WASHINGTON---Mayor Rahm Emanuel predicted that the presidential election will be decided in "five states, 500 precincts."
"That's what I believe," Emanuel said during a taping of "CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS," to be aired on Sunday.
The Obama and Romney campaigns have nine or ten states on their major battleground lists with resources to be shifted or added as it becomes clearer--if it does--which way a state is trending.
Emanuel said the voters will be factoring in local concerns that will be different even in the same state, "Cleveland will be in a different place than Cincinnati or Columbus or Toledo or Akron," with one common fundamental: "which person do you want in the Oval Office, because who's going to hear the voices that shape things?"
On other matters:
*With jobs and the economy a central issue in the presidential race, Emanuel, President Barack Obama's former chief of staff, made the point the economy is growing-albeit slowly.
"1.9 percent GDP growth is not healthy, but it's not 3 percent contraction, OK? That's a big spread. And so my view is we need to do exactly what the president is saying."
*Asked if it were fair for the Obama team to attack Mitt Romney for his tenure at Bain Capitol, Emanuel said it was. "I don't buy that it's unfair. It is part of what Mitt Romney talks about, in the same way that it's legit for the president, in my view, to say -- and it's true -- that when we were at -- when he got into office, we were losing, on average, 700,000 jobs a month. The economy was contracting at a 9 or 8.5 percent. It's not growing healthy, but it's growing. It's not contracting. Jobs are being added and not subtracted, not at the pace the president is comfortable with."
*On the GOP winning the Wisconsin recall election last Tuesday: Emanuel said the vote reflected voter dissatisfication with the recall process--which was used to try to unseat Gov. Scott Walker over an issue--striping union collective bargaining agreements.
"I think people know when you're recalled, it's got to be something severe. You've committed corruption or something of that level. And I think that that's where the judgment was. This was not the tool for disagreeing with his policies on collective bargaining or other issues."
*On unions and pensions: Emanuel, who is in tough negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union--the CTU has a strike authorizations vote pending--added, "So I'm not where the conventional wisdom is about, oh, this means it's war on public employees. I think public employees should be partners in solving problems. Labor should be a partner.
"If your view, when you sit at the table is, I want to get to a yes and I want to work a way that's a win-win, I'll not only pull up the chair, I'll get you a cup of coffee. But if your attitude is we did it this way for 30 years, we're going to keep doing it this way for 30 years, that's not feasible. The taxpayers can't support that anymore."
The city and state are struggling over public worker pension costs and Emanuel said, "I want you to have a pension, not a defined contribution, a defined benefit. I want you to have it. But to have it, if you want it, we're going to have to make changes. And I'm make -- and remember, I'm making changes to expectations. That's the hardest thing to do in life. But it starts with, it's not your fault. Things weren't done right, but we're going to get them right so when you contribute, you know it will be there."
Everything is on the table, Emanuel said. "And you have to deal with retirement age, you have to deal with benefit structure, you have to deal with contribution, you have to deal with choice. But you're also going to have to deal with what was once an agreement, contractual, that you can't sustain, otherwise the current employees and the young employees will never get the pension that they're earning."