Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday blamed the economic squeeze on the middle class for his 35 percent showing in a Chicago Tribune poll that also shows him trailing Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.
The Tribune’s findings are similar to the results of a Chicago Sun-Times poll that showed the mayor with 29 percent support overall and only 8 percent from African-Americans. The Sun-Times also did a more recent head-to-head poll that put Lewis in the lead in a one-on-one race.
“There’s tremendous economic stress in people’s lives, which is why I’ve pushed for the minimum wage, which is why I’ve pushed for policies to make sure our small businesses have a fair chance and an equal chance with big companies,” the mayor said.
“You have to have a set of policies in place — from pre-K to community colleges to playgrounds to parks to after-school activities — to give everybody a chance to not just look at the gains, but know that they have a future in those gains. We’re not where we need to be. We’re not repeating the mistakes that got us into the problems. But we’re not at the pace or place we need to be where everybody’s feeling an opportunity that they have a chance at a middle-class job.”
Three months ago, Emanuel responded to his dismal showing in the Sun-Times poll by acknowledging that he had alienated some Chicago voters with his polarizing style.
The mayor said he would benefit politically from being “smoother around the edges,” adding, “Thank God the election is not today.”
But he also said he ran for mayor on a promise to confront vexing problems “swept under the rug” and that he was not about to compromise his principles.
“The moment you decide that you’re gonna blow with the wind, folks are smart and they’ll smell it,” he said then.
Compared to that rare moment of candor and self-reflection, Emanuel’s response to the Tribune poll sounded canned and rehearsed.
He said he was more concerned about the number of Chicago Public School students who graduate from high school and go on to college, the number of jobs being added by technology companies and about whether Chicago has “universal full-day kindergarten” and universal preschool for every child living in poverty.
“When the campaign season comes and there’s a campaign time, I’ll then focus on the polling and the politics associated with that,” the mayor said, noting that there is “another election” before his.
“I know we have more challenges and I’m not gonna put my personal politics ahead of the future of Chicago….I’ve seen a lot of polling in my time working for presidents. There’ll be a time when it’s relevant. There’ll be a time when I make the case directly to the people about the situation Chicago is in, what we’ve done, what are some of the gains we’ve made, what are some of the challenges we have going forward as well as opportunities and what we need to do to make sure we have a minimum wage so you actually then have a middle-class life.”
Pressed to explain what it is about his personal style that he believes has rubbed Chicago voters the wrong way, Emanuel said, “Let me say this. If it’s a personal reflection, it will be personal with me, not with you.”