Despite their very, uh, different personalities, Obama and Emanuel have one big thing in common: David Axelrod. Emanuel is one of Axelrod's closest friends; Axelrod even signed the ketubah at Emanuel's wedding.
They first got to know each other during Richard Daley's 1989 mayoral campaign and then worked on a couple campaigns afterwards. In 2002, Axelrod served as the media consultant for Emanuel's 2002 first Congressional race, during which Axelrod cut an ad for Emanuel that featured the candidate explaining how his support for a children's health care bill stemmed from his father's experience as a Chicago pediatrician."It localized me, my dad being a pediatrician here, and it showed why I cared about it," Emanuel recalled for me when I interviewed him about a month ago. "He took this hard charging guy like me and put a point to that charge. It had a power to it. We were tied and after that ad, we went up eleven."
When Emanuel led the Democrats' efforts to take back the House in 2006, Axelrod was his chief political adviser. And, in the Obama campaign, Emanuel returned the favor. Although Axelrod tended to take a dim view of advice that was offered by Democrats dialing from a 202 area code, Emanuel's counsel was always welcomed. "There are two branches of Washington," one Obama adviser told me. "There's official Washington and the pundits and the people who have spent a lifetime there and who have done things the old way. And then there are other people, like Rahm who aren't purveyors of conventional wisdom. We don't even consider Rahm a Washington guy."
I think that probably explains the thinking behind Obama apparently offering Emanuel the chief of staff job. He wants a guy who knows Washington but isn't of Washington. Throw in the obvious comfort factor of the shared Axelrod connection, and Emanuel would seem to be an obvious choice.
Be sure to read Michelle Cottle's questioning of Rahm's motivations here.