, Meeks and Dart, are in the process of collecting the 12,500 signatures necessary to win a spot on the February ballot.
Those running against Emanuel are sure to label him an outsider, and Emanuel will counter by stressing his ties to the city, particularly his tenure in Congress representing the district that includes Chicago's North Side.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.