How Carol keeps helping Rahm

January 21, 2011

If you read media reports, you’d think Gery Chico is Rahm Emanuel’s most likely partner in the probable mayoral run-off.

But, off camera, what every campaign has been worried about has been Carol Moseley-Braun’s ability – not to generate black votes (a given) but to force enough white lakefront liberals (especially feminists) to put their doubts aside (about her and about their own racism or lack thereof) and vote for her.

Braun started impressively – more petition signatures by a mile than anybody – and with important financial and business support, including John Rogers. Recently, though, Carol has apparently decided to help Emanuel out by making herself look less mayoral by the minute.

First, there was the utter arrogance around releasing her taxes (and the additional scrutiny that showed all those lakefronters that maybe she’s not so great at handling money). Then there was leaving gay activist Mark Loveless abandoned in a room full of potential supporters. This week there was the absurdity of the non-existent Harvard degree. (What’s different from Mark Kirk’s dissembling is that you got the sense Kirk really believed his lies; if you listen to Braun on that radio show, she uses an awkward word construction that seems designed to be ambiguous.)

But what may end up hurting Braun the most was the graceless way in which she attacked former President Bill Clinton for coming to help Emanuel in his bid for mayor. She not only called him an outsider and pulled the race card, but managed to bring back Monica Lewinsky. It was pretty shameless.

Braun suggested (and she wasn’t alone; Rep. Danny Davis, who should know better, started it) that Clinton’s historic relationship with the African-American community might be damaged by supporting a white candidate over a “minority candidate.”

Let’s set aside why she would use that awful word and pretend for a minute that it would have been all right by Braun for Clinton to support, say, Miguel del Valle. Or even Chico.

Or that, had the former president stepped up and decided to support her, she would have asked him to go away, that this is a Chicago battle with no need of outside interference.

Or better yet, let’s pretend that Clinton’s relationship with African-Americans wasn’t strained to the limits during the presidential campaign, when he went after Barack Obama in time-tried Southern fashion.

Let’s pretend that Carol Moseley-Braun – or any politician at all -- has such a hypnotic effect on the African-American community – a community rendered monolithic in this view – that she could influence its relationship with Clinton in any way whatsoever.

Let’s also pretend that Emanuel – whatever anybody thinks of him for mayor – wasn’t absolutely crucial to Clinton long, long before he won the presidency and that if Clinton endorsed anybody else, or stayed away when Emanuel asked for his help, it wouldn’t be just a bit outrageous.

Today’s poll numbers in the Tribune show Rahm way ahead of the pack with 44 percent, closing in on the magical 50 to avoid a run-off. Carol is second with less than half at 21 percent.

On face value, that’s a huge jump for Carol. She was in single digits a month ago. But here are the numbers that matter: She has 39 percent of the African-American vote – that is, her base.

The same poll shows Rahm with 40 percent of the black vote. And that poll was taken well-before these most recent gaffes.