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Will Rahm run?

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is seen as a likely candidate for mayor of Chicago. Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

1. There is near-unanimity in Washington and Chicago political circles that White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel will run for mayor of Chicago although the timing of such an announcement remains something of a mystery.

Emanuel has said nothing publicly since longtime Mayor Richard M. Daley shocked the political world by announcing he would not seek re-election in 2011. But, behind the scenes Emanuel, who represented the Chicago-area 5th district from 2002 until late 2008, has been far more active -- huddling with Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., himself a potential candidate, and conducting a poll to test his viability. (He did not return multiple emails seeking comment for this post.)

Source close to Emanuel said he was pleased with the results of the poll. "I do think he will run," said one.

The thinking in Chicago political circles is similar. "People in town think he runs," said one Democratic source close to the Windy City's political goings-on. "I'd be surprised if he didn't run," said another Democratic operative with close ties to the city.

Emanuel won't have the race to himself -- or anywhere close. Chicago Clerk Miguel Del Valle is in the race as is Gery Chico, who ran for U.S. Senate in 2004, and state Sen. Ricky Hendon. Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun is expected to run while Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who is regarded in some circles as Emanuel's stiffest competition, continues to mull the race. A cast of thousands of others -- including virtually every alderman in Chicago -- is also taking a look.

The question of when Emanuel announces his plans is tougher to answer. President Obama said in an interview with George Stephanopoulos a few weeks back that Emanuel would wait until after the November midterm election to make a decision but, as we have written, it's virtually impossible for Emanuel to do so -- given the requirement to make the ballot in Chicago.

"Sooner rather than later," offered one Emanuel confidant when asked about the timing of an announcement. One complicating factor: the news of Larry Summers' departure broke last night, meaning that Emanuel is likely to give the head of the National Economic Council at least a day's breathing room (or more) before making any announcement about his own future plans.

If and when Emanuel runs, there will almost certainly be a replacement-in-waiting to preserve continuity. Among the names mentioned: deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle and White House general counsel Bob Bauer.

One person who isn't on that Rahm replacement list is deputy White House chief of staff Jim Messina, who appears to be in line to be campaign manager for the re-election race and, according to sources familiar with the White House, has little interest in the chief of staff job.

2. The Republican National Committee is going up with a new TV ad in support of former Rep. Tim Walberg (R) in Michigan's 7th district.

The $85,000 ad buy, which will begin airing today and run through Oct. 5 in the Lansing media market, ties freshman Rep. Mark Schauer (D) to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and unpopular Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D).

"Mark Schauer's votes for Pelosi's trillion dollar stimulus and Granholm's higher taxes have devastated Michigan's economy and cost us jobs," the narrator of the ad says. The ad also accuses Schauer of "disgracefully scaring seniors with lies" about Walberg's position on Social Security.

"Tim Walberg strongly supports Social Security. Always has. And Walberg's plan creates good American jobs," the ad says. It concludes: "Change for the better -- Tim Walberg."

Walberg lost his seat to Schauer two years ago but now stands a chance of winning it back as Democrats in the Wolverine State have seen their fortunes plummet amid record unemployment and a national environment that favors Republicans.

The ad wars in the battleground 7th district have reached fever pitch in recent days, with the SEIU, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee all airing new ads.

The RNC's spending on a targeted House race -- and aides promise there is more to come in other congressional districts -- is rightly understood as an attempt to answer critics within the party who insist that its sluggish fundraising is making it nearly impossible for Republicans to compete on the airwaves.

For the month of August the RNC was outraised by the Democratic National Committee by $3 million and ended the month with roughly one-third as much cash in the bank as its GOP counterpart.

3. New Castle County Executive Chris Coons (D) leads marketing consultant Christine O'Donnell (R) by 15 points in the open Delaware Senate race, according to a new Pulse Opinion Research poll conducted for Fox News.

Coons leads O'Donnell 54 percent to 39 percent. But that's not even the worst of the numbers for O'Donnell, a tea party candidate who defeated centrist Rep. Mike Castle in the GOP primary last week amid attacks from the state party that she was unelectable.

Fully 60 percent of poll respondents said O'Donnell is not qualified to be a U.S. senator, while just 33 percent say she is. The "qualified-to-serve" numbers are essentially flipped for Coons, with 59 percent saying he is qualified and 27 percent saying he's not.

The poll also tested a hypothetical matchup between Coons and Castle, in which Coons' 15-point lead becomes a 15-point deficit. Castle would have led that matchup, 48 percent to 33 percent. (That sighing you just heard came from Senate Republican strategists.)

The environment isn't as bad for Democrats in Delaware as it is elsewhere, but it isn't great, either. President Obama's approval rating is in negative territory, at 45 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval. And 50 percent of voters favor a repeal of this year's Democratic health care bill.

4. Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski unveiled her first television and radio ads of her write-in bid against attorney Joe Miller (R) and Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams (D) on Tuesday night.

"When the votes of the primary were counted, nobody was more disappointed than I was," Murkowski says in the minute-long, straight-to-camera spot. "But over the past few weeks, thousands of Alaskans from every corner of the state have reached out to me and asked that we continue the fight for Alaska."

"Alaskans have spoken," Murkowski continues. "They cannot accept the extreme views of Joe Miller nor the inexperience of Scott McAdams."

Murkowski also takes what appears to be a jab at former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who boosted Miller's long-shot bid and has a long-running feud with the Senator and her family. "I will not abandon my principles or the state that I love," Murkowski says in the ad. (Palin resigned last summer in the middle of her first term as governor.)

Despite having the advantages of significant cash on hand and high name recognition, Murkowski faces a tough challenge in waging a write-in bid. (The latest evidence of that came Tuesday, when a video that Murkowski's camp had made attempting to show voters how to fill in a write-in ballot misspelled Murkowski's last name. The video has since been corrected.)

5. A new internal poll conducted for Dona Ana prosecutor Susana Martinez's New Mexico gubernatorial campaign shows the Republican with a double digit lead over Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (D).

Martinez leads Denish 50 percent to 40 percent in the Public Opinion Strategies poll conducted from Sept. 11-13 for the Republican's campaign.

"In no public survey conducted since the June primary has Diane Denish been able to break 43 percent support," writes pollster Nicole McCleskey. "Most recent data suggests that Denish is losing ground, as Martinez makes critical gains among key sub-groups including Independent women and Hispanic voters."

The Martinez side released the poll in attempt to prove that a sustained television onslaught courtesy of the Democratic Governors Association against her over the last few weeks is having no impact. (In the memo, McCleskey notes that Martinez led Denish 50 percent to 42 percent in a POS survey conducted at the start of the month.)

The Republican Governors Association has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars -- in the primary and the general election -- into Martinez's campaign under the belief that she can return the state to GOP control after eight years of Gov. Bill Richardson (D) at the helm.

With Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake

By Chris Cillizza  | September 22, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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