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(video by Lynn Sweet)

CNN's Candy Crowley moderates the presidential debate Tuesday night at Hofstra University. At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, I asked Crowley how she was preparing for the role.

President Barack Obama knew he did poorly in his debate last week with Mitt Romney, senior strategist David Axelrod told Bob Schieffer Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"Well, I think the president understands -- you know, the president is his harshest critic. And without getting into detail, I think you can assume that he's reviewed the tape, and it will inform -- it will inform how he handles these subsequent debates," Axelrod said.

Schieffer asked, "Do you think he was ill prepared? Some are saying it was the people that prepared him. You were in the room most of the time.

"I was one of the people who prepared him. I'm happy to take whatever responsibility people want to assign to me.

"I think it was more what I said though. I think he went thinking that this was going to be a discussion about the country's future, and he was confronted with this kind of gantry-esque performance on the other side just serially rewriting history before his eyes."

Gantry as in Elmer Gantry, the fictional evangelist, Schieffer asked.

"Yes," Axelrod said.

Gantry is the character created by Sinclair Lewis in his 1926 novel. Actor Burt Lancaster won the 1960 Academy Award for best actor of portrayal of Gantry in the film.

Axelrod is not making a flattering reference.

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will have a rare joint encounter--when they share the debate stage Wednesday in Denver. They hardly know each other. The two first met in 2004--when they both spoke at the Winter Gridiron dinner--just after Obama was elected to an Illinois Senate seat--not yet even sworn-in--but clearly a rising star. In contrast, when Obama ran against Sen. John McCain in 2008--he faced a Senate colleague he knew personally for a few years.

Below, what I wrote about Obama and Romney speeches at the December, 2004 Winter Gridiron Dinner.

Democrat Obama and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, both rising stars in their parties, keynoted Saturday's winter Gridiron Club dinner in Washington. Each used heavy doses of self-deprecating humor before the black-tie gathering of journalists. (Disclosure: I am in the club. )

Both men are mentioned as possible 2008 contenders, and that provided much grist for their respective funny shticks. Obama and Romney, the dueling stars, were very, very good. Romney was better, mainly because he also sang (a ditty to the tune of "Charley and the MTA") and he came with a witty visual presentation.

'Nowhere to go but down'

Romney had a few zingers aimed at Obama. Obama, he said, is not seeking the limelight" after all. Obama has said that again and again"-- then Romney named some of the many national shows Obama has been on just in the past few weeks.

Obama, who went on first, said everything changed for him after he keynoted the Democratic convention.

"It's like I was shot out of a cannon. I am so overexposed, I make Paris Hilton look like a recluse. "After all the attention -- People magazine, GQ, Vanity Fair, Letterman -- I figure there's nowhere to go from here but down. So tonight, I announce my retirement from the United States Senate. I had a good run."

He said he was not letting all the attention go to his head. He joked that he was hanging out with Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson at a Los Angeles restaurant when Barbra Steisand called him on his cell phone.

And he counseled her, you can't just get caught up in the hype."

Of course, all the hype, said Obama, generates wacky tabloid coverage." And with that he hoisted a poster, a mock cover of the National Enquirer with the headline: Obama's shocking secret. He's Strom Thurmond's love child."

It is tough, kidded Obama, to live up to all the expectations. There are people in Kenya, his father's homeland, who expect his election to mean the United States will fund new roads, new bridges and new schools.

Joked Obama, "I had to explain to them how it works. First comes the invasion, and then billions in aid."

WASHINGTON -- Looking ahead to November, the Wisconsin recall election -- triggered by GOP Gov. Scott Walker busting state worker unions -- leaves President Barack Obama in better shape than Mitt Romney.

Wisconsin is one of 10 battleground states, and exit polls of Wisconsin voters show Obama at 54 percent to 42 percent for Romney -- even though Walker survived the challenge.

It is not an inconsistent finding, given the peculiar nature of a recall election. Some 60 percent of Wisconsin voters said a recall was only appropriate when a public official was accused of some kind of official misconduct. Walker's recall was triggered when he led the drive to grind down the collective bargaining rights of state government employees -- a major policy difference, not a personal failing.

