President Obama says chief aide Rahm Emanuel, right, is focused on his current… (Charles Dharapak / Associated…)
Reporting from Washington — President Obama said Thursday that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel would do a good job as Chicago mayor but is focused on his job at the White House, where there is a long to-do list at the moment.
Obama, in a televised interview, stopped short of endorsing Emanuel and did not offer a guess as to whether his aide and hometown friend had decided to seek the office, which is being vacated by Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Emanuel has said for several years that he would like to be Chicago mayor and has told friends in recent months that if Daley didn't seek reelection, he would think seriously about running.
White House officials haven't said yet whether Obama would offer a public endorsement or other support to Emanuel if he chose to seek the office.
On Thursday, though, he came close.
"I think he would be an excellent mayor. He is an excellent chief of staff," Obama said. "I think right now, as long as he is in the White House, he is critically focused on making sure that we're creating jobs for families around the country and rebuilding our economy…. But I think he would be a terrific mayor."
Unclear is the timing of any announcement by Emanuel. Obama predicted it would be after the November elections, in which the president's party is facing a tough battle to retain its majorities in both houses of Congress.
"One thing I've always been impressed with about Rahm is that when he has a job to do, he focuses on the job in front of him," Obama said on ABC. "And so, my expectation is he would make a decision after these midterm elections. He knows that we've got a lot of work to do."
But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs later could not say whether Emanuel would delay announcing his intentions until after the election.
"We are focused on a number of tasks at hand," Gibbs said. "We have a lot of things that we have to get done over the course of the next many weeks, and that's the focus of the chief of staff and the focus of the staff here."