Emanuel, Salazar to leave Administration? (Updated)
by Nathan Empsall, Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 01:42:16 PM EST
The Democratic exodus continues, with today’s emphasis shifting from the states and Congress to the administration: Rahm Emanuel is considering leaving his job as White House Chief of Staff to run for Mayor of Chicago, and Ken Salazar has no comment on whether or not he will resign as Interior Secretary to run for Governor of Colorado.
The Washington Post’s Sally Quinn has the scoop on Emanuel: “Emanuel is said to have told people that the chief-of-staff role is an 18-month job and that he is considering a run for mayor of Chicago.” Taeagan Goddard adds:
"Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's current term is up in February 2011 -- there is no term-limit on the office. Daley has had a difficult year both personally and professionally. His wife Maggie has been battling cancer, and his popularity has suffered from the botched privatization of the city's parking meters and the loss of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games."
This would be bad news for the White House, for at least two reasons. First, as Quinn points out, if Emanuel is worrying about his own political future, he might have less concerns for his boss’s. Second, is there anyone who could fill his shoes? Say what you will about his politics, but the man knows how to get things done. President Obama’s 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe writes in The Audacity to Win, “Rahm was a five-tool political player… I panicked at the thought Rahm might not go for [the job]. The gap between him and the next best contender was a gaping chasm.” The news also surprises me. I always assumed that Emanuel would eventually try to go back to the House and continue angling to eventually become Speaker of the House.
The other story comes from Colorado. Yesterday the conventional wisdom was that Governor Ritter’s retirement opens the door to a run from Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who would likely be a stronger candidate. But would he be the candidate if an even bigger name got in? Ed O’Keefe, also of the Washington Post, has the story:
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar dodged four questions about a possible campaign for Colorado governor during a previously scheduled conference call with reporters on Wednesday. Salazar is reportedly "under tremendous pressure" to make a run as the state's current governor, Bill Ritter, said he will not seek reelection…
Asked by another reporter if he is considering a run or has a preferred candidate, Salazar said: “I’m not going to comment on that. The governor has not yet made his formal announcement and there are other conversations that are going on in Colorado.” Salazar ignored similar queries later in the call. He spoke during a call that announced new requirements for oil and gas companies before they can drill on federal lands…
In his first year Salazar has instituted a department-wide ethics overhaul, settled a major class-action lawsuit regarding American Indian trust accounts and has faced criticism from environmentalists regarding his decision to remove grey wolves from the endangered species list. Wednesday's announcement has also earned him the ire of oil and gas companies that accuse him of discouraging development on public lands.
This one has fewer ramifications for the administration but more for the Colorado landscape. Salazar would be a formidable opponent: unlike Hickenlooper or Republican Scott McInnis, he has already won state-wide office once. He’s also Hispanic, an advantage in the state with the nation’s 7th largest Hispanic population. He’s also seen as more moderate than Hickenlooper, and Colorado is a purple, not blue, state.
The fact that Salazar said “there are other conversations that are going” suggests to me he’s wondering what Hickenlooper will do: Will Hickenlooper defer to me? Will he run if I do? Does he know yet? Do we need to work out a deal? Am I willing to risk my current job and the party’s standings for a bloody primary fight? Do I even want the job with my kids now in DC? This is a situation worth keeping an eye on, to say the least.
[Update 01-06-09 13:11 by Nathan Empsall] Public Policy Polling is not so rosy about Salazar:
I'm a little skeptical about whether a Ken Salazar candidacy for Governor in Colorado is a good idea for Democrats politically. Even before going to the cabinet Salazar's approval numbers were not stellar- in August of 2008 he was at a 39/36 spread in the state.
And Colorado has not been good to Barack Obama since he won the state. His approval was already below 50% there in April, even before his numbers started their slide nationally. When Gallup released approval numbers for all 50 states in August his standing in Colorado ranked 43rd, behind places like Alabama and Kentucky where he got trounced at the ballot box. Salazar's association with the Obama administration is more likely to have hurt his standing in the state than helped it.
[End Update.] Overall, this exodus is an intriguing story, and not necessarily the negative one the press claims it to be. It’s good the storyline is coming when it does as it gives the party plenty of time to prepare – better now than in May. The specific known and potential retirements are a mixed electoral bag, despite what Politico’s headlines may have you believe: Dorgan and Emanuel are bad. Dodd is good, very very good. Cherry is neutral. Salazar is a crapshoot, given Hickenlooper.