Nutter to D.C.?

Why the Mayor may not finish term two

A broken school district. A climbing homicide rate. An imploding pension fund. And we haven’t even started talking about those pesky union contracts. Mayor Nutter’s agenda for the next four years is mind-numbingly daunting. So what’s a second-term mayor with a laundry list of problems like these to do? According to rampant speculation among Philadelphia’s political insiders, his best bet may be to jump ship mid-term. The catch? He’s got to get President Obama reelected.

Pennsylvania, with its 20 electoral votes, is a must-win state for Obama. And while he enjoyed a double-digit victory here last time around, 2012 smells a whole lot different from 2008. We elected a Republican governor and gained five state House seats on the red side, while a recent poll shows that 80 percent of Pennsylvanians are unhappy with the country’s direction. And don’t forget that Obama lost the 2008 Pennsylvania primary to Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom Nutter supported.

“Barack Obama needs all the friends he can get,” says one Philly politico. Indeed. Obama’s campaign in PA is going to require an all-hands-on-deck get-out-the-vote effort, and if he can pull off a win—and admittedly, that’s a big if at this point—he’s going to owe Nutter a favor. Nothing outlandish, mind you, like Secretary of Defense or State. But Obama could easily find a home for him at Housing, Energy or Education.

So the question is: Would Nutter want it? As a 54-year-old man with a family and the clock ticking on his current gig, he’s got to be thinking exit strategy. Nutter must know he could never win a statewide election, and he wouldn’t make a lateral move to Chaka Fattah’s or Bob Brady’s Congressional seat should one of them vacate. So a White House Cabinet spot may be his best option, and a not unattractive one at that. Since daughter Olivia is set to graduate from Masterman in May 2013, just months into an Obama second act, the timing could barely be more perfect for a move for the Nutters. We hear Georgetown’s a cool school, ’Liv.

And if you’re not up on your Philly civics lesson and are wondering who’d run the city should Nutter leave, the Home Rule Charter provides the answer: new City Council president Darrell Clarke, who we imagine will have his own get-out-the-vote ­operation in full gear.

This piece originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of Philadelphia magazine.