That resistance to the use of the recall tool suggests why some voters in Wisconsin were comfortable in casting a ballot for a Republican with roots in the Tea Party movement and turning around and saying in November they could vote for Democrat Obama.

No one is predicting that Obama can repeat in 2012 his 2008 blowout in the Badger State, when he beat GOP rival Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) by 14 points. But Obama also has history on his side -- the last time Republican who won Wisconsin was Ronald Reagan, in 1984.

The exit polls are upbeat for Obama; some 45 percent said he could improve the economy better than Romney and an important voter group -- middle class voters said Obama could help them better.

In some ways, Wisconsin served as a proxy for the base groups fueling the Democrats and Republicans nationally --organized labor versus corporate and anti-"Big Labor" and "Big Government" interests.

What are other lessons from the Wisconsin recall Obama and Romney can take into November?

*Who the candidate is matters. Barrett is a non-charismatic Big City mayor, no Obama when it comes to campaigning. He also was heavily outspent--which team Obama will not be in the coming months.

The latest tally put spending on behalf of Walker--including outside groups at about $46 million to $18 million for Barrett. Walker was able to collect some of his money before donor caps kicked in for the recall in March. For all the money, the exit polls found that nine out of ten voters made up their minds in May.

*Organized labor had the most at stake in the recall and the Barrett defeat is a blow.
Unions were able to turnout a vote. The bad news for labor: the exit poll showed voters almost split over whether they backed Walker's move to eviscerate union bargaining rights; 50 percent approved to 48 percent disapproving.

The labor movement will likely remained energized, if for no other reason than to discourage anti-union moves from officials who might otherwise be emboldened by Walker's win.

The GOP assault on workers rights in Wisconsin remains a rallying cry for unions which could resonate especially in heavily union battlegrounds Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The exit polls found that about one-third of the voters--or someone in their household belonged to unions--and two-thirds of those voters sided with Barrett. Unions know how to run ground games. Labor turnout grew from about 26 percent in 2010 and 2008.

*Obama's team made the right choice in not having the president stump for Barrett.
Mitt Romney did not campaign in Wisconsin for Walker, so he gets no credit for the Walker win.

Obama did not want to alienate Walker voters by taking a profile in the contest.

This will make it easier for Obama to appeal to the independents Walker voters who could be persuaded to cross over in the fall. Voters in the exit poll were 35 percent Democratic, 33 percent Republican and 32 percent Independent.

The Democratic National Committee and the Chicago-based Obama re-election campaign sent a money and volunteers to Wisconsin, and even though Obama did not show, he made it clear he supported Barrett. The DNC sent $1.4 million to Wisconsin--some $800,000 since November.

WASHINGTON--Tea Party Rep. Joe Walsh's (R-Ill.) main GOP 8th District primary rival, DuPage Superintendent of Schools Darlene Ruscitti,dropped out Wednesday, leaving Walsh an easy path to win the March contest.

Presuming he wins the nomination, Walsh in November will face a big battle in the north and northwest suburban district--redrawn by Democratic mapmakers to lean Democratic-- against either Tammy Duckworth or Raja Krishnamoorthi who are in their own primary fight.

It appears the Illinois Republican Party assisted in clearing the field for Walsh--who did the party a favor by removing himself from what would have been a contested 14th District GOP primary against fellow freshman Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) on Dec. 8.

By moving over to the 8th, Walsh saved Republican money and gave the GOP a better known and better financed general election contender.

Still, Ruscitti was able to raise her profile in her short bid; in stepping aside for Walsh, she was tapped by Illinois Republican chair Pat Brady to a state party leadership spot.

"My campaign collected over 4,000 petition signatures, signed up hundreds of volunteers and gained the support of dozens of elected officials - but my role as a leader within the Illinois Republican Party and a desire to avoid a costly primary outweigh my personal political aspirations," Ruscitti said in a statement.

WASHINGTON--Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, sworn-in on May 16, starts his tenure with high approval ratings, according to a poll conducted by Anzalone Liszt Research for Teamsters' Joint Council 25.

