There's a certain air of inevitability permeating Chicago politics today. As voting gets under way for the mayoral race, pre-election polling shows Rahm Emanuel with a wide lead (about 50 percent of the electorate). According to the New York Times, it's not so much a question if Emanuel will win, but whether he'll have to endure the indignity of a run-off—something he can avoid if 51 percent of Chicagoans turn out for him.

So with that in mind, what do Chicago residents have in store for themselves? The former White House chief of staff is stepping off the national stage and onto a decidedly more provincial one. Is Chicago his raison d'etre or simply a notch in the belt? That's precisely the puzzle James Warren tried to piece together in his lengthy story for Time:

Why? Why leave the grand arena of national governance for a circus of pothole fixing, tree trimming, water-main repair, subway-line extensions and fights over which alleys drivers can use as thoroughfares? Why subject yourself to a city-hall press corps whose cynicism can make its White House counterpart look decorous and fawning? "I loved the White House. I loved working for both President Obama for two years and for President Clinton for six years," Emanuel tells me after somehow arriving just five minutes late to a downtown diner in a blizzard that has paralyzed the city. "But I love with a greater amount of emotion and strength also being the mayor of the city of Chicago, a city I grew up in and I would want my kids to call home. I think it's facing some serious challenges... Every city faces these challenges. I want to be the first to solve them." In other words, Emanuel is a gut-level kind of guy with a gut-level passion for Chicago. He loves it for the grit and grandiosity that has produced everything from Saul Bellow's greatest novels to Michael Jordan's six NBA titles to the epic Daley-family political machine.