Welcome to POLITICO’s 2020 Transition Playbook, your guide to one of the most consequential transfers of power in American history.
RAHM EMANUEL had never lost a political campaign. Until this week.
Over the past few weeks, the former Chicago mayor has been waging a typically relentless but abnormally quiet (for him, anyway) campaign to put himself in contention to be Biden’s Transportation secretary.
He leveraged his platinum rolodexes from Obamaworld and Capitol Hill. He talked up how Biden would need a good congressional partner when pursuing an infrastructure package. Obama’s former secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, reached out to chief of staff RON KLAIN to put in a good word. Other top Obama aides like DENIS McDONOUGH and SUSAN RICE joined the administration, so why not Rahm?
But earlier this week, JOE BIDEN personally called BARACK OBAMA’s former chief of staff to deliver the bad news, according to a person familiar with the call. Emanuel, one of the most powerful Democrats in the country for nearly two decades, was now considered too toxic for the Cabinet. PETE BUTTIGIEG would be Transportation secretary.
“Rahm has former colleagues and friends who are involved and respect him, but no one is worth that sort of headache,” a senior Democrat who is advising the transition told Transition Playbook. “Labor didn’t want him at Transportation, civil rights groups didn’t want him, progressives didn’t want him. There simply is no constituency for Rahm Emanuel at this point.”
The left wing of the party, in particular, has made hate-tweeting Rahm their favorite pastime. But it was Emanuel’s handling of the 2014 year police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald that drew the most serious opposition, with some civil rights groups voicing objections, including the NAACP’s DERRICK JOHNSON, who said Emanuel was “not a principled leader or person.”
Emanuel did have his supporters, though. The president of Chicago’s Unite Here Local 1 union representing hospitality workers told The Chicago Tribune she thought Emanuel would be a great Transportation secretary. And when Biden picked Buttigieg, swing vote Sen. SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine) seemed devastated by what could have been.
“I think Rahm Emanuel would have been a strong choice,” she said.
Officials familiar with the transition said that even though Emanuel won’t be in the Cabinet, he still may end up in the administration. In very early conversations, an ambassadorship has been discussed, but that would also require Senate confirmation. Emanuel declined to comment.
BREAKING — Rep. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D-La.) has tested positive for Covid, according to the transition, just days after attending a Tuesday rally in Atlanta at which Biden spoke. “Richmond was not in close contact, as defined by the CDC, with the President-elect,” KATE BEDINGFIELD, the incoming White House communications director, said in a statement. “President-elect Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected.”
Richmond didn’t travel to Georgia with Biden and only interacted with him for less than 15 minutes outside while wearing a mask, according to the transition. He developed symptoms on Wednesday and plans to quarantine for two weeks.
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At the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Del., where he and JILL BIDEN taped an episode of “The Late Show with STEPHEN COLBERT.”
Met with transition advisers.
VOTE OF CONFIDENCE FOR VILSACK — Senate Agriculture Committee member SHERROD BROWN (D-Ohio) gave TOM VILSACK, Biden’s pick to lead the USDA, the thumbs up after the two men met on Wednesday. Brown said Vilsack is “committed to building a strong, diverse team” at the agency, our RYAN MCCRIMMON reports. Brown added that Vilsack, a former Agriculture secretary under Obama, understands the needs of Ohio farmers and hungry families. The words of praise from Brown are noteworthy, after he advocated for Rep. MARCIA FUDGE (a fellow Ohio Democrat) to get the top USDA post.
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Read More:O Rahm, where art thou?