With the words "look forward to seeing you in Chicago," Rahm Emanuel, left his post as chief of staff and bid farewell to President Barack Obama and others in the White House. This, as he embarks on his dream quest: the race to become mayor of Chicago.
He steps into the abyss with no guarantee he'll have a job after Chicago voters cast their ballots. A poll taken September 9th by the Chicago Sun-Times put Emanuel in fourth or fifth place. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is first with 12 percent. State Senator James Meeks is number two with 10 percent, followed by Luis Gutierrez. I write fourth OR fifth place because the poll lists Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. in fourth place. But after the poll was taken, a couple of bombshell newspaper reports have made Jackson's candidacy unlikely.
In Chicago, Emanuel will not enjoy the kind of name recognition he does inside the beltway. He will need to turn his attention away from the power center of the world and take his concerns local, very local. Everything from the half billion dollar budget shortfall to violence in the streets and poor graduation rates in public schools are now Emanuel's issues. Voters care little for the celebrity of a candidate.
Describing who he wants to vote for, Chicagoan Chester Koziol said, "Someone who won't raise taxes, who will keep the city working and repair the potholes."
He will also need to win over the traditionally unified, active and powerful minority voting bloc. Chicago Commentator Thom Serafin says, "If the African American community coalesces around one candidate, that candidate could and probably will be successful."
Emanuel cannot count on his association with Barack Obama to do that for him. It does not serve the interest of the president to stump for a mayoral candidate. "There is very little upside to that (for the President)" says strategist and Fox News contributor Karl Rove, "And a lot of downside. I'm really certain it's probably inappropriate." So, Emanuel used his farewell speech to reach out to the black community on his own. "My mother marched with Martin Luther King because she believed none of us are truly free until all of us are," he said.
Emanuel's high profile post does give him the advantage of media attention. He has crowded the rest of the potential candidates out of the headlines, even in the Chicago papers. Keeping that media attention will boost him and his issues throughout the campaign. First, he needs to decide which issues will win him votes, and then sell them on the streets of Chicago. That process hits its stride when Emanuel kicks off what he calls a "Listening Tour" through Chicago's neighborhood on Monday.
Michael Tobin joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Chicago-based correspondent.