Report: Rahm Emanuel To Leave White House After November Elections

The London Telegraph is reporting that President Obama’s Chief of Staff may be headed out the door after the mid-term elections are over:

Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, is expected to leave his job later this year after growing tired of the “idealism” of Barack Obama’s inner circle.

Washington insiders say he will quit within six to eight months in frustration at their unwillingness to “bang heads together” to get policy pushed through.

Mr Emanuel, 50, enjoys a good working relationship with Mr Obama but they are understood to have reached an understanding that differences over style mean he will serve only half the full four-year term.

Friends say he is also worried about burnout and losing touch with his young family due to the pressure of one of most high profile jobs in US politics.

“I would bet he will go after the midterms,” said a leading Democratic consultant in Washington. “Nobody thinks it’s working but they can’t get rid of him – that would look awful. He needs the right sort of job to go to but the consensus is he’ll go.”

An official from the Bill Clinton era said that “no one will be surprised” if Mr Emanuel left after the midterm elections in November, when the Democratic party will battle to save its majorities in the house of representatives and the senate.

It is well known in Washington that arguments have developed between pragmatic Mr Emanuel, a veteran in Congress where he was known for driving through compromises, and the idealistic inner circle who followed Mr Obama to the White House.

Several thoughts come to mind.

First, I’ve been expecting staff changes at the White House for some time now. It’s fairly clear that Obama is not being served well by some of the men and women in the West Wing. Personally, I’ve thought for some time now that the changes need to be made in the Communications staff, but it also appears that there are clashes between the “idealists” on the staff and those like Emanuel more concerned with actual governing:

There were sharp differences over health care reform, with Mr Emanuel arguing that public hostility about cost should have forced them into producing a scaled down package. Mr Obama and advisers including David Axelrod, the chief strategist, and Valerie Jarrett, a businesswoman and mentor from Chicago, decided to push through with grander legislation anyway.

Emanuel’s departure, then, could be taken as a sign that the idealists have won the ground war inside the West Wing and there are some bloggers who are making the leap into assuming that Emanuel’s departure is a sign that Obama will be facing a serious challenger for the Democratic nomination in 2012 by a pragmatist.

There is, however, a far different explanation for why Emanuel may be leaving that makes a lot more sense:

Mr Emanuel has privately expressed a readiness to run for mayor of Chicago, which is also his home town though he was never part of the Obama set and did not endorse the then senator in the Democratic primary in 2008.

That would however depend on Mayor Richard Daley stepping down when he is up for re-election in 2011.

The Chicago Mayor’s office is something that Emanuel has had in his sights for long before Barack Obama asked him to leave Congress to become White House Chief of Staff. In April, as a matter of fact, he made those ambitions clear:

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel yearns for the day when he again holds elected office — and has retained his $1.2 million war chest to help make that happen.

Emanuel, 50, told PBS’ Charlie Rose on Monday he wants to be mayor of Chicago, leaving behind a one-time goal of becoming Speaker of the House. But, Emanuel added, he is a loyal supporter of the current mayor, Richard M. Daley, and hopes he will run again.

While exalted in Washington, Emanuel back home is just one of a string of political figures waiting to see if Daley seeks another term next February.

The announcement from Emanuel triggered this reaction from the Chicago Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman, a veteran City Hall reporter : “Get in line,” she wrote.

Emanuel is “is trying to mark his turf as the heir apparent to Mayor Daley by declaring his intention to run if his friend chooses not to seek a seventh term. But he’s hardly the only one salivating on the sidelines while awaiting Daley’s decision. Nor is he, necessarily, the frontrunner in that crowded field,” Spielman wrote

An Emanuel departure in November would be just enough time for him to start a campaign for Mayor for the election in February should Daley decided not to run.

Assuming all this is true, the next question becomes who replaces Emanuel. Let the speculation begin !

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. G.A.Phillips says:

    Well I guess he would be a perfect choice for Mayor of Chicago.

  2. Bill Jempty says:

    Why would the Telegraph, a newspaper from the United Kingdom, have this scoop? I really think this article is wishful thinking.

  3. Dave says:

    Didn’t Rahm say at the outset he was only willing to do the job for two years?

  4. Dave,

    That’s my recollection too.

    It’s telling that his family still resides in Chicago and he commutes back on forth every other weekend or so. He obviously never intended for this to be a long-term job