The timing was impeccable. On the very day Chicagoans went to the polls, to end the municipal election season, the Rahm Emanuel campaign announced that its spokesman, Ben LaBolt, would be moving over to the Obama re-election office in the Prudential Building.
LaBolt, of course, was a White House press aide before moving to Chicago to work on Emanuel’s campaign. This latest personnel shuffle confirms that Emanuel’s mayoral campaign was simply an arm of Obama’s re-election effort. And it reminds us that, here in the Windy City, the political season never ends.
It’s been said that Chicago is to politics what Paris is to romance. We have the earliest primaries in the nation. They were set in late winter by Machine politicians to make life difficult for independents knocking on doors in cold weather. The state’s March primary means that a state representative sworn in on January 15 has to start circulating petitions again in nine months. The city’s February primary means that the end of the race for Illinois governor overlaps the beginning of the race for Chicago mayor.
Here at Ward Room, we’ve been writing about elections non-stop for the past year. We were worried that we’d run out of material after the City Council races ended. But since President Obama is from Chicago, the city’s political establishment has transitioned as smoothly from a local campaign to a national campaign as smoothly as Emanuel transitioned from White House Chief of Staff to Mayor. David Axelrod’s media firm, AKPD Message and Media, will switch from producing Emanuel ads to producing Obama ads.
Billionaire hotel heiress and Democratic money pump Penny Pritzker will switch from writing checks to Emanuel to writing checks to Obama, turning the ‘E’ into an ‘O’ whenever she forgets which candidate she’s funding. Former deputy chief of staff and mini-Rahm Jim Messina has already moved from an office in the White House to an office in Chicago, where he’s running Obama’s re-election campaign. The new Machine is an integrated operation, with branches in D.C. and Chicago, making it wealthier and more powerful than the purely local version it replaced.
Speculation suggests the Obama-Emanuel cabal may have gotten former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s retrial delayed until April 20, to avoid the embarrassing possibility that Emanuel would be forced to testify during his mayoral campaign. Blagojevich wanted to head to Washington as a member of Obama’s crew. Instead, he’ll be headed to prison, like a small-time crook who got mixed up in an operation that was way over his head. Some guys don’t have what it takes to “go national.” (Blagojevich's arrest, you'll remember, came just a month after Obama's election, thus ending a disorienting lull in political news.)
And what’s going to happen after the Blagojevich trial ends, and Obama is re-elected? Someone else will get indicted. Rahm Emanuel and Lisa Madigan will start posturing for runs at the governor’s office. As we said, politics never ends in Illinois.
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!