Rahm Emanuel 2016?

Rahm Emanuel is reportedly considering a 2016 presidential run. It's a thin report.


Rahm Emanuel is reportedly considering a 2016 presidential run. It’s a thin report.

Daily Beast (“Rahm Emanuel May Be Toying With 2016 Presidential Run“):

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is said by well-connected Democrats to be considering the idea of running for president if Hillary Clinton opts out of the 2016 race.

The 53-year-old Emanuel, who is busy raising money for his 2015 reelection campaign in the Windy City, has had discussions both over the phone and face to face in the past month with Democratic Party donors and fundraisers about a possible White House run, according to sources.

The rest of the story, alas, indicates that there’s no story.

It’s unclear who raised the subject—Emanuel or the donors—and the mayor’s press secretary initially didn’t offer clarity on who said what to whom. Hours after this story was published, however, Tarah Cooper emailed denying that the mayor “raised or entertained” the subject of a White House run. She also sent a photo of Emanuel’s scrawl on yellow legal paper vowing “not ever” to run “for another office” and reiterated his longstanding pledge that, in his words, he’s “not interested. Not going to do it. No. I’ll do it in Hebrew: lo.” (Emanuel, the son of an Israeli doctor, had dual citizenship until he was 18.) Others expressed skepticism that any such discussions between Emanuel and donors could have been serious.

“I talk to Rahm almost every single day, sometimes more than once a day, and he’s never said anything like that to me,” said Democratic strategist Paul Begala, a colleague and friend from Bill Clinton’s White House. “This is the first I’ve heard of it. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”

Clinton loyalist James Carville, another friend of the mayor’s, echoed Begala’s dubious assessment: “I never have heard something like that, and it’s not like I don’t talk to Rahm all the time. And it’s not like people close to him ever brought it up.”


“He’s never going to kill the buzz,” said a campaign comrade-in-arms, noting that the hard-charging Emanuel is no shrinking violet and has always enjoyed the limelight. He was, after all, a ballet dancer in his youth. ”If people were encouraging him to run, he’d like that. But when he came back to Chicago to run for mayor [in late 2010], the plan was not then to run for governor and then run for president. In some ways, he’s a kid in a candy store as mayor.”

Begala argued that for Emanuel, who’d yearned to become Speaker of the House before giving up his congressional seat to work for Obama, being mayor of his hometown is the dream job. “Just being mayor, it’s the happiest I’ve ever seen him,” Begala said. “It’s certainly the most rewarding job he’s had. He’s really, really, really focused on it.”

So, what’s the deal?

Still, if Clinton decided not to be a candidate in 2016, Emanuel, along with Vice President Biden and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would immediately be a first-tier prospect for the Democratic nomination.

“If Hillary doesn’t run, the lineup isn’t exactly impressive,” said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. “Who do the Democrats have? Cuomo, and a vice president who’s going to be 74 by Inauguration Day. Then there’s Martin O’Malley, the governor of Maryland? Brian Schweitzer, the former governor of Montana? Kirsten Gillibrand? These are not giants in a forest of redwoods.”

Emanuel, on the other hand, “would be regarded as a very serious candidate,” Sabato said, adding that his political and policy experience from tours in two different White Houses and Congress—especially as chairman and chief strategist of the campaign committee that helped sweep Democrats back into the House majority in 2006—would be difficult for other contenders to match. “Rahm running for president is not as farfetched as it might sound,” Sabato said. “He’s got an impressive résumé.”

In a nutshell, then, in the unlikely scenario in which Hillary Clinton chooses to decline coronation, Emanuel is a Democrat that people have heard of.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. wr says:

    While I’d be happy to see our first Jewish president, I’ll glady wait another four years if he’s the brother on offer…

    Now Al Franken…

  2. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    I want a Rahm-vs.-Chris Christie 2016 campaign, because I think America could use F-bombs dropped in a presidential debate.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    The good news in an Emanuel presidency: he’ll be out of Chicago.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy:

    I want a Rahm-vs.-Chris Christie 2016 campaign, because I think America could use F-bombs dropped in a presidential debate.

    That wouldn’t be a debate, more like an MMA cage fight!

  5. grumpy realist says:

    @Dave Schuler: Actually, those of us here in Chicago like him pretty well. (We’ve gotten pretty disgusted with our last mayor, however–the continued uncovering of messy piles that Daley managed to shove under the carpet.)

  6. Drew says:

    Does this mean we can watch videos of gang violence to the tune of “hold me closer tiny dancer?”

  7. matt says:

    There’s pretty much no possible way I could hold my nose well enough to vote for Emanuel…

    I’d sit that election out.

    @grumpy realist: I think a lot of that is because the last mayor was so god awful that even Emanuel looks good in comparison.

  8. bill says:

    i think obama will have ruined any chance of another chicago based presidential candidate. it’ll be 50-100 yrs before the stain is removed.

  9. James Joyner says:


    i think obama will have ruined any chance of another chicago based presidential candidate. it’ll be 50-100 yrs before the stain is removed.

    Yes, nothing like two easy victories to discourage emulation.

  10. An Interested Party says:

    Now, now James…bill already has proven himself to be an fool…you didn’t need to confirm that diagnosis…

  11. bill says:

    @James Joyner: all jokes aside he hasn’t done a bang-up job in Chicago- no pun intended. Cuomo won’t garner much support outside of the northeast, Biden is Biden-that he’s a heartbeat away from the job already is kinda scary. of course it’ll be up to the republicans to put someone “electable” in the race. still, 3 yrs out and America seems to be content with a sluggish economy and devastating debt- how can you run against it?!

  12. bill says:

    @wr: Eric Cantor?

  13. al-Ameda says:

    Rahm would certainly have the NRA vote

  14. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Sabato is a funny guy, in a slapstick sense. He gets interviewed about the Dems’ 2016 prospects and somehow fails to mention Deval Patrick. Which is sort of like discussing black history month without mentioning Abraham Lincoln, if you catch my drift.

    Speaking of which, Rahm Emmanuel would have zero chance of making it past New Hampshire, much less becoming the nominee. Obviously Hillary would mop the floor with him. If Hillary doesn’t run then Cuomo easily would defeat him. Deval Patrick would mop the floor with him. Hell, Cory Booker would mop the floor with him too, also for reasons as obvious as black and white.

  15. An Interested Party says:

    Eric Cantor?

    You really must let us know which brand of paint thinner you have been huffing…

  16. bill says:

    @An Interested Party: fiscally prudent people scare you? what brand do you recommend?

  17. An Interested Party says:

    fiscally prudent people scare you?

    You poor thing, the damage is really showing…it isn’t so much that supposed fiscal people scare me as it is that you are completely delusional if you think Eric Cantor will ever get anywhere near the White House, except for being invited there by whoever is president…

    what brand do you recommend?

    Actually, in your case, I would recommend a lobotomy…good luck…