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Rahm Emanuel has commanding lead in Chicago mayoral race

Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel enters the meeting room to testify in front of the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners in Chicago December 14, 2010. REUTERS/Frank Polich

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has a 23 point lead over his nearest opponent in the Chicago mayor’s race, according to a Chicago Tribune poll.

The poll, released Thursday evening, showed Emanuel with the support of 44 percent of those surveyed. Former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun polled at 21 percent, and former Chicago Board of Education President Gery Chico at 16 percent. City Clerk Miguel del Valle had 7 percent support, while 9 percent were undecided, the poll found. Two other candidates got negligible support. All the main candidates are Democrats.

If Emanuel is able to get more than 50 percent of the vote in the February 22 non-partisan election, he will avoid a one-on-one run-off and become the city’s next mayor.

“In reality Rahm Emanuel is not running against those other three, but against 50 percent plus one,” said Paul Green, a Chicago political analyst and professor at Roosevelt University.

Green noted that the other candidates are only attacking Emanuel and not each other, in case the second-place winner needs the losers’ support in a run-off. “It’s a political dance,” Green said.

Emanuel has already shown a big advantage in fund-raising, bringing in almost $11.8 million. By contrast, Braun has raised less than $500,000, according to a report filed with the state board of elections.

Emanuel’s fund includes a $75,000 donation from film director Steven Spielberg and $50,000 from Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Emanuel’s run got a boost Tuesday from former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who visited Chicago to campaign for his former senior advisor.

The election is to replace long-time Mayor Richard M. Daley, who has decided to step down.

Writing by Mary Wisniewski, Editing by Greg McCune