Fitting, then, that there's just about as much suspense. The president will make a "personnel announcement" tomorrow morning, giving one more evening for speculative stories. What candidate for mayor of Chicago wouldn't like an East Room press conference followed by weeks of breathless coverage?
As Power Play has noted in the part, it's been an open secret among Washington Democrats that Emanuel had been odd man out in the administration for some time. Whether it was his widely reported opposition to doing the full dose of Obamacare or his habit of always ending up in print, something had driven a wedge between him and the other members of the inner circle.
Rahm will take his Rolodex and press maestro skills with him to Chicago, where things may tend to get a bit more complicated. There are clouds over the Daley political machine and murmurs of the need for reform. With Rod Blagojevich traipsing around, Tony Rezko still unheard from, and a fiscal catastrophe looming for the city, things could get dicey between now and the February primary.
It will be especially tough if Rep. Mike Quigley runs. Quigley shocked Chicagoans by winning Emanuel's former House seat (also previously occupied by Blago), despite being at odds with the Daley machine.
But that is all Chicago's problem.
Here, the question is all about Emanuel's replacement. The administration has all but announced that Obama's former Senate chief of staff Pete Rouse will step in on at least an interim basis. Rouse was former Sen. Tom Daschle's loyal lieutenant, who was bequeathed to promising freshman Obama after Daschle was defeated by John Thune in 2004.
Daschle has been the unseen hand in the Obama administration. Free limo rides from corporate friends and tax concerns scuttled Daschle's chance to be the face of Obamacare, but his influence on the administration (and the legislation) has been huge behind the scenes. If Obama had a political mentor during his brief Senate career, it was Daschle.
If 64-year-old Rouse doesn't keep the job after the midterms, Power Play doesn't expect Obama to pay much attention to outside voices on picking a permanent gatekeeper. The president has a very tight circle developed in his quick rise to power (as Emanuel learned) and he is not likely to step beyond it again.