Emanuel is the first selection for the new administration. If he accepts, he would return to the White House where he served as a political and policy adviser to President Clinton.
Several Democrats also say Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry was actively seeking appointment as secretary of state in the new administration.
Two campaign officials say the appointment of a chief of staff isn't expected for at least a day.
The officials who described the developments did so on condition of anonymity, saying they're not authorized to discuss events not yet announced.