All-Star Panel: Rahm Emanuel's political struggles in Chicago

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 25, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Before Rahm was a big-shot mayor he was an essential part of my team at the White House during some very hard times for America. And I relied on his judgment every day.

I couldn't be prouder of him. I'm glad he is my mayor, and I'm glad he is going to be my mayor for another four years.

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL, CHICAGO: We have come a long way, and we have a little bit further to go. This is the first step in a real important journey for our city.

JESUS "CHUY" GARCIA, CHICAGO MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Nobody thought we would be here tonight. They wrote us off. They said we didn't have a chance. We're still running.


GARCIA: And we're going to win.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, the president campaigned for his friend Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago. But he did not get him over the threshold. He needed 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff. He didn't get it. Take a look at the numbers last night, the election, and there you see the second place finisher, County Commissioner Chuy Garcia. Now there's a runoff in April. The support, obviously, for Rahm Emanuel came from his former boss President Obama. Also, obviously, Rahm Emanuel has big ties to the Clintons. Chuy Garcia didn't have a lot of support but he talked a lot about Senator Elizabeth Warren on the campaign trail and said he voices support for her. What does this say more broadly about the Democratic Party? We're back with our panel. Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think there is a hunger for something other than a Clinton or the old establishment. You see it. Although I have to say that with a name like Jose Chuy, how can you lose?

BAIER: Jesus Chuy.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Excuse me, Jesus Chuy. That's even better. He won the Hispanic and black vote.

And it shows you one other thing. Obama had great success with those constituencies when he ran himself and he succeeded in '08, obviously, and in '12. And when he isn't on the ticket, the party suffers. It's his charisma is not transitive. And that tells us for a 2016 you take away his poll -- personal poll, but he doesn't have coattails, you have to ask yourself if a Clinton will be able to actually do well if it's not him at the top of the ticket. And the hunger for, I think, something like a Warren on the Democratic base was expressed in Chicago and I think it might prompt her to think again about running.

BAIER: George, Emanuel spent three to one over his nearest competitor. Obviously, he had the president coming. Is it too broad a template to say that if the president can't get him across the finish line in Chicago that there is an issue?

WILL: Well, I think there are a number of messages. One is that the declining utility of the last political dollar whether you have as many dollars as he has is pretty steep. Second, the most overrated force in America is the rhetoric of Barack Obama, who campaigned for the Affordable Care Act, it got less popular. He campaigned against Republicans in 2010 and in 2014, the off-year elections. His party got shellacked. There is just no evidence that his rhetoric works.

Furthermore, Rahm Emanuel is an acquired taste. Famously profane, hard to deal with, but he has been -- he has made enemies where he ought to make enemies, particularly with regard to education in Chicago. He closed superfluous schools, used the money to open charter schools, lengthened the school day, demanded merit pay. He's been a terrific mayor in that regard.

BAIER: Teachers' unions obviously lining up with Garcia.

CHARLES LANE, OPINION WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Look, this is actually a very big deal. This is the furtherance of a trend that in a way began with Bill de Blasio's victory in New York City, which is predominance of the left of the Democratic Party in the big voting centers or big urban areas of the country using a teacher union base to push back against what they regard as the excessive centrism and, quote-unquote, "pro-corporate wing of the party" who could not be better epitomized by a figure like Rahm Emanuel with his background in investment banking and the Clinton administration.

I happen to agree with George that Emanuel has taken on special interests in the education bureaucracy in Chicago to the benefit of the city. But those groups push back. And they are pushing back hard right now. In fact, it was going to be the president of the teachers union who ran against him if she hadn't fallen ill. If I were Rahm Emanuel I would be running very scared in this runoff.

BAIER: Is Hillary Clinton looking hard at this election?

LANE: I think she epitomizes the kind of people who should be worried by this because this is sort of the Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren wing, you know, making headway in Chicago. Now, of course, they haven't won yet. But I think it should put a scare in them.

KRAUTHAMMER: If you look at the candidates that the Clintons endorsed in the 2014 election, I think just about every one of them lost. This is an election where I think the taste for another Clinton remains extremely high, but it hasn't been challenged. And I think Warren would look at this and think that the party, at least the hardcore are the ones who want her. I think there is a demand. She may give the supply.

BAIER: You buy it?

WILL: I do. But I think this is more organized labor than dissension within the Democratic Party. Just north of Illinois in Madison, Wisconsin, organized labor, particularly public employees union, suffered a devastating defeat and they're trying to score a victory now, but against a Democrat.

KRAUTHAMMER: They are very important in the primaries.

BAIER: That is it for the panel, but stay tuned to see how a Canadian lawmaker handled an uncomfortable situation.

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