I did not see the entire poll; I was sent a copy of a polling memo prepared for the Teamsters, who backed Emanuel during the mayoral campaign. A PDF of polling memo is here. ALR_POLLING_SUMMARY_--_TEAMSTERS_JOINT_COUNCIL_25_POST_ELECTION_ASSESSMENT_POLL_MAY_2011.pdf

Excerpt from memo....

Does the following phrase describe Rahm Emanuel?
􀂾 Strong leader 75% Describes Well / 13% Does NOT Describe
􀂾 Can get results 74% Describes Well / 11% Does NOT Describe
􀂾 Is an effective manager 71% Describes Well / 11% Does NOT Describe
􀂾 Can represent all neighborhoods 62% Describes Well / 26% Does NOT Describe
􀂾 Is a reformer 61% Describes Well / 22% Does NOT Describe

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel named his cultural affairs team on Wednesday and it includes Mayor Daley's daughter, Nora.

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel introduced Newark, N.J., police chief Garry McCarthy on Monday as Chicago's new police superintendent and Chicago Sun-Times Fran Spielman and Frank Main have the story.

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel blames Ald. Ed Burke (14) for laying the groundwork to his residency challenge, Chicago Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman reports in her exclusive interview with Emanuel.

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel hit Kennedy-King City College on Tuesday.

rahm sally armbuster.JPGEmanuel campaign staffer Sally Armbuster at Emanuel headquarters. Armbuster is a former aide in the Obama White House Social Secretary office. (photo by Lynn Sweet) follow Lynn Sweet on Twitter: @LynnSweet

CHICAGO--Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel's successful mayoral campaign was organized like a mini-presidential campaign, staffed with former White House personnel and seasoned Illinois political operatives, covering 50 Chicago wards instead of 50 states.

Emanuel, a veteran of the Obama and Clinton White Houses, a former House member who chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- who has put together many campaigns -- is running his pre-and post-mayoral election Chicago operation on a national model: Since returning to Chicago in October, he has formed committees to bankroll his campaign, his inauguration, his transition and his permanent political organization.

And mimicking a national campaign, Emanuel even put a flag pin on his suit lapel for his mayoral bid: A Chicago flag, that is.

Emanuel started to organize his campaign before he left his job as President Obama's chief of staff on Oct. 1. Obama administration staffers -- many with Illinois connections -- provided a lot of the campaign infrastructure, complemented by hires of staffers who ran state and local campaigns in Illinois.

Once back in Chicago, almost everywhere Emanuel went was "advanced" -- that is, checked out beforehand -- by Mike Ruemmler and Mike Faulman, who were drafted out of the Obama White House advance shop. Faulman served as Emanuel's "bodyman," or traveling personnel assistant.

Communication Chief Ben LaBolt was a major and early hire for Emanuel, who snared the La Grange native from the White House press office where his national portfolio included a special niche developed during Obama's 2008 presidential campaign: handling Chicago-related matters for the Obama administration.

The Deputy Press Secretary, Tarrah Cooper, came out of the Department of Homeland Security press shop. Emanuel's mayoral scheduler, Kate Kochman, was his scheduler in the White House.

The chief financial officer of his campaign, Erin Mackey was the director of finance at the White House and before that a staffer in the Obama-Biden transition team and the budget manager for Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

At the start of the campaign, Emanuel was assisted by Jasculca Terman, the Chicago-based public affairs firm that fields a team with presidential-level experience, and Buffy Wicks, an Obama 2008 key field organizer, who was for a time a deputy director in the White House Office of Public Engagement, overseen by White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. Wicks is the vice president of political affairs at AKPD Message and Media, Emanuel's media consultants. AKPD was founded by former White House Senior adviser David Axelrod.

The Emanuel fund-raising drive was run by Jordan Kaplan, who was a deputy finance director for the Obama presidential campaign and Obama's Senate political operation, and Anne Olaimey, who ran the Business Liaison office at the Commerce Department -- and who has raised money for Emanuel going back to his first House race in 2002.

Sally Armbruster was an assistant in first lady Michelle Obama's Social Secretary office; she ran special events for Emanuel's campaign.

