Obama visiting Chicago days after Daley quits

By Don Babwin

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 11 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

CHICAGO — It may not be the most comfortable time for President Barack Obama to visit Chicago.

Obama will be in his hometown for fundraising and re-election events Wednesday, two days after William Daley — a member of the city's most famous political family — resigned as White House chief of staff. And a new book claims first lady Michelle Obama had a sometime tumultuous relationship with Rahm Emanuel, whom Daley replaced as Obama's top aide when Emanuel left to successfully run for Chicago mayor.

The visit also comes amid concern about whether Chicago residents, who left by the busloads to campaign around the country for the then-U.S. senator in 2008, remain enamored enough to do the same for Obama this year.

But political observers and Democratic officials said they don't sense any tensions that would deter the city's powerful political forces from turning out for Obama's re-election campaign — even as some were left scratching their heads over Daley's abrupt White House departure. It came nearly a year earlier than expected and amid doubts that the former bank executive and commerce secretary was ever right for the job.

White House officials said Daley would be "very involved" in Obama's re-election campaign and serve as co-chairman when he returns to Chicago at the end of January. But his stint in the White House was a powerful display of the city's continued influence in Washington and that Obama could depend on the Daley family's political dynasty.

Although Daley has not detailed why he left Washington after pledging to stay with Obama through the 2012 election, many believe the decision was more personal than political. Daley's brother, recently retired longtime Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, lost his wife in November after her long fight with cancer. Daley decided to resign over the holidays, which he spent in Chicago and Mexico.

"You have to think he's thinking, 'How much have I seen (my family) and how often have I been able to just kind of drop whatever and stop by for dinner or even a cup of coffee,'" said Danny Davis, a Chicago congressman who has been part of the city's political scene for decades.

White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated on Tuesday that Obama was surprised by Daley's decision to leave but "extremely grateful" for his leadership and friendship in a year that included the Arizona shootings that injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the killing of Osama bin Laden, and the signing of several international trade deals.

But Daley's year as Obama's chief manager and gatekeeper also featured stumbles with Congress and grumbles that he was not the right choice to coordinate an intense White House operation of ideas, egos and decisions. So in a city where the art of political maneuvering was nearly perfected by Daley's father, legendary Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, there is nagging suspicion that there was more to his decision.

"People are talking about it," said Cliff Kelley, a former city alderman and radio talk-show host who often deals with political themes. "They don't think he would walk away at this very important time."

Obama on Wednesday is scheduled to appear at the University of Illinois-Chicago and two private fundraising events at the homes of Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner and Bear Stearns executive Stuart Taylor.

Davis said he wasn't worried that a new book written by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor would impact Obama's relationship with Emanuel. The book, released this week, contends that tensions developed between Michelle Obama and Emanuel while he was chief of staff, particularly over the White House's management of health care reform agenda.

"It does not appear to me that there is a great conflict," the congressman said.

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