Rahm Emanuel cut a divisive figure during his 20 months as President Obama's chief of staff. Now he's hoping to unite Chicago voters on at least one issue. Emanuel formally announced his campaign for mayor on Saturday, declaring that it was time "to make the tough choices that have been avoided for too long" in the city. Emanuel's mayoral ambitions have been an open secret for months, but now that his candidacy is officially on the table, it's time to start gauging Rahm's chances and seeing how he conducts himself at the urban level. Some early impressions:

  • Pro-Schools, Anti-Tax, Ginger About Obama  Lynn Sweet at Politics Daily characterizes Emanuel as "an anti-tax, crime fighting, pro-education candidate. He pledged no tax hikes despite the city's budget crisis, making communities safe from pervasive gang violence, reducing the award of no-bid contracts, and bringing about improvements in city schools." Sweet notes that "Obama has not made an endorsement--but has said Emanuel will make an excellent mayor," resulting in Emanuel's "carefully crafted" statement that "President Obama supported my decision."
  • He Might As Well Just Wear a Deep-Dish Pizza On His Head  John Chase and Rick Pearson at the Chicago Tribune note that Emanuel seems at pains to emphasize his Chicago roots. They write that during his Saturday announcement, he "subtly tried to head-off expected criticism that he's an interloper who came back to Chicago and isn't tied to the city like his expected opponents. He said he was born in Chicago and that he and his wife are raising their son and two daughters in the city, making them the fourth generation to live here."
  • His First TV Spot Is Out, and It's a Winner, judges Rachel Sklar at Mediaite. "It's actually a great ad – simple, plainspoken, and with enough footage of Rahm pounding the pavement to show that this wasn't just shot in one day (though clearly a lot of it was, unless he wears that navy jacket a lot)." Sklar notes that the ad "smartly appeals to city status anxiety" and "seems to be a good, down-to-earth first outing."
  • Oh, He's Just a Big Softie  Politico's Meredith Shiner reports that Emanuel's message heading into this campaign is "No more Mr. Tough Guy." The announcement, says Shiner, found Emanuel "showing his softer, emotional side in an event that sought to downsize one of Washington's biggest personalities for a local audience."
  • So What Are His Chances?  Lynn Sweet writes that "at this stage, several polls make Emanuel the front-runner in the contest to replace Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley -- in part because of his celebrity status, which has brought him massive coverage in Chicago news outlets, and because other rivals either decided not to run or are taking their time getting their campaigns organized." Meredith Shiner notes that Emanuel doesn't have the built-in base of some of his opponents, but he may benefit from two African-American candidates, James Meeks and Carol Moseley Braun, splitting the black vote between them. "Time will tell," Shiner concludes.