For one night, a two-mile stretch in Columbia, S.C., will turn into a 2016 speculation zone when two potential presidential contenders – Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas – take the stage at major gatherings for each of their state parties Friday evening.
Biden is set to speak at the South Carolina Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner and will attend Rep. Jim Clyburn’s “World Famous Fish Fry,” an event that could easily provide material for the vice president’s “Being Biden” audio series.
Just two miles down the road from the Democratic fundraiser, Cruz will address the South Carolina GOP’s Silver Elephant Dinner, an annual Republican gathering that just last year was headlined by another possible 2016-er – Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Biden and Cruz’s face time with “First in the South” primary voters this weekend could serve as a chance for them to test the waters for a 2016 bid – whether they’ll admit it or not.
For the most part, Biden has kept quiet about his 2016 intentions. But his son, Beau Biden, attorney general of Delaware, said in a New York Times interview last month that, “It’s no secret that he’s thinking about this,” adding, “He hasn’t made up his mind.”
Cruz also isn’t revealing much about his plans down the line, but his first few wave-making months in the Senate have generated rumblings about his ambitions for a higher post. The National Review reported this week that friends of Cruz say he’s seriously weighing a presidential bid.
Cruz, serving his first year in the U.S. Senate, tried to tamp down the speculation ahead of his visit with a post on his Facebook page saying that any inferences about his political intentions are “wild speculation,” and a spokesperson for Cruz said he is attending the major GOP dinner solely to pay tribute to former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, who is now head of the Heritage Foundation and is being honored at Friday night’s Republican fete.
“The dinner is a tribute to Sen. DeMint, the senator was honored to be invited to speak, and given Sen. DeMint’s support and mentorship throughout his campaign, Sen. Cruz wouldn’t miss it,” said Catherine Frazier, press secretary for Cruz.
Some South Carolina Republican donors will get some extra time with the Texas senator prior to Friday’s gathering. Donors paying $250 will be admitted to a pre-reception with Cruz, and those paying $1,000 will have the opportunity to have a picture taken with the senator from Texas.
Along with Cruz and DeMint, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott will also speak at the Republican event.