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Was that Rahm Emanuel? Or Knute Rockne? Or Elvis?

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel addresses Democratic National ConventiCharlotte N.C. Tuesday Sept. 4 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

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Updated: October 7, 2012 7:58AM



CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Is Mayor Rahm Emanuel a presidential wannabe or the second coming of legendary Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne? Maybe both.

One day after delivering a powerful testimonial about President Barack Obama’s leadership under fire to the Democratic National Convention, Emanuel delivered a fiery pep talk to the Illinois delegation Wednesday that literally had delegates on their feet ready to charge into battle to deliver for Obama.

Rockne, who was known for his pre-game and half-time speeches, would have been proud.

“Elections have consequences. ... If anybody thinks the president would have passed his economic recovery act and his health care plan if you did not have a majority that was built up in 2006 and 2008 in Congress, I’ve got a bridge over the Tigris River you can buy,” the mayor said.

“So, we have a chance to bolster his chances to be a second-term successful president by electing four [more] Democrats to the House of Representatives [from Illinois]. We may not have to worry about where we’re gonna be as it relates to electoral votes in the presidential [race]. But, to make sure that the President’s vision on ... whether we’re gonna invest in education and health care and research and development and infrastructure, which is so crucial for our state” is carried out.

While Democrats fondly remember the good economic times under former President Bill Clinton, Emanuel, a political operative in the Clinton White House, recalled the difficult times that he blamed on Republican roadblocks Illinois now has an opportunity to remove.

“In 1995, they had a fight over the vision of government. They shut the government down. Over what? Medicare. Sound familiar? Education. Sound familiar? Environment. Sound familiar? It’s like Groundhog Day with these [GOP] folks,” he said.

The mayor closed with the political equivalent of a call to arms that had him pounding the podium and the delegates standing and cheering.

“We have a different vision. We fight for different things. And we have different values. Elections are about that. Let’s go have an election,” the mayor said.

“We are fortunate. But, when you get through that door of opportunity, do you grab a hand or close the door? Democrats have grabbed that hand and pulled other people in because, as more people enter that door of opportunity, there is more chance for this country to be a great country, and we all owe it to the next generation to open that door of opportunity for every one of ‘em which only a school and a college can give them. Let us extend that hand to the people behind us and give them a chance. Let’s be out there and win in November.”

Emanuel has insisted that, school and crime crises aside, he loves being mayor and will never run for another political office, let alone for president.

But, his whirlwind trip to Charlotte and the celebrity status he is afforded on the national stage sure makes it look like he either is or could be laying the groundwork for a possible White House run.

Wherever he goes — either on the streets of Charlotte or in a Time Warner Arena filled with the friends he has long cultivated in politics across the country and in the national media — Emanuel is greeted like a super-star.

Like Elvis, who needed no last name, it’s “Rahm.” When you say you’re from Chicago, a question about “Rahm” are the first words out of anybody’s mouth. On Tuesday night, when a reporter from Chicago asked for a pass to get down on the convention floor, a staffer replied, “Of course, you’ve got to get down there to hear ‘Rahm’s speech.”

In Chicago, Emanuel is dogged with questions about Chicago’s impending teachers strike and rising homicide rate and rightfully soft-pedals his expanding role as a prime fund-raiser and strategist in the Obama campaign for fear of being accused of taking time away from his full-time job.

In Charlotte, all pretenses are off. He’s in his glory, hop-scotching from interview-to-interview — and obviously loving every minute of it, even on a few hours sleep.

On Wednesday, the mayor’s political schedule was so hectic during the abbreviated 36 hours he chose to spend in Charlotte, he didn’t have or make time to eat. He scarfed down some fresh fruit while standing as reporters who may or may not someday be asked to cover an Emanuel presidential campaign were warned not to photograph him.

Asked again Wednesday whether he has any presidential ambitions — either now or sometime in the future — Emanuel did not hesitate.

“No. No. No. I’m not doing it. Ask my best friends I’ve known for years. No. Full stop. Stop it,” he said.

“I love my job. I love the work I’m doing. I love working on behalf of the people of Chicago. I love the work I do for them.”

It’s his standard response. Earlier this year, Emanuel even signed a handwritten pledge, when a reporter asked him the question: “I, Rahm Emanuel , will not run for another office — EVER.”

Emanuel, who did interviews Wednesday with practically every national media outlet known to man, said there’s a reason he’s a rock star on the national stage.

“From working for two great presidents and doing my congressional work, I know a number of activists and party loyalists who know me, know my background and what I’ve done for Democrats in Congress, and they are appreciative,” Emanuel said.

But, the mayor said that doesn’t mean he feels like Rodney Dangerfield at home.

“In Chicago, they know me as ‘Rahm’ also. They also say, ‘mayor,’” he said.

“You’ve seen the recent polling numbers [showing him maintaining his popularity]. Come to some of my Target town halls and you’ll see how people react to me.”



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