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Countdown to Rahmageddon: Who Has the Inside Track Now?

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 26, 2011 4:13PM

2011_1_10_chico.jpg The next time we say mayoral politics in Chicago is predictable, please remind us of Monday. In the space of a few hundred words in a court ruling, we've gone from following what seemed like an inevitable coronation to having an actual mayoral race. It cannot be stressed too much how tight of a corner Rahm Emanuel's been painted into by Monday's decision by the Illinois Appellate Court to toss him from the mayoral ballot. His campaign is in a dire situation, especially if the state Supreme Court decides to uphold the Appellate Court's decision. Kevin looked at Emanuel's options yesterday. For the media, it was the shot in the arm this mayoral race was looking for. The big question is: who benefits the most if Rahm's name is removed from the ballot?

An analysis by the Sun-Times yesterday indicates Monday's ruling benefits Gery Chico the most. He's the one candidate who can reasonably raise the campaign cash to keep up with Emanuel. As a longtime troubleshooter for Mayor Daley, Chico also knows the inner workings of City Hall and how to divine political alliances in what is certain to be a markedly different City Council than we now know. Eleven aldermen will not be returning and we could see as many as 20 new alderman, depending on the results of next month's ward elections. Chico has the support of 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke, the primary non-Daley power broker in City Hall, who would likely work to develop political relationships with a Mayor Chico.

Carol Moseley Braun's campaign could also see a shot in the arm, if African American voters allied with Emanuel decide to switch their vote down racial lines. But her campaign is in such disarray that picking up black voters isn't a guarantee. Braun, who's also attacked Emanuel for going out of town for fundraisers, is taking a "do as I say, not as I do" approach to her own grab for cash. She has fundraisers scheduled in Washington, DC and New Orleans. With both Emanuel and Chico raising cash by the millions, Braun needs to keep the pace.

Business donors are also taking a wait-and-see approach to Emanuel's ballot status before deciding to moving forward. Both Braun and Chico have made plays the past two days to the deep-pocketed donors already supporting Emanuel. Fox Chicago political editor Mike Flannery, meanwhile, cites a new poll that shows Chico has a 33-17 edge over Braun in a non-Rahm election. If we wind up with no Emanuel on the ballot and no Rahm write-in campaign, we would be heading to an April runoff, based on those numbers.

If the Supreme Court decides to put Emanuel back on the ballot, however, the Rahmformer could sew this up next month. According to the most recent poll by the Chicago Retail Merchants Association, an overwhelming majority of respondents favor Emanuel staying on the ballot. The CRMA poll also shows Emanuel cracking the 50-plus-one percent barrier needed to avoid a runoff.