There were about 40 or 50 paid staffers in Emanuel's campaign, and Emanuel blanketed his White House alumni with local savvy: Matt Hynes, who has run Illinois statewide races, (his brother former Comptroller Dan Hynes) was a senior adviser dealing with political outreach; Blake Sercye, the political director, steered Gov. Quinn's campaign African-American outreach. Field Director Anna Valencia ran Illinois state Senate races for State Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), and policy chief David Spielfogel did the same job for Alexi Giannoulias' Illinois U.S. Senate bid.

Deputy campaign manager Tom Bowen jumped into the Emanuel campaign from managing Forrest Claypool's independent run for Cook County assessor and Giannoulias' primary campaign. Bowen will be running Emanuel's permanent political operation, the New Chicago Committee, a political action committee modeled after leadership PACs run by House, Senate and presidential candidates.

Mayor elect Rahm Emanuel is creating a political action committee, called the "New Chicago Committee," to bankroll his political operation which will include raising money and donating to other candidates--from aldermanic on up--and causes.

Emanuel Deputy Campaign Manager Tom Bowen--who managed Forrest Claypool's independent Cook County Assesors race--and Alexi Giannoulias' Senate Democratic primary--will helm the New Chicago Committee.

The New Chicago Committee is modeled on House and Senate members "leadership" political action committees. While a House member, Emanuel ran a leadership PAC, "Our Common Values" PAC; with most donations to help Democratic House candidates.

This is the fourth fund-raising committee Emanuel has created since he returned to Chicago in October. They are:

1. Chicago for Rahm, the Emanuel mayoral campaign

2. The Emanuel transition committee, funding for which will likely come from Chicago's non-profit foundation community. Official name: Chicago 2011 Transition Committee, a not-for-profit corporation. Papers to create the transition committee were filed with the Illinois Secretary of State on March 2.

3. The Emanuel inauguration committee, which will be raising money from donors. Official name: Chicago 2011 Inaugural Committee, a not-for-profit corporation. Papers to create the inaugural committee were filed with the Illinois Secretary of State on March 2.

4. The New Chicago Committee, Emanuel's political action committee which will bankroll his political operation.

WASHINGTON--Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel will make his first return to the White House since he left as President Obama's Chief of Staff on Friday, when he meets with his former boss in the Oval Office.

Obama hosted a lavish White House send-off ceremony for Emanuel on Oct. 1 and was supportive of his candidacy. The two continued to talked regularly, Emanuel said during his campaign.

Emanuel will spend the next two weekends here to be with his family--still camped out in D.C. until the school year is finished--now that the campaign is over. His swearing-in is not until mid-May.

A week from Saturday--March 12--Emanuel will be the guest of the Chicago Sun-Times at the Gridiron Club annual dinner here, which Obama will attend.

The day before--Friday, March 11--the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks will be at the White House to be honored by Obama and First Lady Michelle, with the invite list to include--no wonder--at lot of Chicagoans. No official word on whether Emanuel will attend, but I would bet on it.

Emanuel was the Democratic Gridiron Club speaker the dinner in 2007--he was then in House leadership--with the other headliner Republican Mitt Romney, who was running--the first time--for president.

As many now well know from his residency challenge, Emanuel moved from Chicago to Washington in 2009 to become Obama's White House chief of staff, with his family later coming here to join him.

His wife, Amy and three children, enrolled in local elementary schools, remained in Washington--in a house near the National Cathedral--when he returned to Chicago to launch his mayoral bid.

Quipped former President Clinton at the 2010 Gridiron Club dinner: "I found Rahm. I created Rahm. I made him the man he is today. I am so sorry," joked Clinton.

Screen_shot_2011-03-03_at_1.14.39_AM.png(Sun-Times photo by Rich Chapman)

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel met his potty mouth @MayorEmanuel Twitter alter ego, Dan Sinker on Wednesday, giving him a $5,000 check (for a charity) for unmasking himself, keeping a promise he made to the Sun-Times Rich Roeper on his WLS-AM show during the campaign. Sun-Times political reporter Abdon M. Pallasch has the details here.

Chicago mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel remains under defense subpoena in Rod Blagojevich's April retrial on corruption charges. Sun-Times federal court reporter Natasha Korecki, stationed at Emanuel's victory party Tuesday night, asked former White House senior advisor David Axelrod--a close Emanuel pal--about the case. Read her post on the exchange here.

