ABC's Chris Bury reports:
In Chicago, one of America’s most segregated cities, the racial divides that in 1983 helped elect the city’s first black mayor, Harold Washington, appear far more muted in this election. The latest Chicago Tribune poll, out today, shows former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel with a commanding lead that includes strong support from African American voters.
The poll puts Emanuel’s support at 49%–just shy of the majority needed to avoid a run-off election. Longtime city official Gery Chico polls at 19%. Former Senator Carol Moseley Braun’s support is dropping like a stone, down to 10% –a drop of 11 points in the last month.
Braun emerged as the “consensus” African American candidate after a deal, brokered by Rev. Jesse Jackson, in which another high-profile black, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, bowed out. But, from the beginning, Braun has had trouble raising money. Her campaign lost traction after a series of embarrassing gaffes. Most recently, she had to apologize after suggesting a little-known candidate was “strung out on crack.”Previously, she had called a Chicago newspaper columnist a “drunk” and a “wife-beater” after a critical column. Braun also initially refused to release her income tax returns, giving only a curt explanation: “because I don’t want to.” Later, she changed her mind and released tax returns showing personal finances so erratic they raised even more questions.
The Tribune poll shows Braun’s support among black voters has been cut nearly in half, mostly to the benefit of Rahm Emanuel. In the last month, his support among black voters increased 8 points according to the Tribune.
Now emerging as Emanuel’s only serious contender is Gery Chico, a former school board president, whose 19% in the Tribune poll is a 3-point bump from last month. But Chico, who positions himself as “from the neighborhoods, for the neighborhoods,” has been spending heavily on television ads critical of Emanuel’s proposed tax on services such as cab rides, haircuts, and pet grooming.
Chico’s best hope is keeping Emanuel from winning an outright majority February 22nd to force a run-off on April 5th. But the racial-politic scenario once envisioned by Carol Moseley Braun’s supporters—that African Americans would rally to her candidacy and white voters would split between Emanuel and Chico—never materialized as black voters came to realize she is no Harold Washington.