This rumor seems utterly crazy, but there are three reasons to report on it.
1. Rahm Emanuel is a brazen careerist. He rode the Obama train as far as he thought it would go and dropped out when the going began to look rough, and secured a high-profile elected position. Despite his denials, it is extremely unlikely that Emanuel’s ambitions only extend as far as being the Mayor of Chicago.
2. Being the Mayor of Chicago is not a very good long-term job. It’s a great opportunity to build connections and fill your pockets. If your last name is Daley, you can try to stick it out, but even the Daleys don’t want Chicago now. The city is deep in debt and headed toward a cliff. Crime is out of control and reforms are all but impossible due to the union structure.
3. If Rahm Emanuel has bigger ambitions, he has a limited time frame in which to make his brand that of a reformer and make a move on to the governor’s mansion. Trying to move from Mayor of Chicago to President is insane, but so is taking a State Senator and moving him into the Oval Office. And Obama has managed to win two terms despite being completely unqualified and spending less time in the Senate than on vacation. So nothing can be considered completely unthinkable now. The presidency has become just another position that anyone can grab with enough media support and left-wing billionaires at their back.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is said by well-connected Democrats to be considering the idea of running for president if Hillary Clinton opts out of the 2016 race.
The 53-year-old Emanuel, who is busy raising money for his 2015 reelection campaign in the Windy City, has had discussions both over the phone and face to face in the past month with Democratic Party donors and fundraisers about a possible White House run, according to sources.
“I talk to Rahm almost every single day, sometimes more than once a day, and he’s never said anything like that to me,” said Democratic strategist Paul Begala, a colleague and friend from Bill Clinton’s White House. “This is the first I’ve heard of it. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”
Clinton loyalist James Carville, another friend of the mayor’s, echoed Begala’s dubious assessment: “I never have heard something like that, and it’s not like I don’t talk to Rahm all the time. And it’s not like people close to him ever brought it up.”
Yet rumors of Emanuel’s higher ambitions persist. “I heard there were some conversations with donors especially during the inauguration,” a well-known Democratic politico told The Daily Beast, referring to the January 20-21 celebrations in Washington marking the launch of President Obama’s second term. A second highly placed Democrat echoed that account.
“If Hillary doesn’t run, the lineup isn’t exactly impressive,” said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. “Who do the Democrats have? Cuomo, and a vice president who’s going to be 74 by Inauguration Day. Then there’s Martin O’Malley, the governor of Maryland? Brian Schweitzer, the former governor of Montana? Kirsten Gillibrand? These are not giants in a forest of redwoods.”
The problem with this account is why wouldn’t Hillary run? She wanted this job very badly and her husband cut a deal with Obama that amounted to an unofficial endorsement for her campaign even before Obama began his second term.
Barring the exposure of some truly epic criminality that even the media can’t whitewash or some illness, 2016 on the Dem side is Hillary’s moment. The only serious contender is Andrew Cuomo, a truly creepy figure who is in some ways even more disturbing than Obama, and has shown a great deal of facility in taking down Democratic rivals, even when they are already sitting in the governor’s chair. Cuomo is a former Clintonite and may be entirely willing to wait for 2020 or 2024, or he may not be.
The big challenge of Obama’s second term is for the Democrats to divide all the spoils of victory. The common narrative is that Hillary Clinton is a shoe-in and that means they expect her to serve two terms. By 2024, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will be 71. He can still run, assuming that he has managed to stay governor for three terms. And Cuomo, who is even more of a ruthless bastard than Rahm Emanuel, may not be willing to play the long game and wait that long.
So what’s Rahm Emanuel’s game in all this? He may just be boosting his own reputation. Potential presidential candidate sounds more impressive than Mayor of Chicago, and as a born egomaniac, he needs that clout. And he may also be calling dibs on the off-chance that Hillary can’t make it. But as a Clintonite, he may also be warning off other contenders that if Hillary is forced to drop out, they’ll be stuck in an ugly contest with him.
And the obvious person that message is directed at, is professional Democratic backstabber Governor Andrew Cuomo. Rahm Emanual isn’t a blind black guy. And he isn’t an inept Republican tycoon. The one thing that Rahm Emanuel knows how to do is take the fight to the enemy and that would interfere with Andrew Cuomo’s patented tactic of using the media to destroy his enemies with relentless attacks while keeping his distance. Cuomo would win such a fight, but likely end up too damaged to win a national election afterward.
And America would have a choice of two vicious political thugs with the faces of murderers for the Democratic ticket in 2016.