Korecki reports on this and more: "When asked if Emanuel could take the stand in Blagojevich's case, Axelrod shrugged it off. "I really don't know. Whatever happens happens. But I have every confidence that it won't amount to much," Axelrod said.

CHICAGO--Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, freshing from thumping his rivals in the Tuesday election, started Wednesday with a workout at the East Bank Club and then an "El" stop at 95th and the Dan Ryan. He'll have a press conference in the morning in the Loop.

Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following
statement tonight after former Congressman Rahm Emanuel was elected Mayor of

"The people of Chicago have elected a true representative of their best hopes
and aspirations, a dedicated public servant, and a proud Chicagoan. I offer my
warmest congratulations to Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and to his family.

"Rahm Emanuel was a passionate, committed advocate for the people of Chicago
during his service in the House of Representatives. As White House Chief of
Staff, he continued to advance the goals of good jobs for our workers, fairness
for our families, and opportunity for all. He will build on that record of
leadership, achievement, and progress as the next Mayor of his hometown.

Chicago mayoral election today

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Thumbnail image for mayor debate1.jpeg(Sun-Times photo by Scott Stewart)

For the first time since 1989, Chicago will have a new mayor.

Either way, a milestone for the city. The possibilities....

Rahm Emanuel, first Jewish mayor
Carol Moseley Braun, first female African American mayor
Gery Chico, Miguel del Valle, first Hispanic mayor

The last day of the campaign story is here, reported by Sun-Times Abdon M. Pallasch and Fran Spielman.

Mayoral candidate photo gallery is here.

Lynn Sweet blog Chicago mayoral pictures and posts is here


In Chicago, (312) 269-7870; Hearing impaired, (312) 269-0027. In Cook County suburbs, (312) 603-0906; Spanish language, (312) 603-6767; Disabilities, (312) 603-0929; Hearing impaired, (312) 603-0902.

In collar counties, Lake (847) 377-2314


State Board of Elections: (312) 263‑7367

In Chicago, (312) 269-7870; Hearing impaired, (312) 269-0027. Cook County: (312) 603-0236; Hearing impaired, (312) 603-0902.



Suburban Cook:

Lake County:

rahm target .JPGRahm Emanuel campaigning at Target, 85th and Cottage Grove, on Saturday. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

CHICAGO--The last thing the Rahm Emanuel mayoral camp wants is raised expectations about the Tuesday mayoral balloting here. Emanuel is in a position to win the contest outright--if he gets more than 50 percent of the vote. If not, the top two vote getters go to an April 5 runoff. If Emanuel does well--comes in first--but not pass 50 percent--will he seem somehow falling short? That's a perception issue.

On Monday, at North Park Village, Emanuel--in the heart of what was his congressional district-- was asked about whether he could clinch Tuesday.

"This is a big election and I want people to participate in that election by showing up and voting," he said.

Over the weekend, Emanuel campaigned on the South Side and on Saturday got a warm reception at the Target at 85th and Cottage Grove. For my overview story on Emanuel and the mayoral race, click here.

mayor debate1.jpegChicago mayoral candidates at last debate (Sun-Times photo by Scott Stewart)

The lead on the Chicago Sun-Times Chicago mayoral debate story by Abdon M. Pallasch and Fran Spielman:
"As chief of staff to President Obama, Rahm Emanuel slapped down every attempt to help the plight of illegal immigrants, his three rivals said during the last mayoral debate Thursday night."

Read the story here.

CHICAGO--Mayoral frontrunner Rahm Emanuel made no mistakes during the last major debate on Thursday, taking hits from his three main rivals, Carol Moseley Braun, Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle, who each carved out a rationale for their candidacies.

No winners, no losers.

With Emanuel in a position to clinch on Tuesday, del Valle and Chico were most explicit in post debate interviews with reporters in pleading for more time for them to make their case. If no one gets more than 50 percent on Tuesday, the top two vote getters face a run-off on April 5.

Each candidate did well for themselves--there were no gaffes, but neither Del Valle, Braun or Chico figured out a way to mount any compelling new argument against Emanuel that would seem to have traction at this late stage of the campaign.

