Image: Emanuel video
chicagoforrahm.com
In a campaign video posted on his newly minted website, former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said he will visit Chicago neighborhoods over the next few weeks to hear from Chicago voters in the buildup to his campaign to be mayor of the city.
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updated 10/4/2010 8:59:14 AM ET 2010-10-04T12:59:14

Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel began campaigning for Chicago mayor on Monday with the standard fare — greeting surprised commuters at a downtown train station, listening to their ideas for improving the city and posing for cell phone photos.

But in announcing his candidacy on YouTube and launching a campaign Facebook page, Emanuel signaled he'd also be using a strategy he helped craft to such great effect for his former boss, President Barack Obama, by galvanizing support among young voters through near constant contact via online postings, text messages and e-mails.

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With a small army of television news crews in tow, Emanuel engaged commuters at a downtown elevated train station and asked them for their support. He leaned in close when they spoke and appeared to concentrate on what they were telling him.

And by and large, they were telling him he had their support in the election next year.

"I know he's a good politician," said Frederick Childress, a 58-year-old retired Chicago Housing Authority employee who plans to vote for Emanuel. "He was a good White House chief of staff. He's for the people."

Maria Martinez, 21, who was heading to her sales job, dismissed the talk she's heard about Emanuel as an outsider.

"I still say he's from Chicago," she said. "He's here, isn't he?"

Hurdles ahead
But quietly, there were signs of some of the hurdles Emanuel has to overcome, some of the perceptions of him that he has to get past if he is to have a chance at becoming mayor.

One man, for example, muttered that Emanuel was a political "fixer" who "sold out" liberal Democrats when he joined Obama's administration.

And while most messages on his new Facebook page were positive, there were also some from people who were skeptical or downright hostile toward Emanuel.

Some were critical of his role in the Obama administration. Others wondered if he was more concerned about landing himself a job than he was for the city. And some suggested that after being away from Chicago for so long, he was ineligible to run for mayor — an argument that one city elections official said is likely without merit.

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'I want to hear from you — in blunt Chicago terms'
Emanuel seemed to recognize that his job, at least now, is to reconnect with the city. On a video in his newly minted website, ChicagoforRahm.com, he said he plans to make plenty of stops around the city.

"As I prepare to run for mayor, I'm going to spend the next few weeks visiting our neighborhoods — at grocery stores, L stops, bowling alleys and hot dog stands," Emanuel said. "I want to hear from you — in blunt Chicago terms — what you think about our city, and how the next mayor and you can make it better."

On Monday morning, Emanuel was dressed much as he was in the two-minute video in which he sat at a desk wearing a white shirt with an open collar and a dark jacket. Behind him is a photo of his family and several books.

Emanuel's website offers several options for receiving updates, including e-mail and text, and more than 15,000 Facebook users had "liked" his page by Monday morning.

Lori Goldberg, an Emanuel spokeswoman, said the online video was an attempt to reach as many people as possible. Emanuel plans to make "a more formal announcement" after the November election.

"By having the website up, it also allows people to communicate with him," Goldberg said.

Bruce Newman, professor of marketing at DePaul University, called the online announcement "a clever move."

"(Emanuel's) ability to communicate via the social media will be critical to his success," Newman said. "The voter in today's world is tuning in to a whole different level of communication."

But other political analysts said the online approach won't work for all voters.

"This is going to be a Generation X campaign with Facebook, Twitter and all that ... but you should never forget the power of friend talking to friend, neighbor talking to neighbor," said Tom Manion, a longtime political operative who directed Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's first re-election campaign in 1991.

Reconnecting with Chicago
Indeed, one of the challenges facing Emanuel in a mayoral run is reconnecting with Chicago voters after his time in Washington. Emanuel highlighted his ties to Chicago in the video Sunday, noting his three terms representing a North Side district in Congress before serving as Obama's chief of staff.

"It was a great honor to work for (Obama), but I'm glad to be home," Emanuel said.

Emanuel's website says his family's home is in Chicago's Ravenswood neighborhood. But a tenant recently re-signed a lease for the home, leaving Emanuel to rent a condo closer to downtown, Goldberg said.

She said his three children will stay in Washington to finish the school year.

Daley announced last month that he would not seek a seventh term as mayor.

Looking ahead to the field of candidates
Emanuel joins a crowded field of local Democrats who have announced or hinted that they're running.

Emanuel joins a crowded field of Democrats who have announced or hinted that they're running. Among them are Chicago School Board president and close Daley ally Gery Chico, Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and state Sen. James Meeks, who's also the pastor of a church in the city's South Side.

Before Emanuel's announcement Sunday, Chico called on him to release details about his dealings with former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration in regard to the U.S. Senate seat once held by Obama.

Blagojevich will be retried next year on federal charges that allege he schemed to sell the seat after his first trial ended in a mistrial. Emanuel was not called to testify and hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing.

