As Lynn Sweet reports, Rahm Emanuel himself has been totally mute on the subject of running for mayor.  The campaign in the press has been waged entirely by David Axelrod, Dick Durbin and others.  And today, Barack Obama himself enters the fray.

When asked by Matt Lauer if he would endorse Rahm in the Chicago mayor’s race, Obama said that he would not do so until Rahm announced that he was going to run. Much more diplomatic than Durbin’s flat-out refusal on CNN yesterday.

But the President did echo the message Durbin has been spreading to the media — namely that if Rahm is going to leave, he should go:

OBAMA: I think that Rahm will have to make a decision quickly, because running for mayor of Chicago is a serious enterprise and I know this is something he is thinking about….

LAUER: Has he told you what he wants to do?

OBAMA: He hasn’t told me yet, but as soon as he does, I’m sure that we’ll announce it.

LAUER:  Would you endorse him in that race?

OBAMA: I have said he would be an excellent mayor, but until he makes a decision, I’m not going to be making decisions about how I’m going to approach it.

It doesn’t make sense for Obama to make an endorsement in a race that Rahm may never enter.  However, everyone knows that Durbin is probably Obama’s most reliable proxy, and in case anyone had doubts that Rahm is being nudged out of the White House, Obama just erased them.

In April, Rahm told Charlie Rose that if Daley didn’t run, he’d like to be major of Chicago.  And according to the Chicago Tribune, since Daley’s announcement Rahm has been “burning up the phone lines back to Chicago,” “seeking support if he runs while also giving notice that he’d be tough to beat.”

But  a second campaign apparently commenced with Daley’s announcement on September 7.  Because on September 8, the White House began a  full court press to make Rahm’s run fait accompli:

  • Politico immediately began floating the names of possible replacements, saying Rahm’s “West Wing colleagues assume he will make the run.”
  • Axelrod told CBS News that Rahm would be a “great mayor” and that he would have the President’s support.
  • Axelrod told ABC’s Ann Compton that it was “an unbelievable attractive opportunity, and I’m sure if Rahm decides to do that, the president will support that decision.”

Since then, nothing public from Rahm himself.  But Durbin has been out there spreading the message that Rahm should “make an announcement quickly,” and that he “couldn’t afford to linger in the White House as the race unfolded.”

What might have seemed like a good idea in April may not look so good to Rahm now, however.  As Durbin told The Hilll on September 13, it’s going to be hard  to put together a winning coalition.  Durbin said that if it was him, “I would have been on the phone last week.”

It looks like the White House would really, really like Rahm to depart in time for the election and make him the sin eater for a host of perceived failures.  But what if Rahm doesn’t want to go?  Well, it doesn’t look like that’s option.

Axelrod is publicly blaming Rahm’s secret deals with PhRMA and AHIP for the health care bill’s unpopularity, Dick Durbin is throwing less-than-subtle hints that Rahm needs to make a quick exit, and now Obama is giving interviews saying the same thing.

And Rahm is starting to look like “the thing that wouldn’t leave.”