White House aides are preparing for the possibility that Rahm Emanuel may step down as chief of staff as soon as early October if he decides to run for mayor of Chicago, according to a person familiar with deliberations in the West Wing.
One issue hastening the timing of Emanuel's departure is concern over whether he can build a campaign operation while holding down the second most powerful job in the Federal Government. If he chooses to go forward with the mayoral race, Emanuel intends to be sensitive to the fact that his dual role could create the appearance of using his government office to his personal advantage, say two people familiar with internal deliberations.
Like other White House staff, Emanuel has been briefed by the counsel's office about the importance of not using government resources for personal endeavors. In recent days, he has been working the phones of Chicago political and community leaders; he has fielded a poll testing his chances; and he has met with Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., a potential rival in the crowded field. "His consideration of the mayoral race does not interfere with his official obligations, and he is fully aware of all the applicable requirements for conducting these deliberations," says an aide close to Emanuel.
The aide says Emanuel will not make a decision about whether or not to run this week, but was otherwise vague about when the decision would be made or exactly when he might step down. Congress is scheduled to enter recess on Oct. 8, in advance of the Nov. 2 midterm elections.
If Emanuel, a former Chicago Congressman, decides to run for mayor, he must gather 12,500 signatures by Nov. 22 in preparation for a Feb. 22 primary. Already, however, Emanuel has found himself hampered in his exploration of a mayoral run by his day job, which is among the most demanding positions in government, starting as early as 5 a.m. and continuing late into the evening. Several potential mayoral candidates, including Jackson, former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun and Representative Luis Gutierrez, are also beginning the process of exploring candidacies to replace Mayor Richard M. Daley, who announced earlier this month that he would not seek a seventh term.
The White House has already begun preparing a list of replacements for Emanuel, who could be replaced by an interim chief of staff if a suitable candidate is not decided upon in time. Names that have been floated as possible replacements for Emanuel include Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon; White House legislative strategist Philip Schiliro; White House counsel Bob Bauer; and Ron Klain, the chief of staff for Vice President Joe Biden.
White House aides have been emphasizing the abundance of choices when it comes to the possibility of replacing Emanuel. "No one is indispensable, and if he decides to go, there are many here ready to fill the breach," senior adviser David Axelrod said recently on NBC's Today Show.
Emanuel has long made no secret of his desire for the job of Chicago mayor, saying most recently on the Charlie Rose show in April, "I would like to run for mayor of the city of Chicago." Among his considerations is the fact that his wife and three children, all under the age of 14, recently relocated from Chicago to the Washington, D.C., area, where the children began the school year just weeks ago.