Even before Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor, a former Obama operative told me, “We’re already thinking about the next job for him.” I trust this man’s judgment, because when he worked on Obama’s Senate campaign, he knew Obama wasn’t really running for the Senate.
As we saw from his Hollywood fundraisers and kissy profiles in Newsweek and Time, Emanuel’s financial and journalistic contacts make him a national political figure. He built his career in Washington, and still considers it the major leagues of politics. So how does he get back there? Russ Stewart, a columnist for Nadig Newspapers, lays out this scenario:
Emanuel will run for Illinois governor in 2014, and he will use that job as a steppingstone to seek the presidency in 2016 or 2020... Emanuel's 2014 roadblock will be Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the daughter of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, who is positioning herself to run for governor. Mike Madigan, recognizing Emanuel's threat, delivered his 13th Ward to Gery Chico by 6,177-4,592 in the Feb. 22 election. That quandary is easily soluble: Lisa Madigan could run for reelection in 2014 and then for Chicago mayor in 2015, and, if so inclined, for governor when Rahm “goes Washington.”
No former mayor has been elected president in his own right since Grover Cleveland, in 1884. And I’d be incredulous if the American people elected two Chicago Democrats in one lifetime. But Emanuel’s ambitions are limitless, and his opportunities were limited. He’s been described as a “heat-seeking missile” attracted to power. Obama’s patience with his abrasiveness as White House Chief of Staff was wearing out, and mayor of Chicago was the most powerful job he could grab. Emanuel can’t fulfill his original ambition to become speaker of the House because he gave up his House seat, and the Democrats look to be in the minority for a long time.
A Daily Kos diarist also sees a Washington future for Emanuel, but speculates he’ll get there as a senator:
Options abound, but understandably a higher political office could be in store for Emanuel. Twenty-fourteen may be the year of reckoning if Sen. Dick Durbin decides not to seek reelection or 2016 to unseat Sen. Mark Kirk. Emanuel has talked about being Speaker of the House but finding a receptive district and moving up the leadership ranks again may be aggravating. The governor’s mansion is not a viable option, considering IOU’s will clog the attic for the next 50 years. That leaves two other avenues.
First, the White House. Emanuel has already worked for two administrations and has a keen understanding of the legislative and electoral process. He can mount an aggressive national campaign with loyal donors already in the wings. In all actuality, the nationwide push in this mayor’s campaign may be a dry run for the White House in 2016 or 2020.
From the way he conducted his mayoral campaign, it’s clear that Rahm Emanuel thinks of himself as a national politician. It’s not a question of whether he tries to get back to Washington. It’s just a question of how.
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