Where’s Rahm Emanuel when Obama needs him?

He’s right here in Chicago — in the newspapers every day, his commercials on the air — leaving in the gray slush, so far, his five serious rivals in the race to become Chicago’s next mayor.

The opponent running closest to Rahm, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun — he’s at 39 percent in the latest poll; she’s second at 12 — was the first to argue that by leaving the White House on Oct. 1, a month before the midterm election in which the Republicans gained 63 seats, Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, “cut and run” and left his boss “holding the bag.”

Mayoral candidate Rahm bears scant resemblance to Chief of Staff Rahm or to Congressman Rahm or to Clinton White House Rahm. In the two months Rahm’s been back in town, for public consumption, at least, he’s let loose not a single profanity; in his meet-and-greets with Chicagoans, he is unfailingly nice, compassionate, sweet, earnest, patient. In other words, he has become totally, utterly boring. Washington Rahm had razor-sharp elbows and tongue; he was fearless, relentless and he pushed, shoved, corralled and cajoled members to vote his boss’s way. Even a political junkie like me had to resort to Google to remember the name of Rahm’s successor — interim Chief of Staff Pete Rouse.

Now that Obama has struck a deal with the Republicans allowing W’s tax cuts for the rich to continue for two years, progressives in the lame-duck Congress, in the House especially, are furious and may require the Rahm ramrod.

Perhaps Rahm can take a sabbatical from the mayor’s campaign and return to Washington for a bit of arm-twisting. He has just announced that he’ll be skipping community forums next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and, so far, he has agreed to one debate. Gery Chico, his most serious rival, although he polls only in the single digits, has suggested 10. So it would seem Rahm will have some time — and he can make fundraising calls from Washington as easily as from Chicago.

In fact, Rahm seems to be dominating this contest without breaking a sweat.

And the reason, in my experience covering this election, is that even people who find Rahm alarming and scarily aggressive seem inclined to support him. The city that used to work, after all, is some $700 million in debt, and the battle-weary Chicago voters — the Blago trial resumes in late April, a few weeks after the April 5 mayoral runoff — know that within a day or two of being sworn in Rahm will return to type — banging heads, barking orders, brokering deals.

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