Paul Begala refers to Rep. Rahm Emanuel’s style as a “cross between a hemorrhoid and a toothache.” His stint as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has been notable for his clashes with DNC Chairman Howard Dean over strategy, resources, and the direction of the party.
A former aide to President Clinton, he was known as “Rahm-bo” among friend and foe alike. Schooled in the rough and tumble of Chicago politics, he was a senior adviser to Richard Daley’s successful 1989 mayoral bid — a man he considers one of two political mentors (the other being the gracious and cerebral former Senator Paul Simon of Illinois).
And now, Barack Obama has selected him for perhaps the most powerful staff position in the White House: chief of staff.
At first blush, this pairing would seem to be a mismatch: Emanuel, the intensely partisan, in your face, no holds barred political scrapper and the cool, detached, even tempered Obama.
But there are several good reasons why Obama wanted Emanuel in the White House, not the least of which is his ability to raise large amounts of money. He proved it with Daley and Clinton, and as chairman of the DCCC. No doubt Obama will start the fundraising early considering he himself has broken the mold and Republicans will now seek to match his prodigious fundraising efforts of 2008, when he raised in excess of $650 million for his primary and general election campaigns.
But beyond his ability to shake the money tree, Emanuel is considered to have one of the finest political minds in Washington. (This coming from his former boss Clinton who was no slouch himself when it came to developing winning strategies.) Obama will no doubt appreciate Emanuel’s knowledge of House Democrats — their needs, their strengths, their weaknesses — when strategizing on how to get his agenda passed.