Under that scenario, the key question would be who wins the support of white voters, among whom Emanuel had enjoyed a commanding lead. If the Tribune poll is any guide, Chico has a huge advantage over Braun in this demographic. He finished second to Emanuel among whites with 25 percent, while Braun received just 7 percent of support among that group. Perhaps even more troubling for Braun, half of white voters view her unfavorably, according to the poll.
And Chico has other factors working in his favor. "He has more money and a heavier ad campaign," Simpson said.
Emanuel's absence should move Chico from third to second and, at the
least, earn him a likely spot in the runoff. With del Valle out of the
race, Chico would have a near monopoly on the Hispanic vote and more
support among white voters than Braun.
But Braun would still remain formidable in the hypothetical run-off, as the size of the Black electorate in Chicago is significantly larger than the Hispanic electorate. With a month left before the Feb. 22 election, Braun would just need to carve out a moderate base of support among white voters to push herself ahead of Chicago.
"Any candidate needs to reach beyond their own racial base to be mayor of the city of Chicago," Simpson said.
And Adelstein added that even if the Illinois Supreme Court upholds the appellate court's ruling, it's unclear whether Emanuel might be able to wage a write-in campaign.
"As we saw in Alaska this year," Adelstein said, "somebody who has very high name recognition and the money to run a campaign can succeed as a write-in candidate."
Rahm also has the funds to wage a write-in bid.
"Rahm's got $11 million," said Chicago political strategist Thom Serafin. "You can do a lot with $11 million. Rahm's never been one to shrink from any kind of effort. If he indeed wanted to launch a write-in ballot, he'd be a formidable candidate."