After leading the 42nd president onto the Chicago Cultural Center stage, Emanuel called Clinton his mentor, teacher and inspiration. He said Clinton has been a political and personal friend of two decades.
"And if it wasn't for his confidence and the opportunity to serve, I would never have been able to serve as a congressman from the city of Chicago and I never would have been able to serve as chief of staff to President Obama," Emanuel said.
"This is a really big job," Clinton told the crowd.
Clinton cited his protege's service in two White Houses and called Emanuel a candidate "big enough" to lead Chicago.
"Rahm's not even 6 feet tall. He probably weighs about 150 pounds soaking wet. But in all the ways that matter, he is a very big person for this job," Clinton said.
But two of Emanuel's opponents held news conferences elsewhere before the event to point out that in 2000 Clinton appointed Emanuel to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, also known as Freddie Mac. The agency was plagued by scandal during most of Emanuel's tenure and has been blamed in part for the nation's foreclosure crisis.
"With President Clinton in town, the one who gave him the sweetheart appointment to the Freddie Mac board, isn't this a good time to hold Emanuel accountable?" said candidate for mayor Gery Chico.
"He left Freddie Mac and headed to Congress with his pockets full of the benefits he reaped while there," said candidate for mayor Miguel del Valle.
Emanuel's campaign issued a statement, reading, in part, "It's not credible to suggest that Rahm is responsible for the housing crisis which began years after he served on the board."
As he closed his remarks, the former president alluded to the still-unresolved residency case, saying there was never any doubt where Emanuel called home.
"We always knew where his heart was. But we were glad to have his mind and his effort," said Clinton.
While in Chicago President Clinton attended a private fundraiser for Emanuel. The candidate reportedly has raised well over $10 million, much more than his competitors combined have raised.