Mayor Daley will step down as Chicago Mayor after over two decades in office.  His campaign coffers are full and his popularity is high and yet Daley the Younger will voluntarily leave office after serving a slightly longer term than Daley the Elder. We can ascribe lofty reasons for his departure but at Cheap Talk we usually focus on the basest of human motives: rational self-interest.

First, if Daley had decided to run again, I’m assuming he would have been re-elected easily with no candidate coming close to him popularity.  His voluntary departure signals that there is some hidden problem that’s going to be trouble in the next term. It could be trouble for Daley alone, the private value case, such as an affair, some personal corruption or something of that sort.  And there is a prime candidate for this scenario: Daley’s wife has cancer and he may rightly want to concentrate on her welfare.  So, the private value case is possible.  In the opposite scenario, there is some issue that will affect anyone who becomes Mayor, the common value case.  There is an obvious candidate for this scenario too: the City of Chicago is in deep financial trouble and the next Mayor will have to sort that out.  Forget the glamourous public projects like Millenium Park, greening the city etc.  There will be nitty-gritty fights with unions to renegotiate pension deals, cutbacks, layoffs and protests.

Not only will that be painful but re-election will be hard.  Voters will blame the next Mayor for everything that goes wrong whether it’s is his fault or not.  The next Mayor will be a one term Mayor.

So, Rahm should spend a few years at some investment bank, making millions in a few short years – just like he did last time around.  He can build his political machine and run for Mayor the next time around.