"It makes him a major, major player in national politics," said Chicago political consultant Eric Adelstein.
While Emanuel was considered the favorite from the moment he entered the race, most political observers originally saw a runoff as inevitable because of the crowded field. Fueled by wide name recognition and a huge fundraising advantage, Emanuel consistently led in the polls throughout the race. Braun's troubled candidacy, as well as Emanuel's association with Obama, allowed him to expand his base and attract Chicago's black voters. The victory spanned racial barriers in a city traditionally known for its balkanized voting habits.
A residency challenge briefly removed Emanuel from the ballot in January, but the Illinois Supreme Court swiftly overruled a lower court's decision.
Emanuel's attention will now turn to the makeup of the Chicago City Council. The mayor-elect took shots at powerful alderman Ed Burke, who endorsed Chico, during a recent debate. With the mayoral campaign coming to an early finish, Emanuel can devote the rest of his considerable war chest to funding his preferred candidates in aldermanic runoffs.
"He can use the next six weeks to really solidify his administration and his agenda through these aldermanic runoffs," Adelstein said. "A little bit of money is going to go a long way."
Emanuel succeeds Mayor Richard Daley, who has been in office since 1989.
This post was updated at 9:20 p.m. and 10:34 p.m.