Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

If Rahm’s So Unpopular, Where Are the Challengers?

Despite increasing unpopularity, the mayor seems to be getting a free pass.

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If Rahm’s So Unpopular, Where Are the Challengers?

Getty Images

Rahm Emanuel, (R) Mayor of Chicago, listens as Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles, speaks before attending a discussion on the challenges of urban education reform during the United Way of Greater Los Angeles' Education Summit at the Los Angeles Convention Center on February 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. Villaraigosa was honored during the summit for championing education reform. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Talk to a good cross-section of aldermen, community activists and people plugged in to the city’s various neighborhoods about Mayor Rahm Emanuel—especially off the record—and you’ll start to hear a pretty common refrain.

In a lot of places, he’s just not that popular.

Of course, you don't have to talk to people off the record to find that out. In fact, the signs pop up pretty regularly. Take, for example, the booing.

There was that time he was booed at a rally of Chicago teachers back in 2012.

Last month, he was booed at a South Side basketball tournament.

And just last Saturday, his image was booed at a Northwestern football game.

For those who like their proof a little more scientific, there’s always the polling.

A Chicago Sun-Times poll in March, 2012, showed that 70 percent of Chicagoans approved of the job he was doing a little less than a year after he took office.

A year later, a Chicago Tribune poll found that nearly two-thirds disapproved of the mayor's economic development efforts, a trend even more pronounced among the city’s African-Americans.

Then, it got worse. In August of this year, a Crain’s/Ipsos poll found that ...

... Just 2 percent of Chicagoans surveyed said they strongly approve of the mayor's job performance, with 12 percent somewhat approving and 5 percent leaning that way. At the opposite end, 13 percent strongly disapprove, 9 percent somewhat disapprove and 13 percent lean toward disapproval.
 
In Chicago, that gives Mr. Emanuel a net minus 16 rating, down from the plus 4 he had in September, when 37 percent approved and 33 percent disapproved.

At the same time, the Mayor has done a pretty good job of alienating some key constituent groups in Chicago, such as organized labor, education advocates, progressives, blacks, people on the street, Taste of Chicago fans—you name it, and he or she is probably unhappy with the Mayor.

So why aren't people lining up to replace him?

Political wisdom dictates that when an incumbent finds his approval ratings on the far side of under 50 percent, sharks start to smell blood in the water. Conversations start up in back rooms, exploratory committees are formed, polls are commissioned and the first round of “seed money” checks are written. A potential candidate doesn't even have to announce for office for any of this to happen, but those with their ear to the ground usually know when it starts.

But despite his horrendous poll numbers (2 percent!), Rahm still appears to be getting a free pass. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s got $5 million stashed in his reelection campaign coffers more than a year out from the filing deadline. Heck, he raised more than $1 million last month alone, even without a challenger.

Nevertheless, something’s not right. Political wisdom also says that when you’re opponent is down, you don't just nonchalantly walk on by. You try to find a way to make sure he stays down for good.

By at least one critical measure—popularity—Emanuel appears to be very far down.

You think somebody would have noticed by now.

Related Topics Rahm Emanuel
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