While City Hall bristles internally from Rahm Emanuel's snowball effect of bad press, Chicago's Mayor projects a toned-down self-awareness in public.
Emanuel smoothed over his perpetual smirk with self-deprecating humor when asked about a recent Sun-Times poll revealing that just 29 percent of Chicagoans would vote for him in February 2015's mayoral race.
"Thank god the election is not today," he quipped, drawing a roomful of laughs, during an interview with "Chicago Tonight" host Phil Ponce at the University of Chicago on Friday.
In the final stretch of his first term, the prickly, hyperkinetic city boss -- armed with a $7 million war chest and A-list supporters like Bill Clinton -- stands on shaky political ground here in the Windy City, where his lack of bedside manner plus a controversial agenda on education and pension reform has branded him Enemy No. 1 among pro-union progressives and anti-union conservatives alike.
The mayor admitted that his personality had turned potential allies into foes, saying: "The very way I pursue things is to get the things that I think are important. That level of pursuit with a blunt focus both helps and hurts and me."
He said the toughest decision he made during the past three years in office was to shut down 49 public elementary schools last spring.
“I knew it would have political consequences for me," he said, adding: "I couldn’t in good conscience say to myself in this tenure of my mayoralty that I’ve chosen my political career over a child’s education. I’m not saying people are going to like what I did, and I know they’re not, but I couldn’t live with myself.”
He acknowledged that public schools' futures would be a lot rosier if he and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis could manage to make peace. (Alas, stranger things have happened.)