Emanuel calls midterm election a ‘blue wave with a red undertow’


Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday said next month’s midterm election is a “blue wave with a red undertow” and advised his fellow Democrats to close their campaigns by portraying it as a choice between “checkmate and a blank check.”

“Donald Trump is the issue. He’s closing around impeachment and immigration. We should close the election by [telling voters], ‘You can either have a checkmate or a blank check. Which one do you want?’” Emanuel said.

“We have to do an affirmative argument, rather than trying to keep this impeachment thing off the table. An argument about him that gives some value.”

Emanuel was in New York City to be interviewed by CNN host Fareed Zakaria during a day-long political forum about the “critical issues facing the American electorate ahead of the 2018 mid-term election and beyond.”

Chicago’s outgoing mayor is in a unique position to comment on it, having served as chief of staff to one president, political strategist to another and architect of the 2006 Democratic takeover of the U.S. House.

He argued that there are three types of voters in this mid-term: energized Republicans, energized Democrats, and what he called the “mea culpa vote.”

That is groups like college-educated women, for example, who didn’t turn out for Hillary Clinton at the levels Clinton needed to defeat Donald Trump and are now sorry about that and energized to make amends for their under-participation.

“That’s our vote. When we look at the House, the gubernatorial races and some of the Senate races, that vote counts. Making sure there’s a checkmate on him counts because we have to keep that energized and, more than energized, motivated. And socially motivated to also talk to all of the other parts of their social network,” he said.

Earlier this year, Emanuel urged his fellow Democrats to steer clear of any talk of impeaching Trump. He argued then that impeachment is a “legal, constitutional standard” and that there is “nothing there today that we know” that rises to that level.

On Monday, the mayor was asked again whether Democrats should talk about the possibility of impeaching Trump. His response was an unequivocal, “No” on grounds that it “creates a rift with the mea culpa vote” and alienates the swing vote.

“You’re basically leading with your chin,” he said.

Emanuel noted that the midterm elections of 1982, 1994, 2006 and 2010 — which he called “major-change, wave” elections — had two things in common that are not the case today: a recession and a depressed base in the president’s party.

“I would describe this election as a blue wave with a red undertow. Donald Trump is neither Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George Bush or Barack Obama. He’s an unknown phenomenon,” Emanuel said.

“What he has done well is energized his base. Part of a midterm election is an energized base and a depressed base. He has equalized that to date.”

Emanuel also offered a bit of tactical advice to his fellow Democrats.

Instead of focusing only on a Democratic takeover of the House and Senate, they should broaden the discussion to include races for governor.

“I would add the portfolio of all three. And the reason I would is, you pretty much know where the Senate is right today. You have a pretty good sense of the House. But, you’re gonna also for sure pick up seats in the governors’ race, and the governors’ races have more to do with 2020, where this election has more to do with being a checkmate,” he said.

Last week, Emanuel pointedly refused to rule out another run for elected office.

That’s even though he once grabbed a legal pad that belonged to a Chicago Sun-Times reporter and wrote, “I, Rahm Emanuel, will not run for another office, ever.”

On Monday, Chicago’s soon-to-be former mayor was asked whether, after “a year of R-and-R,” he might be recharged and ready to run for president.

As the audience dissolved into laughter, Emanuel noted that he is a “bit of a neurotic person and the middle child from a very neurotic family.”

But, he said, “I can tell you with 100 percent certainty: I did eight years in the Oval Office. I have no interest in returning to the White House. … I have no interest in doing it. Never.”

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October 22, 2018 at 03:03PM

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