Rahmbo looks to GOP to bail him out

The most recent polls for the Chicago mayoral runoff election on April 7 show incumbent Rahm Emanuel comfortably ahead. But several surveys have Rahmbo at 50% or less of the vote, which, considering Emanuel's massive advantage in money and name recognition, gives rise to worries in the mayor's camp that a surprise on election day is a real possibility.

Rahmbo is running as if he's behind. The liberal coalition arrayed against him is beginning to gel and the focus now is on the African American community where a third of the entire vote will come. Blacks are angry at Rahmbo for shutting 50 underperforming schools, mostly in black neighborhoods. Powerful unions are mad at the mayor for his pension proposals. Community activists are mad at hizzoner for cuitting the budget. And the wine and cheese liberals in Barack Obama's old neighborhood hate Emanuel because he cozies up to the city's wealthy.

All of those groups are part of the regular Democratic party and would, ordinarily, be expected to support the incumbent. But because they are working against him, Emanuel has been forced to court unlikely voters; Republicans in Chicago.

National Journal:

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is about as partisan a Democrat as there is in this country. But to win a second term and avoid a humiliating defeat, he'll need to win over and turn out the small number of Republicans in the city.

Emanuel isn't openly telegraphing his runoff strategy, but signs of his reliance on the party he has worked to oppose his whole career are everywhere. Gov. Bruce Rauner, a longtime acquaintance of the mayor's, has been working behind the scenes to help his friend, while GOP Sen. Mark Kirk warned this month that Chicago could become like Detroit if Emanuel isn't reelected. Rahm's most recent ad comes straight out of the Mitt Romney playbook, accusing his outspokenly liberal opponent, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, of wanting to hike Chicagoans' taxes by supporting $1.9 billion in spending programs. Several of the top donors to Emanuel's Chicago Forward super PAC are conservative Republicans, including hedge-fund manager Ken Griffin, a top Romney supporter and a Crossroads contributor, and investor Muneer Satter, who spent more than $1 million over the past few years on behalf of top Republican candidates and is backing Jeb Bush's campaign for president.

"The circles that Rahm travels in have always been pretty diverse because he has a strong connection to the financial industry," said Tom Bowen, Emanuel's former political director. "Rahm gets a diverse mix of donors—he does get money from Ken Griffin, a big Rauner supporter, but he also gets money from Michael Sacks, a big supporter of President Obama's."

The race is shaping up to be one of the Democrats' first internal battles between the party's moderate Wall Street wing and its populist liberal grassroots. Emanuel's support for educational reform, efforts to overhaul the city's pension system, and ties to wealthy donors in the financial-services sector make him an easy target for the Left. While progressives failed to recruit a top challenger, Garcia has emerged as a stronger-than-expected opponent in the runoff, while also attempting to make history as the first Hispanic mayor of Chicago.

Garcia released his "budget plan" last wek, proposing billions in new spending while schools are facing a $1.9 billion deficit, pensions are underfunded by $20 billion, the city's structural deficit is more than $300 million, and Chicago must make a balloon payment to its 4 pension funds of half a billion dollars.

The Chicago Tribune laughed at his plan:

At a testy news event that lasted less than 30 minutes, Garcia provided no specifics about where he'd find the money to balance the city's budget, much less to pay for all the new spending he's promised.

He didn't explain how he'd pay down the $27 billion debt owed by the city and its schools, or how he'd address unfunded pension obligations totaling nearly $30 billion. Instead, he said he'd name a working committee to start looking for solutions and report back 90 days after the election.

Garcia's financial analysts apparently haven't combed through the fat stack of city documents that detail current spending. But he said such a review could be "reasonably expected" to deliver up to $300 million in savings. Another $350 million could come from eliminating redundant spending among the city's parks, libraries and other taxing bodies, and from collaborating with Cook County on big-ticket programs such as health care. And $150 million could come from tax increment financing funds, he said — though that number, too, was apparently pulled from a hat.

The idea that Rahmbo fears losing to this joker says a lot about how really, really unpopular he is with just about everyone in the city. But Emanuel has gone on the offensive lately, painting Garcia as a dangerous amateur who doesnt know what he's doing. And the small number of Republicans who vote in the nonpartisan city elections may find themselves to be king makers on election day - a position they are unfamiliar with.

The irony is sublime; Bill Clinton's partisan pit bull is going hat in hand to Republicans, begging them to help him keep his job.

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