Del Valle did well for himself--lumping Chico and Emanuel together and casting himself as an alternative.

Del Valle said Emanuel and Chico are "cut from the same" cloth and that he represents the only true alternative, both of whom made a "ton of money" from their government contacts.

"This election has to go to a run-off," he said. "I am the alternative to the Gery Chico--Rahm Emanuel combination."

Chico claimed that he was able to put Emanuel on the defensive and the debate showed that voters needed more time to consider their choices, all a "compelling reason for a run-off."

After being hit by Braun for his record concerning African Americans, Emanuel cited a number of programs he backed....childrens health insurance, anti-smoking programs that helped African American youth.

mayor debate.JPGLast Chicago mayoral debate, Oriental Theatre, Chicago (photo by Lynn Sweet)

Chicago Sun-Times mayoral coverage team at the debate: City Hall Reporter Fran Spielman, Political Reporter Abdon M. Pallasch (photo by Lynn Sweet)

CHICAGO--The four major candidates for Chicago mayor are doing one minute opening statements.

7:01 Chicago time
Miguel del Valle, Gery Chico bland openers.
Rahm Emanuel--the front-runner--nothing special
Carol Moseley Braun--in a new hairstyle and new highlights (I would note a new look for a man)...crisply summed up her biography...and makes the best pitch in the opener.

All Emanuel has to do in this debate is play it safe--he is the front-runner.

7:10 Chicago time...
Question on taxes
Chico attacks...not strongly...Emanuel...for his sales tax plans...Emanuel ignores Chico when it is his turn....and....recaps his tax-the-rich plan--increase taxes for corporate jets, animal grooming and country clubs--he singles out Saddle and Cycle on the North Side...
Braun used the question to recap her credentials....was on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, ran budgets at U.S. Embassy as ambassador and at the Record of Deeds...
Del Valle gently aiming at Emanuel, says the Illinois General Assemby will never approve Emanuel's tax policies.....

7:20 Chicago time...
The question is do the candidates support a head tax and city residency requirements.

residency rules...keep

Del Valle....
head tax for big employers
did not say his position about residency

head tax...would eliminate
residency...not sure, would take a look at arguments for and against.

head tax..would eliminate
residency....not clear from his answer what his position is.

7:34 Chicago time...
Will get back with answers to questions about who the contenders would put in their kitchen cabinet...but first...Emanuel was asked just what he did to quickly make at least $18 million when he left the Clinton White House....."What was he doing for people to make that kind of money?"

Emanuel gave a fairly lame answer here....mentioned that he helped create Exelon ....and kept their headquarters in Chicago...(did not mention the folks who got laid-off in the deal) and then quickly switched to mentioning he was the vice chair of the Chicago Housing Authority...which was a non-paying job (and thus not responsive to the question) and he taught at Northwestern..(but that was just a course and not the basis of his fortune)

....Chico notes that Emanuel did not mention that he was on the Freddie Mac board...(and made a bundle for just attending meetings).....Braun wonders what skills Emanuel brought to these deals since he was not a MBA or CPA and then pivots to Emanuel voting against the Congressional Black Caucus position 128 times .....

7:45 Chicago time....
Who would put in "kitchen" cabinet

Del Valle..."people in the neighborhoods" and open up to more people than Mayor Daley..."that's why Gery Chico got appointed to everything."

Chico...Paul Vallas, B. Herbert Martin, Luis Gutierrez...

Emanuel...Mike Koldyke...Rev. Brazier, Dave Mosena...

Braun...her sister, a Cook County States Attorney, brother who is a cop, Renee Ferguson, her spokesman and John Rogers, chief of Ariel Investments.

7:56 Chicago time....
There was an immigration question...rivals hit Emanuel gently on his record in Congress and in the Obama White House, Emanuel defends slam as blocking immigration reform, noting no one since former President Ronald Reagan was able to overhaul the law.
Updated...Emanuel is accused of putting the Dream Act on the back burner as President Obama's White House chief of staff....Emanuel says he would back a Chicago dream act and making Chicago a sanctuary city...This is an area where Emanuel is vulnerable...

