5 Signs Rahm May Be Doomed
Four weeks from now, voters in Chicago will go to the polls to officially decide whether they want to re-elect Rahm Emanuel. Mayor Emanuel was forced into a runoff against Jesus "Chuy" Garcia back on Feb. 24 when he failed to crack the 50 percent mark, and there are a growing number of signs that Emanuel may find himself on the short end of things again on April 7. Here are five:
1) The Polls
Let's start with the obvious: The polling on this race is sparse, but the latest numbers show Emanuel is still stuck in the mid-40s. Those numbers haven't moved much -- if at all -- since the race entered the runoff, which is a mixed bag for Emanuel. On the good side, it shows that a surge toward Garcia hasn't materialized, at least not yet. On the bad side, well, Emanuel is still at 45. According to the latest surveys, there's somewhere between 15-20 percent still undecided. If Emanuel can win a third of those voters, it will give him what he needs to win the race. But here's a cautionary tale: The final pre-election poll from the Chicago Tribune last month showed the mayor at 45 percent with 20 percent still undecided. Emanuel's final tally on Feb. 24? 45.4 percent.
2) The Ad
Last week the mayor's campaign unveiled this ad. It pretty much speaks for itself:
The fact that a politician as self-confident and assertive as Rahm Emanuel feels compelled to issue a straight-to-camera mea culpa shows just how much trouble he is in. Emanuel has a serious image problem, particularly with the African-American and Latino communities, and it's not at all clear that four weeks of commercials will change perceptions that have been four years in the making.
3) The Reverend
Yesterday the Rev. Jesse Jackson endorsed Garcia. Typically, endorsements don't mean much (just ask Emanuel how much President Obama's endorsement this year helped him), but this one might be different. The biggest unresolved question about this election is whether African-Americans will come out in force for a Latino candidate. Despising Rahm is not the same thing as loving Chuy, and there is some debate whether a true "black-brown" coalition can or will come together by April 7. If it does, Emanuel could easily lose -- which is why Jesse Jackson's stamp of approval matters a great deal in this race.
4) The Red Light Cameras
Everybody hates them. A January poll found three in four Chicago voters want them eliminated. But Emanuel has been a big supporter and defender of the camera program, which generates some $70 million in annual revenue for the city, even though it has been mired in scandal and controversy.
Among the most damaging revelations: A recent Chicago Tribune investigation showed that the cameras have failed to deliver the much ballyhooed safety benefits promised by the administration, and that City Hall's hush-hush decision to shorten yellow light times led to an additional $7.7 million in tickets issued.
Last week, Garcia promised to get rid of all of the cameras on his first day as mayor, saying, "It’s time to end the red light rip-off."
Lo and behold, this week Emanuel announced plans to yank 50 red-light cameras while denying (with a straight face, no less) the move had anything to do with Garcia or the election.
5) The Shootings
Crime, or more accurately, the Emanuel administration's inability to prevent it, is a big issue in the election. The mayor and his police superintendent are constantly saying that under his administration homicides in Chicago have reached their lowest point in decades. That may be true, but such statistics feel very much at odds with what's happening on the ground.
For one thing, killings may be down, but shootings are up. Hardly a day goes by without a headline in one or both of the Chicago papers offering the grim details of another shooting on the south or west side.
Last week, we heard the tragic story of Deonte Hoard, a promising basketball player from Urban Prep High. The 17-year-old was gunned down just blocks from his house as he and a friend stopped to buy milk for the friend's baby.
On Monday evening, a 77-year-old church deacon from the South Side was slain when bullets sprayed his house as he sat on the couch watching television with his 5-year-old great grandson.
Heaven knows how many other tragic stories like this will be shown on television and splashed on newspaper covers before the April 7 election. Each one is a reminder that whatever the numbers may say, under Emanuel's administration violent crime is still taking a huge toll on certain parts of this city.