- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 17, 2005

Two-term Rep. Rahm Emanuel’s meteoric political rise to the chairmanship of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee grew out of his aggressive, take-no-prisoners reputation as a fierce campaigner who knows how to win elections.

The Chicago congressman, who honed his skills in Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and later as a key political strategist and fundraiser in the Clinton White House, was hand-picked by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for the national party leadership post in the belief that he will help turn the party’s sinking congressional fortunes around in 2006.

Mr. Emanuel, 45, says he’s from the Vince Lombardi school of street politics, where “winning is everything.” It is that combative, feisty style that House Democrats hope will end their decade-long misery in the minority, though analysts say that seems an unlikely prospect next time around.

“His take-no-prisoners approach is what Democrats like about him. They’re saying. ‘We’ve been pushed around by the Republicans, and now it’s time to start punching back,’” said Amy Walter, House elections analyst at the Cook Political Report.

In the last three months at the DCCC, Mr. Emanuel has raised a record $12.4 million, part of which went into shrinking the committee’s $11.2 million debt to $4.4 million. He has started an aggressive candidate-recruitment campaign, and by all accounts, has raised the DCCC’s visibility through his wide political contacts across the country.

No one can remember a congressional newcomer who has moved up the leadership ranks so quickly, having taken over the reins of the DCCC when he had barely finished his first term. Mr. Emanuel also serves on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which will be ground zero for the coming battles over Social Security, Medicare and taxation.

“He’s been a fast-riser, in part because of the contacts he has, his understanding of politics and elections. He’s a smart guy, a real political animal,” election analyst Stuart Rothenberg said.

One of Mr. Emanuel’s boldest moves this year was a bid to redraw Illinois’ congressional district lines in retaliation for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s Texas redistricting, which added four Republicans to the GOP’s growing majority. His idea was shelved after failing to win broad Democratic support in his state delegation or among party leaders back home.

The odds of Mr. Emanuel and his party retaking control of the House next year remain remote at best, according to a district-by-district Congressional Quarterly study of the 2004 elections.

In the 435-member House, which the Republicans rule with their 232 seats, Democrats would need a 15-seat gain to take control. Unlike Mrs. Pelosi’s flat “I’ll stake my reputation on it” prediction of victory in 2004, Mr. Emanuel and the DCCC aren’t making any forecasts.

“We aren’t here to make predictions, but to win races, but at this stage in the game, I’d rather be us than them,” said Sarah Feinberg, spokeswoman for the DCCC.

The Republicans don’t see it that way.

“Clearly, Rahm has his work cut out for him. The DCCC is deeply in debt, and we’re not. They’ve lost seats two cycles in a row, and they’ve got their backs up against the wall,” said Carl Forti, chief spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

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