Del Valle said in a statement before Emanuel's announcement that he welcomes "all candidates to the race and look forward to a spirited campaign."

"This is the first time in 67 years that there is an open seat, and a crowded field will ignite interest and give voters choice," del Valle said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explainer: Rahm's permanent replacement: Top contenders

  • Who will take over Rahm Emanuel's spot once he leaves the White House to pursue his mayoral run in Chicago?

    Msnbc.com presents its shortlist of the candidates who could permanently replace Emanuel, starting with the new interim chief of staff, Pete Rouse:

  • Pete Rouse, Senior adviser to President Obama

    Image: Rouse
    Pete Souza  /  The White House
    Pete Rouse on Oct. 13, 2009.

    Pete Rouse, currently a senior adviser to President Barack Obama and a veteran of Capitol Hill, has been named interim chief of staff. There is also some speculation that he might stay on even longer.

    Rouse is a behind-the-scenes man who began his career as a Senate aide in 1971 and worked as chief of staff for South Dakota senator and former Majority Leader Tom Daschle (another person who's been mentioned as a possible replacement for Rahm). In 2004, after Daschle lost re-election, Rouse was tapped to work as Obama’s Senate chief of staff.

    Rouse has been with Obama from the very beginning — through his campaign and transition to president — and possesses what Obama described in a 2007 interview with The Washington Post as an invaluable knack for “looking around the corners of decisions and playing out the implications of them.”

    According to The New York Times: "The decision to tap Mr. Rouse reflects a desire by the president to maintain his small circle of close advisers for now rather than bringing in an outsider or elder statesman to present a new face."

    Interactive: First Thoughts: Assessing Rahm
  • Ron Klain, Chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden

    Image: Klain
    Andrew H. Walker  /  Getty Images
    Ron Klain on May 13, 2008.

    When rumors of Emanuel's possible bid for mayor of Chicago first began to swirl, many eyes turned to Vice President Joe Biden's own chief of staff, Ron Klain, as a possible replacement.

    Klain has served as the chief of staff for two vice presidents — Biden and Al Gore — and made a name for himself early on in his career as being something of a Democratic "young gun."

    Shortly after graduating from Harvard Law School and clerking for former Supreme Court Justice Byron White, Klain became chief counselor on the Senate Judiciary Committee at the age of 27. By 31, he was the chief of staff for the attorney general. And by 34 was Gore’s chief of staff.

    Biden has reportedly said he would not be surprised if Klain serves on the Supreme Court one day.

  • Tom Donilon, Deputy National Security Adviser

    Image: Donilon
    Ng Han Guan  /  AFP - Getty Images
    Tom Donilon.

    Along with Rouse and Klain, Donilon's name continues to come up in discussions about who could replace Emanuel. Donilon has told NBC News he is not interested in the position — perhaps because he has his sights set on replacing National Security Adviser James Jones, who is expected to leave his post at some point in the next few months.

    Donilon is known as a skilled interagency manager with lots of experience working under previous administrations.

    He served former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton as well as current Vice President Joe Biden.

    Donilon managed the Democratic National Committee between 1980 and 1984 and, more recently, served on Obama's transition team, vetting State Department officials.

    In his current role as deputy national security adviser, Donilon helped craft the 30,000-troop surge in Afghanistan.

  • Tom Daschle, Senior policy adviser, DLA Piper

    Image: Daschle
    Mark Wilson  /  Getty Images
    Tom Daschle.

    Daschle, a South Dakota native who is now a senior policy adviser to the law firm DLA Piper, has extensive on-the-ground policy experience in Washington and has been a major “front man” for the Democratic party since the 1980s.

    After serving on the staff of Sen. James Abourezk in the 1970s, Daschle was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978. He served in the House for eight years before he was elected to the Senate in 1986.

    Daschle became the Democratic leader in 1992, spending most of his career in the Senate as Minority Leader — save for a two-year stint as Majority Leader from 2001 to 2003. During his time in the Senate, Daschle leaned on Pete Rouse, a veteran adviser on the Hill who is also in the running to be Obama’s next chief of staff.

    The possible rub: Daschle was Obama's first pick to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services but withdrew after disclosing he had not paid $140,000 in back taxes — a large portion of which came from the use of a limousine and driver.

  • Leon Panetta, Director, Central Intelligence Agency

    Image: Panetta
    J. Scott Applewhite  /  AP file
    Leon Panetta.

    A former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton from 1994 to 1997 and the current director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta would be a seasoned pick for Obama.

    Panetta was an assistant to Sen. Thomas Kuchel in California in the mid-1960s and a Nixon administration official.

    In the early 1970s, Panetta switched his party affiliation and ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976.

    He served in the House until 1993, rising to the post of chairman of the House Budget Committee.

    He also served as Clinton's budget director before becoming his chief of staff.

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