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What to expect when Rahm stumps for Obama Saturday

President Barack Obamis introduced by Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel Chicago April 14 2011 DNC fundraising event. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

President Barack Obama is introduced by Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel in Chicago, April 14, 2011, at a DNC fundraising event. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: November 19, 2011 3:46PM

Watch for some version of this line when Rahm Emanuel speaks on behalf of his old boss Barack Obama in Des Moines Saturday:

“This president never takes the easy road. If he thinks he’s right, he’ll pay any political price to do it. I can tell you that because I, first-hand, was telling him, ‘Take the easy road! Make it easier on us! Get this over with!’ ”

Obama’s former chief of staff said that to cheering fans at Obama’s 50th birthday party in Chicago in August and has used variations on that theme to explain why he thinks the country ought to re-elect Obama.

Emanuel is the first big-name Democratic speaker to hit Iowa in the lead-up to that state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses in six weeks.

Obama has no primary challenge, so Emanuel’s task is to take the focus off Republicans’ attacks on Obama, get Democratic voters excited about Obama’s chances in what is sure to be a tough re-election campaign and make them think the $100 to $10,000 they paid to hear him was worth it.

Iowa’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner is generally one of the highlights of the Democratic campaigns for president in contested years.

Four years ago, Obama was faulted for delivering a speech that did not hit it out of the park at the dinner. But he won the caucuses handily anyway.

Some 1,500 Iowa Democrats are expected at Saturday night’s sold-out dinner. Emanuel was booked as the marquee name months ago, before his impressive 50-0 vote for his inaugural budget as Chicago mayor Wednesday.

Moments after that vote, he was asked what he plans to say Saturday night.

“I had a good fortune of being the president’s chief of staff, watching him up-close,” Emanuel said. “Watching him exert the leadership that was necessary to stabilize a country that was spinning toward far worse economic conditions than the one he inherited if it wasn’t stopped and abated and I think that’s a testament to character.”

One thing Emanuel says he will not do in Iowa: Lay the groundwork for his own presidential run in four years.

“No, not,” he told NBC’s Harry Smith. “I’ll say it Hebrew: ‘Lo.’ Here, give me a piece of paper — I’ll sign it.”

Contributing: Fran Spielman, Lynn Sweet

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