Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel defended President Obama's handling of the economy on Sunday but also offered faint praise, saying that while the economy is “not growing healthy,” it’s still growing.
“It's not contracting. Jobs are being added and not subtracted, not at the pace the president is comfortable with,” he said on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS.
Emmanuel’s comments came following a week of bad news for Democrats, capped by Obama’s off-pitch comment that the “public sector is doing fine” on Friday. That statement has become a political bludgeon used by Republicans to hit Obama on his understanding of the economy.
But Emmanuel, formerly Obama’s chief of staff, asserted that the election will be a choice between two opposing views of how to run the government, and that he believes Obama will win. He even went so far as to offer a somewhat specific prediction of exactly where the election will be fought this fall.
“I think it's going to come down to a handful of states. And I would even -- I mean I say this pithy, I don't mean the exact science. It's five states, 500 precincts,” he said.
For Emmanuel, the election is not just a matter of Democrats versus Republicans. Rather, he said it will make or break the country’s ability to solve its problems in the future.
"I believe, if the president gets reelected, everybody will be like, 'OK, he's here for four years, he got reelected, we've got to now work things out,'" he said.
Emanuel added that solutions to the country's economic woes could be found "if the election is decisive in its clarity of meaning." By clarity, he said, he means if the president is reelected "and other scenarios happen at the state and local and Congressional level."
The relatively new Chicago mayor, elected in February of last year after his predecessor’s 22-year run came to an end, also weighed in on the debate over public sector unions that has taken center stage since Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker won his recall election last week. Many have called his win a blow to public-sector unions and a green light for similarly-inclined Republican governors to take steps to reign in those unions.
While he said he remains sympathetic to public employees, calling them “partners in solving problems,” Emanuel asserted that those unions have to be willing to compromise, and that, because times have changed, union rights must change with them.
“Denial is not a long-term strategy. It doesn't work. We have to take on these issues," He said, adding that, "No city today can function as if the past and the past responsibilities are going to hold true.”
Emanuel also vehemently denied that he would return to the White House, regardless of what Obama might offer him if he is reelected. "This is the best job I've ever had in public life," he said. "I love doing this. Nothing is more exciting."