3 ways the Chicago teachers' strike hurts Obama

With the president's former chief of staff, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, battling a key Dem constituency, the Chicago showdown could be bad news for Obama's campaign

Jillian Connolly helps her daughter with math while picketing during a teachers strike in Chicago on Sept. 10.
(Image credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Some 26,000 public school teachers went on strike in Chicago on Monday, leaving 350,000 students and their parents in the lurch. It's a local squabble — Chicago Public Schools and the teachers' union have been battling for months over wages, job security, and teacher evaluations — but one that could spill over into the presidential race, in part because Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the man who ultimately failed to keep the teachers on the job, is President Obama's former chief of staff. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has already accused Obama of fueling the crisis in the nation's third largest school system by siding with unions against "a city negotiating in good faith." Obama's campaign fired back, saying Romney was playing "political games" and trying to exploit the dispute. Will the strike really be a drag on Obama's campaign? Here, three reasons it just might:

1. Discord in Obama's hometown makes him look bad

The strike has nothing to do with Obama directly, of course, says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post, but Mitt Romney's supporters in the GOP are doing everything they can to sully Obama's image by linking him to "Chicago and Chicago-style politics — thinking that it will turn off independents in the middle of the country." Having a fight like this in the headlines gives Republicans "a daily news peg to remind people that Obama is from the Windy City." And the fact that the guy at the center of the scrum was Obama's first presidential chief of staff "isn't much help either."

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2. This is making a key part of Obama's base angry

Emanuel was once Obama's right-hand man, says Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars. Now he's clashing with the teachers' union and trying to force its members to accept longer days and a new system for evaluating teachers that they don't like. This kind of fracas — with teachers being treated like enemies of the state whom CEOs need to whip into shape — is supposed to happen in places like union-busting Wisconsin, not Obama country. Nice move, Rahm. "Good luck counting on the teachers unions to get out the vote this year."

3. Rahm's not going to have time to raise money for Obama

Emanuel recently stepped down as co-chairman of Obama's re-election campaign to take on another critical job — fundraising for pro-Obama super PACs, says Daniel Strauss at The Hill. Now he needs to focus all of his efforts on his day job. Emanuel has already had to bow out of an appearance at an upcoming fundraising event sponsored by House Majority PAC, the Democrats' congressional super PAC, and he's putting all of his new fundraising duties "on hold," according to Thomas Bowen, director of Emanuel's political action committee. And Republicans have pounced, demanding that Emanuel focus on Chicago and give up his job rallying donors for Obama altogether.

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