The 53-year-old Emanuel, who is busy raising money for his 2015 reelection campaign in the Windy City, has had discussions both over the phone and face to face in the past month with Democratic Party donors and fundraisers about a possible White House run, according to sources. …

Clinton loyalist James Carville, another friend of the mayor’s, echoed Begala’s dubious assessment: “I never have heard something like that, and it’s not like I don’t talk to Rahm all the time. And it’s not like people close to him ever brought it up.”

Yet rumors of Emanuel’s higher ambitions persist. “I heard there were some conversations with donors especially during the inauguration,” a well-known Democratic politico told The Daily Beast, referring to the January 20-21 celebrations in Washington marking the launch of President Obama’s second term. A second highly placed Democrat echoed that account. …

“If Hillary doesn’t run, the lineup isn’t exactly impressive,” said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. “Who do the Democrats have? Cuomo, and a vice president who’s going to be 74 by Inauguration Day. Then there’s Martin O’Malley, the governor of Maryland? Brian Schweitzer, the former governor of Montana? Kirsten Gillibrand? These are not giants in a forest of redwoods.”