Rahm Emanuel walks into MacArthur’s, the West Side soul food restaurant, with an entourage that would make his brother Ari jealous. His son is with him. So is Secretary of State Jesse White, and Jesse White’s bodyguard, a man with a curly-fry earpiece.
“He’s here!” a TV cameraman shouts. As Emanuel walks among the booths, shaking hands, TV crews follow him, shoving hapless print journalists out of their way.
Emanuel pauses to greet Ruby Davies and Annette Dunigan, two elderly women enjoying an after-church brunch. Davies is still wearing her broad-brimmed Sunday hat.
“We’re workin’ hard,” Emanuel promises them.
“I looove him,” Davies says, after Emanuel moved on. “Something about him. If he was good enough to work in the White House, he should be good enough to be mayor.”
Not everyone agrees. Lloyd Coward, a supporter of mayoral candidate William “Dock” Walls, tries to start a chant of “Say No To Rahm.” No one joins in. Not even Walls, who arrived before Emanuel, and is standing in the chow line, intercepting diners.
“He says things that are illegal,” Coward says of Emanuel. “He’s going to take money from TIFs and give it to the police. That’s malappropriation. But the media doesn’t report that. You’re in Emanuel’s pocket. You’re ignoring all the other candidates.”
“I’m not in Emanuel’s pocket,” I protest. “Introduce me to Dock Walls. I’ll ask him the same question I asked Gery Chico on Saturday.”
Coward introduces us. I ask Walls whether he would cut benefits for current city employees.
“Current pensioners would not experience any change in benefits,” he promises. “The courts are going to find that it’s illegal. It’s immoral, too.”
Walls also predicts he will make the run-off, with 25 percent of the vote. You read it in Ward Room first.
Emanuel sits down to a private lunch with his son and Jesse White. On my way out the door, I run into David Mendell, author of Obama: From Promise to Power. He’s working on an Emanuel profile for GQ.
“It’s not coming out until May, so he should be ensconced in the mayor’s office by then,” Mendell says. “Of course, if he loses, I’ll have to revise my story.”
Emanuel’s next visit is to the One-Stop Mall (Polskia Centrum Handlowe), a mini-mall in the northwest side neighborhood of Dunning. His campaign office there is across the hall from a shoe store and a Polish bookstore, Dom Ksiazki, which means “House of Books.” When Emanuel walks in, his phonebankers burst into cheers. They love him. On the door is a sheet of cardboard, labeled “I Support Rahm Because.” His supporters have written their reasons underneath:
-- He will keep our streets safe!
-- He is passionate and committed to Chicago.
-- He gave me a glass of water (He also rocks).
-- He gets things done!
A lectern, blooming with microphones, is set up for Emanuel. He’ll be giving the news media its daily feeding here. Emanuel smiles, but he seems high-strung and impatient at having to keep explain this stuff over and over again.
“I’ve been to El stops, grocery store, Targets, five churches today,” he says. “You guys have heard me say this, but it’s something I believe strongly, which is everybody, regardless of where you are, has the same set of ideas, the same concerns, whether it’s the safety of our streets, whether it’s schools, I just met a mother here who sends her kid to Coonley School, a school I helped create a gifted program for as a congressman.”
“Rahm, what about the charge that you are by upbringing a suburanite, and that you are the son of privilege?” ABC’s Charles Thomas asks.
“Charles, it’s not what neighborhood you grew up in, it’s whether you fight for neighborhoods. When I was working on behalf of kids who don’t have health care, and making sure I was taking on the insurance companies, that was for kids in every neighborhood. When I was helping to pass comprehensive legislation to make sure that Wall Street did not tank the economy, or passing comprehensive reform, it was for all parts of the city. It’s not hard to find divisions. The real difficult part is to find common ground and fight for those changes that everybody can benefit.”
Jay Levine of CBS asked a “two part” question.
Emanuel laughs tensely.
“A two-part political question?”
“One: do you believe you can win outright on Tuesday, and when did you start to believe? If the answer is yes, when did you start to believe that was going to be possible.”
“Look, Jay, my focus is going to be making sure people going into this election knowing my record on fighting on behalf of everybody against powerful interests: the tobacco companies, the gun lobby, Wall Street, and the pharmaceutical companies,” Emanuel says. “It may take one or two bites of the apple, but my goal here is not to measure that, it’s to measure and make sure that people know my position on the issues, as it relates to schools, and making sure that our economy is growing and is strong enough so that every neighborhood has a chance to succeed.”
“How’s your family helping you this weekend, as well as your friends from the White House?” NBC’s Mary Ann Ahern asks.
“My kids, they haven’t decided yet whether they’re going to endorse me, but I’m working on ’em one by one, OK?”
The reporters laugh. Everyone in this hallway may have to live with each other for another six weeks, if Emanuel ends up needing two bites of the apple to become mayor.
Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!