Obama Talks To Rep. About White House Post

Presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., right, smiles as he listens to U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., during an unscheduled stop at the Chicago Sister Cities International Rally in Chicago, June 6, 2008.
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
Barack Obama's campaign has approached Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel about possibly serving as White House chief of staff, officials said Thursday.

The disclosure came as Obama and John McCain made their final arguments to voters in key battleground states, fighting over the causes and cures for the ailing economy and appealing for the last minute votes that will seat one of them in the White House next week. Obama tied McCain to President Bush and said Americans are paying a steep price for the partnership, while the Republican linked his rival to Big Oil and record profits.

The Democrats who described the Obama campaign's approach to Emanuel spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to be quoted by name.

An aide to the congressman, Sarah Feinberg, said in an e-mail that he "has not been contacted to take a job in an administration that does not yet exist. Everyone is focused on Election Day, as they should be."

Asked about Emanuel after touching down in Colombia, Mo., on Thursday night, Obama said only: "I'm trying to win an election." Then, referring to campaign manager David Plouffe, he said: "Plouffe is my chief of staff."

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton earlier had said: "There's no news because there's no job to offer."

Emanuel is a veteran of President Clinton's White House, and has made a rapid ascent of the House leadership ladder since his election to Congress. He was chairman of the Democratic campaign committee two years ago when the party won a majority for the first time in more than a decade, and he cemented his reputation as a prodigious fundraiser and strong-willed political strategist.

Both Obama and McCain have authorized their staffs to begin transition operations in recent weeks - although only one of them will be in a position to make use of the results. As far as is known, no job offers have been made by either man.

Even so, Republicans seized on the disclosure. "Emanuel is among the most vitriolic and partisan people in American politics," said Alex Conant, a Republican National Committee spokesman. "Reports that Obama wants him to be White House chief of staff undercut any claims to unity and bipartisanship, and should alarm every voter."

As the race neared an end, opinion polls, early voting statistics and even the candidates' campaign schedules all make it look like the race is Obama's to lose.

A CBS News/New York Times poll released Thursday suggested Obama maintains a comfortable 11 percentage point lead over his Republican rival. The Democratic nominee leads with 52 percent of likely voters nationwide saying they will cast a ballot for him, compared to 41 percent for McCain.