THE LOOP — Hillary Clinton won Illinois, but Rahm Emanuel “felt the Bern” on Election Day.
Long before the polls closed Tuesday, political operatives who scoured South Side wards in a get-out-the-vote push said Bernie Sanders' message was clearly resonating with a lot of African-American voters.
“Grandpa,” as one Democratic campaign vet referred to Sen. Bernie Sanders, “has the fire down here… and [Clinton] has something to worry about.”
Late Tuesday, Clinton declared victory over Sanders, winning by 2 percentage points, according to unofficial vote totals.
Clinton’s win should be cold comfort for Mayor Emanuel, who became a liability for the Democratic front-runner in post-Laquan McDonald Chicago.
For one thing, Emanuel can’t take credit for delivering his own city for his longtime friend.
Clinton silenced Emanuel, one of her earliest supporters and rumored to be a potential running mate.
While Sanders used Rahm’s name like a weapon against Clinton in a series of powerful TV ads that struck a chord in forgotten parts of Chicago, the mayor was forced to take the beating without defending himself.
“That commercial … the one where Sanders says, ‘I’m glad Rahm didn’t endorse me,’ that was a wonderful commercial for Sanders,” said a South Side politico who actively campaigned for Clinton.
And in Humboldt Park, in a precinct that saw a swell of young voters, a Sanders supporter pushing an anti-Emanuel agenda, said the “Rahm Effect” created real “momentum for change.”
A ward-by-ward breakdown of vote totals wasn’t available Tuesday night to show how much of a negative effect Emanuel’s relationship with Clinton may have had on her campaign here.
But if you want evidence that Chicagoans want change, you don’t have to look any further than the Election Day trouncing of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez by newcomer Kim Foxx, the political protégé of Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle.
Expect Emanuel to play it cool at Wednesday’s City Council meeting when he faces reporters hungry for his take on Alvarez’s ouster.
The mayor might even call Foxx’s election a win for Chicagoans who want the “total reform” that he’s pushing for, and believe she was too slow in charging Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke with first- degree murder for shooting Laquan 16 times.
For Emanuel, Alvarez’s failure to win the Democratic primary amounts to another head to roll in the wake of the Laquan shooting — much like the mayor’s firing of former top cop Garry McCarthy — that isn’t his own.
He might even throw the mayoral arms around Foxx and tell Chicagoans he looks forward to working with her to fix the broken criminal justice system.
But that would be nothing but a bunch of spin.
Foxx’s win signals a seismic shift in Cook County politics that has been under the thumb of powerful Chicago mayors for nearly three decades.
It’s the first major win for a candidate backed by Preckwinkle.
And, to use a Sanders catch phrase, it’s "yuuuge.”
“Preckwinkle just became the king maker. She’s King Kong now,” a longtime Democratic operative told me.
Queen maker might be closer to the truth.
“Rahm should be worried. You could pick a name out of the phone book right now and beat him. I don’t know if he can recover from this,” a longtime Cook County Democratic Party insider told me.
“The only thing Rahm’s got going is [the 2019 mayoral election] is a long time away.”
Plenty of time for Emanuel to make a case that he’s the right guy to reform the Chicago Police Department, rebuild decaying African-American neighborhoods, bridge the steep economic gap that divides Chicago and reform the city’s failing public schools.
That’s a tall order, and Election Day didn’t make it any easier for our freshly “Bern’d” mayor.
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