Rahm Emanuel faced voters in his Northwest Side Chicago House district three times before going to work behind the scenes in the White House as President Barack Obama's chief of staff. But Sunday, Emanuel launched his mayoral candidacy with a YouTube video featuring a kinder and gentler Rahm (at least, for now) compared to his reputation as a fierce, sometimes foul-mouthed bare-knuckles pol.
In a measured, almost soft-sounding voice, Emanuel said that on Monday he would begin a "Tell It Like It Is" tour of the city, visiting "grocery stores, L stops, bowling alleys and hot dog stands" to hear from voters "in blunt, Chicago terms what you think about our city, and how the next mayor and you, can make it better."
Emanuel said it was a great honor to work for Obama, but "I'm glad to be home."
The video had all the traditional hallmarks of a debut campaign speech -- invoking Emanuel's roots as the child of an immigrant, citing the "tremendous challenges" ahead, declaring "we can no longer accept business as usual" when it comes to the budget deficit, and promising "leadership that's tough enough to say 'No.'"
Emanuel, who got a big send-off at a White House ceremony
Friday, is not a shoo-in to win the Feb. 22 election which is attracting a large field following the surprise announcement by Mayor Richard Daley last month that he would not run again after 21 years as mayor. Daley is leaving a $654.7 million budget deficit behind, according to the Chicago Sun-Times
Other candidates have the capacity to put volunteers on the street to drum up votes, and Politics Daily's Lynn Sweet noted in the Sun-Times
that "for Emanuel to win the primary in a crowded field, he needs to re-engage his old base ... run up numbers on the lakefront and North Side; get a percentage of the African-American vote; cobble together some Hispanic support and spend enough time on the Southwest Side so as not to concede any territory -- and to make sure that no one could say he wasn't trying to be a citywide candidate."
In his own arsenal, Emanuel still has a political war chest of $1 million available to him that he raised in his House days.