Is the New Chicago Mayor White House-Bound?

No sooner had Rahm Emanuel won the mayoralty of Chicago outright in the primary last night than speculation began as to how he would rule once he succeeded Richard Daley at City Hall.  In addition, more than a few Emanuel-watchers voiced the opinion that the former congressman and Obama White House chief of staff would eventually use the mayoralty to run for President himself.

“I see Rahm as a mayor very much like Andrew Cuomo is shaping up as governor of New York,” veteran Chicago political pundit Tom Roeser told me shortly after Emanuel was declared the winner of the nonpartisan mayoral primary with about 53% of the vote.  “That means he’ll stand up to service employees unions and draw the line against any higher taxes.”

But Roeser, whose political blog is a must-read for anyone who follows Chicago politics closely, added another, more long-term prediction.

“I think that Rahm, after he gets a few years as mayor under his belt, will try to be ‘America’s mayor,’ much like Giuliani in New York, and then try to achieve his dream of becoming the first Jewish President,” he said.  When it comes to Emanuel, Roeser knows of whom he speaks.  For years, the two would often duel on Roeser’s popular radio talk show and later go out for dinner at Manny’s, a delicatessen Emanuel loves (and where he dined with his family on the day he was elected mayor).
Emanuel often told him, Roeser recalled, “how he felt the Democratic Party was too wed to spending and not enough to creating private sector jobs.”  He added that the former congressman and one-time Clinton White House political director was “probably much more moderate than Barack Obama, who is definitely on the left of the Democratic Party.”

Roeser said he could see Emanuel as mayor having the same kind of clashes witih public sector employees unions that have put Republican Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Mitch Daniels of Indiana in the national spotlight of late. 

Candidate Emanuel already hinted at this kind of confrontation with traditional Democratic power brokers by sending signals he would take on the most powerful of Chicago’s 50 aldermen, Ed Burke (chairman of the finance committee of the board of aldermen).  Burke is well-known for enjoying many perks in his position and even has several police bodyguards.  Asked during a recent debate how his plan for cutting city spending would affect Burke and his position, Emanuel replied, “There will be a shared sacrifice, including Eddie Burke.”  (Burke supported attorney Gery Chico, the runner-up to Emanuel in the mayoral race and a former top aide to retiring Mayor Daley). 

With nearly two-thirds of the aldermen elected for their first terms last night, Emanuel may have a better chance of cutting Burke down a peg than he would have had with more established lawmakers.
For my part, I can’t say where Rahm Emanuel will go beyond City Hall.  But having covered him since he first ran for Congress nine years ago and later as Obama’s “terrible swift sword” at the White House, I long ago concluded he was one of the most intriguing figures on the modern political scene.

As mayor and a national player among Democratic office holders, I think it’s a good bet to say Emanuel will get even more intriguing—and more fun to cover.