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Gibbs: Emanuel’s Mayoral Ambitions ‘Understandable’

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Wednesday that it is “understandable” that Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, may want to leave his job to run for Chicago mayor.

Speculation has been swirling about Emanuel’s next move after Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announced Tuesday that he will not seek re-election in 2011 after holding the post for 21 years. Emanuel expressed interest in the job last April, telling PBS’ Charlie Rose that the job “has always been an aspiration of mine.”

Gibbs said he has “no doubt” that Emanuel, a former House Member, will “take some time to think about what he wants to do with his future.” He said it should come as “no surprise” that Emanuel may be interested in a mayoral run in his hometown.

“Obviously, something like that doesn’t come around a lot,” Gibbs said. In addition, Chicago is “a city you can fall in love with very quickly,” he said.

Gibbs said he did not know whether Emanuel has discussed any plans with the president, because “I think his focus right now is on his job as chief of staff.”

Earlier Wednesday, White House senior adviser and Chicago native David Axelrod said he thinks Emanuel, whom he has known for 30 years, has what it takes to run a city like Chicago.

“He is a larger-than-life personality,” Axelrod said on NBC’s “Today Show.” “He is a brilliant guy. And, you know, he has all of the skill set and the personality to be a big-city mayor and to be the mayor of Chicago.”

Axelrod said both he and Emanuel were stunned when they heard that Daley was not going to run again. “It’s hard for us to imagine,” he added. “We both worked for him over the years. … I’ve never seen someone who loved his job more than Mayor Daley, so we’re still absorbing the news.”