Closing statements...

Del Valle...calls for change "It's time Chicago!"

Braun....Egyptians demanded democracy ..."and they got it"...asks voters to "fight the power," a presumed reference to Emanuel. "We will bring democracy to Chicago...

Chico..the city "is not working for you"

Emanuel ..."denial is not a long term strategy"

Closing statements...

Del Valle..."It's time, Chicago" a call for change
Braun...refers to Egypt, time to "have democracy in Chicago"
Chico.. city "we love" is not "working for you."
Emanuel... "denial is not a strategy."

All four candidates are doing post debate interviews now...
Braun, Del Valle, Chico..Emanuel next...

CHICAGO--Some 2,000 people---a wildly diverse crowd--are streaming into the ornate Oriental Theater in the heart of the Loop to watch the best show in town Thursday night: mayoral hopefuls Rahm Emanuel, Carol Moseley Braun, Miguel del Valle and Gery Chico.

Chico is fighting a 104-degree fever.

The candidates are in the theater and are about to start one minute opening statements.

Chicago's mayoral primary is Tuesday and the contenders debate Thursday night at the Oriental Theatre in the Loop. Watch Rahm Emanuel, Carol Moseley Braun, Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle live on ABC7 at 7 p.m. Chicago time. The debate will also stream live on

WASHINGTON---President Obama and First Lady Michelle completed their absentee ballots for the Feb. 22 mayoral and aldermanic primary, the White House confirmed on Thursday morning.

I started to ask Mrs. Obama about her vote during a Feb. 8 during a lunch she had with reporters who cover her the most.

She cut me off right away." I know, Lynn. I'm not telling you who I voted for. I haven't voted yet. I haven't voted yet. But my vote is mine, too," she said.

Interesting that she declined a chance to talk up former Obama White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, the mayoral hopeful who is the front runner going into Tuesday's election.

President Obama has been vocal in helping Emanuel.

WASHINGTON-- President Obama was asked at his press conference on Tuesday whether he was "placing calls for your friend Rahm Emanuel for his mayoral campaign in Chicago?"

April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks asked the question several times in the past weeks to now former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Gibbs promised to get back to her with an answer, but he never did, so she just asked Obama himself when she had the chance.

Obama's reply seems to suggest he made no calls, but the language he uses is not conclusive. Obama never directly said yes or no.

"I don't have to make calls for Rahm Emanuel. He seems to be doing just fine on his own. And, you know, he's been very busy shoveling snow out there. And I've been very impressed with that. I never saw him shoveling around here."

Over at Politics Daily, executive editor Carl Cannon, a historian, scholar and journalist starts his daily story note with a look back at Feb. 15, 1933. With the Chicago mayoral election underway--the primary is Feb. 22 and early voting is ongoing--Cannon revisits the day where another Chicago mayor was big news-- Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak took some bullets intended for President-elect Franklin Roosevelt.

Cannon writes:

Good morning, it's February 15, 2011. Think our destiny is written in the stars? Think again. On this day in 1933, an Italian immigrant named Giuseppe Zangara attempted to assassinate President-elect Franklin Roosevelt in Miami. None of the five shots hit FDR, but Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak was struck. On the way to the hospital in Roosevelt's car, the wounded mayor reportedly told the president-elect, "I'm glad it was me instead of you." Such words sound apocryphal to modern sensibilities, but at the time--as our nation faced the abyss the Great Depression--most Americans were in agreement with the implication of the dying man's words. The country felt it did need Roosevelt.

Seventeen days later, FDR would deliver his stirring inaugural address in which he assured Americans that the only thing they had to fear was fear itself. But two days after that, Chicagoans would lose their civic leader, an Eastern European immigrant who had wrested the city's politics away from the "lace curtain" Irish establishment, essentially creating the modern Democratic Party political machine that rules the city to this day.

As Anton Cermak lay in the hospital, the Chicago Tribune wrote, "We think he faced his problems courageously and did the best that was in him to put this punch drunk city back on its feet, to restore its reputation in the eyes of the world, to re-establish its credit, to relieve its taxpayers and to pay its debts." If he had lived, who knows if the Daley dynasty would have ever begun?

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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