Washington (CNN) – Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. said Thursday he has not yet decided whether he will run for mayor of Chicago, but nonetheless launched an attack against Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who is exploring a candidacy for the same office.
“I’ve not made that judgment yet,” Jackson said when asked by CNN Chief National Correspondent John King if he will run for the mayoral office opened by the retirement of Richard Daley, the Chicago legend who served as mayor for more than two decades.
But it certainly sounds like Jackson, a Democrat from Illinois’ 2nd District, is angling for the job, painting Emanuel as a Washington insider who has “profound weaknesses” on a local level and someone who would “have to answer the questions about those communities that have been left behind.”
“As chief of staff he is an outside Washington hand. He works in Washington, and so he has the big money, He has the fame. He has potentially the charisma. And don’t get me wrong, Rahm has tremendous strengths that he brings to the debate, but there are some profound weaknesses and many of them are very local. This is an organization town, and there will be a reaction,” Jackson said on CNN’s “John King, USA.”
If Emanuel does decide to jump in the race, he will have the backing of President Obama, who said Thursday that his top aide would "be an excellent mayor." But Jackson said Emanuel’s presence would turn the Chicago race into a referendum on Obama administration policy.
“[I]f Rahm Emanuel does make the decision to run for mayor of the city of Chicago, it will become a national campaign. It will not be a local race run by local candidates debating just local issues. It will be about urban policy, it will be about the president’s agenda. He has served as chief of staff. The president’s record will probably be brought into that campaign,” Jackson said.
And when asked what the Obama administration has done wrong, Jackson lamented the persistent unemployment in the nation’s urban centers.
“Well there is significant unemployment that is challenging many of our cities,” Jackson said. “There is a $650 million deficit in the city of Chicago. Urban America is demanding an urban policy to put Americans back to work.”
Emanuel has in the past expressed interest in the job, telling Charlie Rose of PBS in April that, "[O]ne day I would like to run for mayor of the city of Chicago. That's always been an aspiration of mine even when I was in the House of Representatives."
Emanuel had planned to be in Chicago this weekend for fundraising events for local candidates. Earlier Thursday, a spokesman told CNN the White House chief of staff nixed the trip due to scheduling conflicts.
But a Democratic official tells CNN it is clear that Emanuel wants to avoid a media firestorm as he considers whether or not to run for mayor.
-CNN's Ed Henry contributed to this report