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Poised for victory or another six weeks of campaigning? It will be very close for Rahm Emanuel.


After critical final weekend, will Emanuel top 50 percent on Tuesday?

by Randy Leonard
Feb 17, 2011


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Randy Leonard/MEDILL

Paul Green, director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University, says this weekend will be critical for mayoral candidates.

Rahm Emanuel’s residency battle and the blizzard grabbed headlines and turned the mayoral marathon into a sprint, according to one political analyst.

“I think the next four or five days are going to be spectacular,” said Paul Green, director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University, at a luncheon Thursday. “The last weekend of the campaign is the most crucial.”

Recent polls have Emanuel straddling the critical 50-percent break point that will determine if he becomes the mayor-elect Feb. 22 or if the city will see another six weeks of campaigning against the runner-up.

For Emanuel, the race is about getting that magic majority. For rivals Gery Chico, Miguel Del Valle, Carol Moseley Braun, William “Doc” Walls and Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins, who hope to deny Emanuel that majority, it’s about coming in second.

“That is the contest,” Green said at the event, sponsored by the City Club.

Because Emanuel came into the race with national notoriety and ties to two beloved U.S. presidents, his campaign was helped – and the others’ were hurt – by events that distracted voters from getting to know the other candidates, Green said.

He added that Emanuel could top 50 percent if he gets good turnout in his old congressional district and is helped by increased turnout in lakefront communities that have seen demographic changes that might favor Emanuel.

A last-minute mistake by Emanuel or some troubling revelation hitting news outlets over the weekend would benefit Chico, who is polling around 20 percent, Green said. Another factor that could help Chico is a high turnout from the ranks of unions that endorsed him.

Green was critical of Braun’s campaign, especially her crack at Watkins several weeks ago.

Braun dropped from 20 percent to 10 percent in the last month, according to a Chicago Tribune poll last week. But another poll last week by N’DIGO magazine, which focuses on African-American issues and culture, pegged Braun near 27 percent and more than 12 points ahead of Chico.

Extremely strong turnout in predominately black precincts could boost Braun, Green said, although Emanuel has polled highly across all demographic groups.

“It’s a long shot” for Braun, Green said.

Polling under 10 percent, “Del Valle needs a miracle,” Green said.

Field organization, political ties, weather and momentum are all crucial aspects of this final week, Green said. He speculated whether President Barack Obama would make a last-minute visit in support of his former chief of staff.

If Emanuel is elected “it may be tough for Ed Burke to maintain his power,” Green said of the 14th Ward alderman.

Monday Emanuel raised the question of shaking up the City Council by wresting control of the Finance Committee from Burke.

“I think that was a real salvo,” Green said. “It was calculated.”

Emanuel’s war chest could help him gather the kind of aldermanic support he would need for such a move.

If the mayoral election is decided next week, Emanuel would have as much as $10 million to spend on the 20 or so expected aldermanic runoffs, Green said.

Green’s prediction on Emanuel cresting 50 percent: “It’s going to be tight.”