Remembering Rahm

BY David Chalian  September 28, 2010 at 8:12 AM EDT

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Just hours after President Obama said on NBC’s “Today” show that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel would soon make a decision about whether to run for mayor of Chicago, ABC News’ Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller reported that Emanuel is likely to leave the White House this week.

There’s no surprise here. Emanuel has made clear his desire to run and President Obama has said he thinks Emanuel would be an excellent mayor for Chicago.

Emanuel’s departure with five weeks left to go before the midterm elections will spark an anticipated restructuring of senior White House staff. The most often mentioned names as possible successors include Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and Vice President Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff Ron Klain.

Deputy Chief of Staff Pete Rouse, who served as President Obama’s chief of staff in the Senate, will fill in on an interim basis upon Emanuel’s departure.

A potentially competitive field of Democratic primary opponents is beginning to take shape in Chicago, which helped to accelerate Emanuel’s departure timetable, as did the requirement to collect 12,500 signatures by Nov. 22 in order to qualify for the February ballot.

NUTMEG NAILBITER

Linda McMahon, the former professional wrestling executive and current Republican candidate for Senate in Connecticut, has cut her Democratic opponent’s lead in half over the last two weeks.

According to the latest Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters, 49 percent support Attorney General Richard Blumenthal compared to 46 percent who support McMahon. Just two weeks ago, McMahon was trailing Blumenthal, 51-45.

“Blumenthal has to be concerned about Linda McMahon’s momentum. He can hear her footsteps as she closes in on him,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz.

In an effort to diffuse the impact of the Quinnipiac poll, the Blumenthal campaign released its latest internal poll last night. The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll shows Blumenthal with a healthy 12-point lead, with 52 percent of the vote compared to McMahon’s 40 percent.

Both the independent Quinnipiac poll and the Blumenthal campaign poll point to the challenge for McMahon in the closing weeks. Her ratio of unfavorable views to favorable views is far worse than Blumenthal.

Connecticut voters have a 51-41 percent favorable opinion of Blumenthal, compared to McMahon’s 42-43 percent favorability.

Republicans need to win a net gain of 10 seats to take control of the Senate. After Christine O’Donnell rode the support of the Tea Party and Sarah Palin to victory in Delaware, Democrats began to breathe a bit more easily as a seat that was a sure goner became more likely to stay in Democratic hands.

However, O’Donnell’s win didn’t entirely move the battle for control of the Senate entirely out of play. Tuesday’s numbers out of Connecticut help explain why.

As both Connecticut and West Virginia move from likely Democratic wins to toss-up races, there are clearly enough races in play for the battle for control of the Senate to be far from over.

Recent polls have shown Democrats making gains in two of their bluest states that have been on the bubble this year: California and Washington.

But that still leaves Nevada, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Illinois, North Dakota, Indiana, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Connecticut and West Virginia as potential pickup opportunities for Republicans.

To be sure, Democrats are heartened by recent polls showing a tight race for the GOP held Kentucky seat, and they remain convinced that Roy Blunt’s ties to the Washington establishment will hurt his chances at keeping the Missouri Senate seat in Republican hands.

While running the table clearly remains a challenge for Republicans, it’s not necessarily an impossibility.

QUIT YER WHINING!

Vice President Biden had a message Monday for members of the Democratic base upset with the Obama administration: “Stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives.”

Vice President Biden delivered the blunt remarks at a New Hampshire fundraiser for Rep. Paul Hodes, who is running for the Senate, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, who is seeking a third term in the House, and the state Democratic Party.

The vice president’s comments echo those made by President Obama at a fundraiser in Philadelphia last week. Citing liberal Democrats frustrated by the lack of a public option in the health care law and the continued fighting in Afghanistan despite the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq, Mr. Obama said, “Folks wake up! This is not some academic exercise. As Joe Biden put it, ‘Don’t compare us to the Almighty, compare us to the alternative.’”

Vice President Biden told the New Hampshire crowd: “This President has done an incredible job. He’s kept his promises.”

The vice president refused to back down later in an interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell. “[T]hose who … didn’t get everything they wanted, it’s time to just buck up here, understand that we can make things better, continue to move forward and — but not yield the playing field to those folks who are against everything that we stand for in terms of the initiatives we put forward,” he said.

Some on the left took issue with the vice president’s assessment. Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee responded:

“The “professional left” is busting our butt to mobilize progressive voters in 2010, picking up the ball that this White House dropped when they refused to fight for the overwhelmingly popular public option, refused to break up the big banks, and demobilized Obama voters who expected this President to at least fight for big change. When Vice President Biden tells Joe Lieberman to ‘stop whining’ about the public option, and tells Ben Nelson to ‘stop whining’ about voting on a middle-class tax cut that benefits 98% of Americans, he’ll have some credibility on the whining front.”

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs recently chided the “professional left” for being overly critical of the administration.

With two rallies Tuesday, the president and vice president will look to reinvigorate a key constituency from their 2008 presidential victory: young voters. Mr. Obama will appear at the University of Wisconsin, while Mr. Biden travels to Penn State University.

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