David Axelrod — the former top adviser to President Barack Obama who served alongside Rahm Emanuel in the Obama White House — said Emanuel’s decision to not seek a third term as mayor of Chicago followed months of soul-searching by Emanuel, who had conversations with Obama and former President Bill Clinton about the matter.

“I wasn’t shocked by his decision,” said Axelrod, one of Emanuel’s closest friends. “He didn’t make this decision lightly. He obviously loves the job and he felt confident he could win another term . . . but it really came down to did he have four more years left in him?

“I admire him for making such a hard decision,” said Axelrod. “It was an all or nothing kind of job and Rahm was not going to do anything half-ass.

Heat-seeking missile

“He had never lost an election. When he first called me in 2001 and wanted to run for Rod Blagojevich’s congressional seat, I knew he could win.

“Why? He’s like a heat-seeking missile. He achieves his target.”

Axelrod dismissed any reports that mayoral race polling in any way influenced Emanuel’s decision.

“I know recently he received some very good polling but Rahm’s biggest concern was he just wanted to do what he felt he had left in him,” Axelrod said. “Although he is becoming an empty nester and just dropped his daughter Leah off to college at Princeton, his family was pretty well encouraging him to run. They know how much he loves the job, but they also wanted him to do what he felt he had in him.

“I think he could have won this race,” Axelrod said. “No one was marshaling a particularly strong campaign to date. He had the resources to get the message across. He just started thinking about four more years left in a third term of office and if you look around the country, that’s not always a great (place to be.)

“He was back and forth on this issue for months and finally felt it was time to move on.”

Rahm’s future?

“Rahm has been considering other things in life beyond this job. But I don’t think he mapped out his next steps,” Axelrod said. “I know he’ll be in great demand. But he’s not in a hurry to figure it out.

“Making this decision has been going on for months, but the question became did he really want to run? He’s in physically phenomenal shape, but when it came down to it he could not see himself giving four more years to the job.”

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