[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/25/art.petraeus.gi.jpg caption="Petraeus made clear he will never be a candidate for president."](CNN) - While news of Gen. David Petraeus' visit to New Hampshire Wednesday inevitably sparked speculation he might be open to a 2012 White house bid, the top U.S. general in Iraq made clear he will never be a candidate for president.
"I thought I'd said 'no' about as many ways as I could. I really do mean no," Petraeus told students and reporters during an appearance at New Hampshire's St. Anselm College Wednesday night, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Such an unequivocal statement is rare from high-profile national figures who often refuse to categorically rule out any possibility of a presidential run, no matter how small.
But Petraeus, whose name Republican activists and bloggers continue to float as an ideal candidate to take on President Obama in three years, was emphatically clear:
"I've tried quoting a country song 'What part of 'no' don't you understand?' but I really do mean that," he continued. "I feel very privileged to be able to serve our country in uniform. I'm honored to continue to do that as long as I can continue to contribute, but I will not ever run for political office, I can assure you."
Petraeus, who is a registered Republican in the state of New Hampshire, also said he has not voted since 2002.
Perhaps it's only fitting Petraeus' ardent refusal to run for president mirrors that of another famous American general more than 130 years ago.
Asked if he would consider a White House bid in 1884, the popular former Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman said in no uncertain terms: "I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected."