An unconfirmed report by CNN indicates Emanuel may leave Washington D.C. as early as October.
As President Barack Obama's chief of staff, Emanuel is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As a potential candidate for mayor of Chicago, he has "squeezed into his schedule" three exploratory meetings with Chicago U.S. Congressmen Jesse Jackson, Junior, Danny Davis and Mike Quigley.
"We talked about if we were to run what kind of campaign there would be," said Davis, who may also run for mayor. "That you not polarize the city."
"I think he's obviously very interested in running," said Quigley. "I don't think he's made up his mind yet. And he just wants to know about the issues that I've worked on before."
The 50 year old Emanuel--who reportedly has $1.2 million in a campaign war chest-- made it public five months ago that he would like to become mayor if Richard M. Daley did not run. Daley announced his plans not to seek reelection earlier this month. Even the White House press secretary indicated a decision one way or the other is imminent.
"I'm not aware that he's made any decisions. The President is not aware that he's made any decisions. I think we're still in the process of him making an ultimate decision," said Robert Gibbs.
Other potential candidates already have begun collecting the required 12,500 valid petition signatures and several have set up websites. Only four or five candidates will likely be able to gather all of the required signatures. Davis said an earlier-than-expected return home for Emanuel makes sense.
"There is a perception in Chicago that if you are out of sight, you are out of mind," said Davis.
Former fifth district congressman Emanuel has virtually no political reach beyond the city's north side and would need time to work with the city's 50 ward leaders.
"He has ties most strongly in the white community. That was the kind of district he represented. He's got to make ties in the Latino and African American community if he's going to be successful," said Dick Simpson, a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
Simpson said Emanuel must also consider whether the effort of campaigning for mayor would be worth possibly hurting Democrats' midterm election chances by departing the White House.
"It's not an easy task. It's gonna take a lot of work, a lot of effort. You can't do it tied down in Washington," said Simpson. "Only on the other side, President Obama needs him to win those midterm elections or he's gonna lose the Congress."