After months of letting others try to reform his image with Chicago voters in his campaign ads, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has launched a new TV spot in which he argues that his abrasiveness is due to his drive to improve the city.
Speaking directly to the camera in the ad, titled "Chicago's Future," Emanuel acknowledges his reputation but tries to cast it as a positive.
"They say your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness. I'm living proof of that," Emanuel says. "I can rub people the wrong way, or talk when I should listen. I own that. But I'm driven to make a difference."
He goes on to say he "charged ahead" in the face of opposition to full-day kindergarten and tougher gun laws, and that he "didn't back down" when the business community came out against a $13 minimum wage.
Those are issues that could play well in the city's working-class areas as Emanuel tries to fight back against challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia's argument that he's out of touch with regular Chicagoans and hasn't done enough to fight violent crime.
Emanuel does not mention the school closings, spikes in violent crime during his term and lack of jobs in neighborhoods that have helped make him vulnerable in his re-election campaign despite his massive fundraising lead over Garcia and the inherent advantage of incumbency.
Emanuel's ad is his first since his failure Feb. 24 to get a majority of the votes cast in the first-round mayoral election so he could avoid a runoff. Garcia has not put out a new TV spot since he made it into the runoff, an illustration of the financial disadvantage he has against Emanuel.
Critics and allies have pointed to the mayor's domineering personality as a political problem for him along with his controversial policy decisions.
The day after that embarrassing election result, Emanuel rejected the idea of softening his style, telling reporters, "I don't think you should be not who you are."
But in the days since he has mentioned in interviews the notion of his greatest strength being his greatest weakness, leading to the ad that began airing Tuesday in which he tries to humble himself, asking voters to accept his personality as an outgrowth of his passion for the city.
"Look, I'm not going to always get it right," he says in the commercial. "But when it comes to fighting for Chicago and Chicago's future, no one's going to fight harder."
The ad is airing as Emanuel plans to appear Wednesday at a fire station in the University Village neighborhood to discuss cuts in Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget.