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Rahm Emanuel for president? ‘No, never, not. Not interested’

Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel campaigned Wishbone restaurant north Lincoln ave. Thursday January 27 2011. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel campaigned at Wishbone restaurant on north Lincoln ave. Thursday January 27, 2011. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 30, 2011 12:19AM

Rahm Emanuel’s decision to deliver the keynote speech at the biggest Democratic fund-raiser before the Iowa Caucuses is fueling speculation that Chicago’s new mayor may be laying the groundwork for his own run for president in 2016.

On Thursday, Emanuel tried to put that speculation to rest.

The mayor was so eager to shoot down the rumor about his upcoming Iowa trip, he volunteered a denial — without even being asked whether he has presidential aspirations.

A reporter simply asked about Emanuel’s role as featured speaker at the Jefferson Jackson Dinner on Nov. 19 in Des Moines and whether there was anything “in it” for him.

That provided the opening for Emanuel to launch into a denial reminiscent of Lyndon B. Johnson’s infamous, “I shall not seek and will not accept the nomination of my party” withdrawal from the 1968 presidential race.

“No, never, not. Not interested,” Emanuel said.

“I’ve done two trips already at the request of the . . . president’s re-election campaign. They’ve asked me to be a surrogate. I’ll do it. [But] I’m not interested [in running for president]. I love this job. I love the people of the city of Chicago. I love working on behalf of the taxpayers. Not interested.”

Not even in 2016?

“[Not] even if you did that dance step you just did,” the mayor told an overzealous TV reporter. “I’m NOT” interested.

So why accept the Iowa speaking invitation?

“The president and his campaign asked me to speak on his behalf as a surrogate, as I’ve done before,” the mayor said.

The Nov. 19 speech will mark the second time that Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff, has hit the campaign trail on behalf of his former boss.

In July, the mayor spoke at a New York fund-raiser for Obama. The president’s re-election campaign chose Emanuel to speak at the Iowa dinner in response to a demand from Iowa Democrats for a big name who could boost ticket sales.

After raising $7 million in just 13 weeks for Richard M. Daley’s 1989 campaign for mayor, Emanuel went to work as a fund-raiser and then top adviser to President Bill Clinton. His 18-month stint as Obama’s chief of staff ended when he resigned to run for mayor.

The mayor has said repeatedly that two stints in the White House are enough and that he has no designs on the Oval Office.

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