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Countdown to Rahmageddon: What are the Odds?

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 22, 2011 3:00PM

After months of speculation and campaigning across the city, including a last-minute flurry of scheduled stops and media events, we're here. The first mayoral election in nearly a generation that doesn't involve Richard M. Daley is upon us and all eyes are upon Rahm Emanuel and whether he can close it out today, or require a six-week blitz to an April 5 runoff election. If you had asked me a month ago, I would have said that Emanuel would have won this election handily. But that was before he made three errors.

  1. The Rahm Tax: Emanuel's plan to reduce the city's portion of the sales tax in favor for a tax on luxury services suffers from poorly defining what constitutes the types of services Emanuel would add the tax. His attempts to define a luxury service, such as bringing up mango facials for dogs during last week's debate on WLS-TV, only served as more ammunition for Gery Chico, who's used the Emanuel tax swap plan to make the case to undecided voters that Emanuel is out of touch with voters and the tax plan would hurt working families. If this does go to a runoff between Emanuel and Chico, Chico will continue to mine this vein so long as Emanuel cannot specify what services would be taxed under his plan.
  2. The "Service" Ad: Emanuel was already viewed by labor unions with a wary eye, this ad was found to be condescending to a workforce that's already made concessions to the city with furlough days and a shaky pension system. More ammunition for Chico to paint Emanuel as "not from here."
  3. The Letter: Emanuel's campaign letter to city workers attempting to clarify his position on pension reform struck at the base fears of those who received it, who wondered how a candidate obtained their information in the first place (never mind that any researcher could figure out who worked for the city with a list and some intuition).

Chico has used these three items and Emanuel's suburban upbringing to paint the campaign in black and white terms: Chico was born in the city, so he has our best interests. Rahm grew up on the North Shore, so he doesn't know hardship. Which is bullshit; Chico's been distancing himself from his long relationship with Daley for the entire campaign except for when he thinks it's beneficial. Which is one of many reasons why Achy Obejas has called Chico "the White candidate for mayor."

With Emanuel polling strongly among White, African American and Hispanic voters, avoiding a runoff will come, I believe, to how much of the Hispanic vote Miguel del Valle siphons away from him. Carol Moseley Braun irreparably damaged her campaign with her series of gaffes, and African Americans were already tepid to a Braun campaign. Del Valle, conversely, has come on strong in the past couple of weeks and could prove to be the spoiler for Emanuel's clinching the election outright today.

I still think Emanuel will get enough of the votes today to avoid April 5. But it'll be interesting to see, as the vote totals come in tonight, how the numbers actually stack up.