Jesse Jackson Jr.: I Know What It Takes to Run Against Emanuel

Posted September 16, 2010 at 1:04pm

Updated: 2:57 p.m.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) may not be ready to announce whether he will run for Chicago mayor, but he is already talking tough about taking on another potential candidate — Rahm Emanuel.

“I know what it takes to compete against Rahm,” Jackson said Thursday of President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.

Jackson said he knows Emanuel, the former House Democratic Caucus chairman, “very well” and ran through a laundry list of past campaigns that he has watched Emanuel run. These included Congressional campaigns — “some with positive messages, some with negative messages” — and presidential campaigns for both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Clinton, Jackson said.

“I saw these guys dissect people and then reinvent them and then take people who woke up one day thinking they were this way and went to bed knowing they were something else. So these guys are professionals,” Jackson said.

The Illinois lawmaker said Emanuel would “obviously be very formidable opposition for anyone contemplating the race.” He speculated that if Emanuel runs, he “would bring an ‘A’ game to Chicago mayoral politics unlike anything we’ve seen in a generation.”

The two met privately Wednesday night for nearly two hours to discuss the mayoral race, among other things. Both have signaled interest in running for the slot held by Mayor Richard Daley, who announced this month that he would not seek re-election next year after 21 years.

“Rahm and I agreed that the city’s financial crisis puts Chicago at a tipping point. … Both of us are very concerned about the upcoming November 2nd election and the subsequent municipal elections, and agreed that every possible contender should conduct their effort on the moral high ground,” Jackson said in a statement afterward.

Democratic Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Danny Davis also have not ruled out a potential run for the seat, though neither has made a formal announcement. Jackson said he sat down with both of them earlier in the week as well to discuss the race.

Gutierrez is planning to sink up to $30,000 into a mayoral exploratory committee on Friday.

“You could not consider [a mayoral run] seriously without spending the initial seed money in the campaign to do the kind of outreach that you need to do, set up the meetings that you need to set up,” he said.

The Chicago lawmaker said he has not spoken directly with Emanuel about the race, but he wondered aloud if the issue might come up during a Thursday meeting he is attending at the White House on immigration.

“Maybe I’ll see Rahm over there,” he joked.

Kathleen Hunter contributed to this report.