Some might consider it an exaggeration to say that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is the most effective Democratic operative of the last two decades. On the other hand, just as many would argue that Emanuel deserves every superlative the Democratic Party could think of. Discounting his legendary fundraising skills (and fiery temper), Emanuel has three huge, shiny stars on his cap.
He earned the first star in 1992, while serving as Finance Director to former president Bill Clinton’s campaign. During the fall of 1991, the then Gov. Clinton (of Arkansas), was eager to commence his primary campaign in New Hampshire. However, Emanuel convinced Clinton to spend an extra month fundraising before embarking on his campaign. When Clinton’s alleged 12-year affair with Gennifer Flowers broke in the press in early 1992, his polls numbers tanked and contributions dried up immediately. However, with the extra cash in hand (about $1 million) from the extended fundraising, Clinton was able to ride the almost two months’ storm out. Ultimately, Emanuel’s nuclear fundraising skills brought in the then unheard of $72 million for the Clinton campaign, but that extra million dollars probably changed the course of American history. Nine months later, Gov. Bill Clinton was elected the 42nd President of the United States.
The second star came in 2006, when Emanuel, as the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, led the party to a stunning victory in the midterm elections that rivaled the 1994 Newt Gingrich-led Republican Revolution. The Democratic Party took control of both the Senate (net gain: 6 seats) and House (net gain: 31 seats), and crucially, set the nationwide machinery for a 2008 presidential run. The virtually unknown Emanuel, outside of Chicago at least, became an overnight sensation in D.C., and was rewarded with the chairmanship of the Democratic Caucus. In one particular post-election analysis, Chicago Tribune’s Naftali Bendavid famously wrote that Emanuel taught the Democrats how to be ruthless.
His third star came three years later, while serving as the Chief of Staff for the Obama administration. Despite initial reservations over Obamacare, Rhambo, by sheer force of will (along with a little cajoling, bullying and sweet promises on the side), successfully kept almost the entire Congressional Democrats in line, ensuring the passage of the Affordable Care Act by a Congress he had helped shaped.
President Obama once said, “No one I know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel.” The question is, will the basketball-loving son of a Jewish pediatrician be suitably motivated to make a run for 2016?