Rahm To Make Case For Becoming Chicago Mayor

Rahm Emanuel stepped down as President Obama's chief of staff on Friday to run for mayor of Chicago.

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Rahm Emanuel made it official today. He announced his resignation as White House chief of staff to return home to Chicago, where he's expected to launch a campaign for mayor.

Emanuel has said it's his life ambition to be mayor of Chicago - what he has called his dream job - and longtime mayor Richard M. Daley's announcement last month that he would not seek a seventh term opened the door for Emanuel. Now, he has to convince hardened Chicago voters that he's their man, as NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER: In farewell remarks with President Obama at the White House today, Rahm Emanuel didn't officially announced that he's running for mayor of Chicago, but he certainly sounded like it.

RAHM EMANUEL: I'm energized by the prospect of new challenges and eager to see what I can do to make our hometown even greater. These are unprecedented and great times in Chicago. Mr. President, the Chicago Bears are three and zero.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man: I believe...

SCHAPER: It's always wise to praise the Bears while campaigning in Chicago, but Emanuel may need a lot more than that to connect with jaded Chicago voters such as Denise Davis(ph), who says she doesn't vote that often anymore.

Ms. DENISE DAVIS: There's never anybody worth voting for. They're all liars. They're all sneaks.

SCHAPER: That said, Davis actually thinks Emanuel could be a good mayor.

Joining Davis on a cigarette break outside their office building on Michigan Avenue, Renee James(ph) says she doesn't know much about Emanuel, so the fact that he worked with Mr. Obama goes a long way with her.

Ms. RENEE JAMES: I mean, you know, it gets no better than that, so if he has the president's backing, he has my backing.

SCHAPER: To be clear, Mr. Obama has not endorsed Emanuel, but he has said he thinks he'd make an excellent mayor, and so does Tim Art(ph) of Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.

Mr. TIM ART: I mean, after - I think it's 21 years of Mayor Daley, it'd be nice to have somebody fresh and successful, driven.

Mr. JEFF TROUSE(ph): I think he's going to get himself into a rat race, to be quite honest, which is fastest rat wins.

SCHAPER: Jeff Trouse lives on Chicago's northwest side and is waiting for the dust to settle in what will be a wide open race before jumping on the Rahm Emanuel bandwagon.

Mr. TROUSE: There's going to be a whole lot of people running for this position because it's a powerful position. It's a big city and you better be ready.

SCHAPER: Trouse says working in the high-stake job of White House chief of staff might make Emanuel ready, but he adds, he still has to prove himself back home to get his vote.

Even though Emanuel represented the city's north and northwest sides in Congress before leaving for the White House two years ago, some Chicagoans suggest he might be out of touch with people's needs especially in African-American, Latino and less affluent parts of the city.

Laura Washington is a political analyst, columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and a former aide to late Chicago mayor Harold Washington.

Ms. LAURA WASHINGTON (Political Analyst, Columnist): I think that he has a case to make that he's really of Chicago and for Chicago, partly because he's been for a while and partly because when he was here, he was perceived as a player with the big boys downtown and not really a guy for the neighborhood.

SCHAPER: Emanuel returns to Chicago this weekend and will begin going through the neighborhoods to listen to voters concerns, but it's still not clear where he'll live.

He and his wife rented out their Chicago home when he left for the White House and renewed the lease with the tenant just a few days before Daley's stunning announcement that he would retire. And now the tenant doesn't seem to want to move out.

David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

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