Before he was mentioned as a possible Senate successor to Barack Obama, before he helped lead the Democrats back to power in the House, before he was even elected to his first term as the congressman from the North Side of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel was telling friends that he had one goal in life: to become the first Jewish speaker of the House.
But the No. 4 man in the House Democratic leadership has become a victim of his own success. As chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Emanuel helped lead the Democrats back to the majority in 2006. That victory put the speaker's gavel in the hands of Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and she's not likely to give it up any time soon.
Emanuel - who is both ambitious and impatient - may not be able to wait. In early June, conservative columnist Robert Novak wrote that Pelosi was "reported to be privately talking" about Emanuel as a possible successor for Barack Obama if Illinois' junior senator is elected president.
Emanuel and Pelosi flatly denied the rumor, but it has sparked a new round in one of Washington's favorite parlor games: What does Rahm want now?
The now part is easy to answer, Emanuel says.[..]
"I'm not interested in the (Obama's) seat," Emanuel said several weeks ago. "I enjoy my job in the House, and I am not interested in going to the Senate."
But if Obama's seat becomes available and Emanuel doesn't jump, it will serve only to raise the questions all over again: What does Rahm really want, and what is his timetable for getting there?
Emanuel won't say, and other Democrats are not eager to make pronouncements about the political outlook of their sometimes volatile colleague - at least not publicly.
But the private consensus among Democratic members, even among those who count themselves as critics, is that Emanuel is on the path to the speaker's chair. Emanuel will have to do some fence-mending to get there, especially with some black and Hispanic Democrats he has offended over the years. But that obstacle is not seen as insurmountable for someone who, as chairman of the DCCC, gets the lion's share of the credit for ending the GOP's control of the House after 12 years. Read on...