Rahm Emanuel (D)

Chicago Mayor-Elect (since February 2011)

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Why He Matters

A veteran of the Clinton administration, Emanuel returned to the White House to become the hard-driving chief of staff to Barack Obama. The man known as "Rahmbo" became a force that shaped the first two years of the Obama administration. In October 2010, Emanuel left the White House to pursue his true dream: becoming mayor of his hometown of Chicago.

In between his stints at the White House, Emanuel amassed a reputation as a shrewd party operative, millionaire investment banker and congressional leader.

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At a Glance

  • Career History: Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama (January 2009 to October 2010); U.S. Representative (2003 to 2008); Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair (2005 to 2007); Investment banker at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (1999 to 2002); Aide to President Bill Clinton (1993 to 1999)
  • Birthday: Nov. 29, 1959
  • Hometown: Chicago, Ill.
  • Alma Mater: Sarah Lawrence College, B.A. (liberal arts), 1981; Northwestern University, M.A. (speech and communication), 1985
  • Spouse: Amy
  • Religion: Jewish

Path to Power

The son of an Israeli immigrant, Emanuel grew up north of Chicago, and began his career at Illinois Public Action, a consumer rights group. He got an early start in politics when ex-Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.) recruited him to join the DCCC in the 1980s, and he went on to work for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (D), whom he would later run to succeed.

Clinton White House

In 1991, after volunteering on an Israeli army supply base during the Persian Gulf War, he joined Bill Clinton's campaign for president, and worked vigorously as a fundraiser. When Clinton won, Emanuel became a top aide in his White House, working on welfare reform, gun control and children's' health care, an issue he would embrace in Congress as well.

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The Issues

As White House chief of staff, Emanuel followed his pragmatic political instincts, which often put him at odds with his party's more liberal wing. He got into hot water when he called progressives "[expletive] retarded" for threatening to run ads against centrist Democrats who disagreed with the president's health-care reform push.

While in the House, the Illinois Democrat was a member of the moderate, pro-growth New Democrat Coalition, and in his 2006 book, "The Plan," he outlined his ideas for revising the tax code, including making it easier to understand and lowering rates for the middle class. He told The Washington Post that Americans prefer governing from the center "and not polarization."

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The Network

The 2008 Democratic primary tore Emanuel between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y), whose husband he served as a senior aide, and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) - and Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod, one of Emanuel's closest friends.

Emanuel did not endorse in the contest until after Obama had claimed a majority of pledged delegates. After years in both the Clinton White House and Chicago politics, Emanuel is also close to the family of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

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Additional Resources

  1. Biographical and career data taken from Almanac of American Politics, 2008 edition
  2. Wallsten, Peter, Wall Street Journal, "Chief of Staff Draws Fire From Left as Obama Falters," Jan. 26, 2010
  3. Wallsten, Peter, The Washington Post, Rahm Emanuel is back on the ballot in Chicago, courtesy of the Illinois Supreme Court, Jan. 28, 2011
  4. The National Institutes of Health and the Los Angeles Times
  5. Pear, Robert, "Medicare drug benefit plan is proposed by 2 Democrats," The New York Times, April 2, 2003
  6. Weisman, Jonathan, Bendavid, Naftali and Simpson, Cam, "Emanuel, Blagojevich aides discussed Senate seat," The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 15, 2008
  7. Bresnahan, John, "What does Rahm want?," Politico, July 16, 2008
  8. Loson, Laura M., "White House externs; Two turns of the revolving door," The New York Times, Feb. 3, 1999
  9. Zahn, Paula, Interview with Rahm Emanuel and Mark Foley, CNN
  10. Babington, Charles, "House votes to expand insurance for kids," Associated Press via USA Today, Sept. 26, 2007
  11. Huse, Carl, "Clinton aide heads to House, with waves preceding him," The New York Times, Aug. 23, 2002
  12. Sfondeles, Tina, Chicago Sun-Times, Rahm Emanuel set to be sworn in as mayor, May 16, 2011
  13. Zeleny, Jeff, "Emanuel get boost from ex-boss; Candidate raises funds at Clintons'" Chicago Tribune, June 19, 2002
  14. Chase, John and Pearson, Rick, The Chicago-Tribune, Chicago's next mayor: Emanuel, Feb. 23, 2011
  15. McCormich, John, "'Congressman A': Rahm Emanuel," Chicago Tribune, April 3, 2009
  16. Bendavid, Naftali, "The House that Rahm built," Chicago Tribune, Nov. 12, 2006
  17. "Roll Call's 50 Richest," Roll Call, Sept. 22, 2008
  18. Haygood, Wil, "Democratic 'Golden Boy' rahm Emanuel, Basking in the glow of victory," The Washington Post, Nov. 9, 2006
  19. Bendavid, Naftali, "The House that Rahm built," Chicago Tribune, Nov. 12, 2006
  20. Pierre, Robert E., "From Front Line to Front Stoop; Clinton Ex-Aide Pounds Pavement in Bid for House Seat," The Washington Post, March 22, 2002
  21. Emanuel planned to appeal the ruling. Cillizza, Chris, The Washington Post, The Fix, Jan. 24, 2011
  22. Wallsten, Peter, Wall Street Journal, "Chief of Staff Draws Fire From Left as Obama Falters," Jan. 26, 2010
  23. Easton, Nina, "Rahm Emanuel, pitbull politician," Fortune, Sept. 25, 2006
  24. Emanuel Speech, Courtesy Chicago Tribune, Feb. 22, 2011
  25. Tankersley, Jim, "Dogged bailout backer; Rahm Emanuel takes lead role for Democrats," Chicago Tribune, Oct. 3, 2008
  26. Murray, Shailagh and Lori Montgomery, The Washington Post, "House Passes Health-Care Reform Bill without Republican Votes," March 22, 2010