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Leaving on a Jet Plane?

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Mayor Michael Nutter.jpgNegotiation of long-delayed contracts with city workers.  Implementation of the controversial plan to reassess all real estate. Stemming the rise in violent crimes.  Balancing a city budget that threatens to wobble off the tracks.

Those are just a few of the issues Michael Nutter has on his plate in his last three years as mayor and I think he has developed a strategy on how to handle them.

Leave town.

Protestations to the contrary, the mayor would love, love, love to be invited to join the second Obama administration and jump to some job in DC.  Two obstacles stand in his way: No. 1, Obama must get re-elected (It's doubtful President Romney would make that call).  No 2, if Obama is re-elected, he will have to want Nutter to join his administration.  (Nutter should book December for a lot of anxious time waiting for the phone to ring with the word White House on the caller ID.)

What are the odds of those two events happening?  Well, judging from the delegate counts kept by the pundits, the odds favor an Obama re-election.  So, that's good news for the mayor.

No. 2 is more problematic.  Nutter was a Clinton man -- as in Bill and Hillary -- all the way in 2008.  Even stumped for Hillary in the Pennsylvania primary. Being an early endorser of Obama would have been a plus when it came to getting a post in DC.

Let me add a No. 3.  In the firmament of politicians officially designated as rising stars in the Democratic Party, Nutter is in the second rank.  The fact that many of those pols happen to be African Americans (Cory Booker, Deval Patrick, to name just two) means there is competition for whatever opens in the second term.

All that said the questions surrounding Nutter's future are slightly askew.  The real question isn't whether he would want or accept a federal job.  The real question is: Would he turn it down if offered?

Would he say that his duties and obligations to his hometown trump his desire to be, deputy secretary of HUD or Education? Would he say: "Thanks, but no thanks -- for now" citing his desire to complete his term?

I think not.

The mayor has tasted the sweet nectar of national attention. The CNN interviews, appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows. The network cameras focused on him. Speaking from the podium at the Democratic National Convention on the cusp of prime time.

It's all good. And it's so much better than schlepping around ward meetings and charity events in his hometown. Or, for that matter, dealing with a resurgent City Council all too aware of his status as a lame duck.

I am not good at reading minds, but my hunch is that the mayor won't be invited to DC -- not now at least. It is more likely that he will get the call in Obama's mid-term when the folks who have worked for him for six years take their leave.

In the lexicon of politics, Nutter is more of a showhorse than a workhorse and Obama has shown a preference for the latter when it comes to his Cabinet. An example is HUD secretary Shaun Donovan, who came not from the world of politics but who worked in the private sector before becoming New York City's Housing Commissioner.

(The lone exception is Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, a more classical political type who has done well in her position. The value of naming Hillary to his Cabinet was demonstrated on Wednesday night, when Bill offered a rhapsodic endorsement of the President. If you are Obama, having Bill Clinton in your tent pissing out is a lot better than having him outside pissing in.)

If he left in 2014 to go to DC, the timing would be good for Nutter's career. He would be ending his second term as mayor and need a job. His record in Philadelphia has precluded him from seeking statewide office (too much of a traditional tax-and-spend Democrat). He's not a lawyer, so he can't become a rainmaker at a local firm. He will be 57 when he leaves office, young enough to make a new career.

Until then, it looks like he will be stuck in Philadelphia. Now, about those union contracts....

-- Tom Ferrick

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