By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: Vice President Biden has delivered scores of speeches over the years in Iowa, but his appearance next month at the Harkin Steak Fry will be one worth watching closely. Democrats love Joe Biden. That was clear even back during his own short-lived presidential race in 2008. While Hillary Clinton and her ambitions are dominating the early chapters of conversation about the 2016 presidential contest, Biden will have no trouble staying in the conversation. Whenever Air Force Two arrives anywhere for the next three years, Democrats will be watching and wondering: Will he really do it?
ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is the subject of endless 2016 presidential speculation, and if he does decide to run, he's already learned one important lesson: "Never, ever, ever follow my father at the podium." Cruz and his 74-year-old father, Rafael, a Texas pastor, both addressed a gathering of Christian conservatives in Ames, Iowa over the weekend, and the elder Cruz - speaking without notes - recounted his imprisonment and torture in Cuba during the 1950's and subsequent immigration to the United States. For nearly 20 minutes, the pastor regaled the audience with a scorching anti-Obama, pro-Christian speech that drew a boisterous standing ovation from the crowd at an annual summit organized by the Family Leader, an Iowa-based conservative group. "This administration has both their hands in your pocket," Cruz said. "They're going to take everything you have." Near the end of his speech, he declared: "Obamacare is going to destroy the elderly by denying care, by even perhaps denying treatment to people who are in catastrophic circumstances." It's clear that Cruz, a passionate and fiery orator, would be an impressive surrogate for his son on the campaign trail (hypothetically speaking, of course). http://abcn.ws/17GpC5K
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
FROM WRITING BILLS TO THRILLER NOVELS: SEN. BYRON DORGAN'S UNLIKELY CAREER CHANGE. After 19 years in the Senate, Byron Dorgan was ready for a change. The North Dakota Democrat stopped writing legislation when he left Congress and took up writing books instead. Now out with his fourth book-a thriller novel-Dorgan jokes that there isn't much of a difference between writing bills and novels, telling "Politics Confidential's" JONATHAN KARL. "People say …'Okay, well, you were in politics. Now you write fiction-same thing.'" From the title of Dorgan's new book, Gridlock, you might guess that it's about Congress. But this is a different sort of gridlock. "The word 'gridlock' certainly defines Capitol Hill at the moment, but this gridlock is about the American electric power grid system," Dorgan says of the book. "In this case, Iran and Venezuela introducing a virus into our electric grid system to try to shut down the electric power in this country, which would be a pretty significant problem as you might imagine." Dorgan characterizes his fictional novel as a "beach read," but he says it also carries a message about the real modern-day threat posed to cybersecurity. http://yhoo.it/13SkVIm
SNOWDEN'S FATHER REJECTS IDEA OF PLEA DEAL FOR SON. In an exclusive interview on ABC's "This Week," Lon Snowden - father of NSA leaker Edward Snowden - said he has received a visa to travel to Russia to visit his son, while rejecting the notion of a plea deal for his son to return to the United States, notes ABC's IMTIYAZ DELAWALA. Lon Snowden and his lawyer, Bruce Fein, said they plan to make the trip to visit Snowden in Russia "very soon." "We have visas, we have a date, which we won't disclose right now because of the frenzy," Fein said on "This Week." "We intend to visit with Edward and suggest criminal defense attorneys who have experience in criminal espionage act prosecutions." Fein added that Edward Snowden's Russian attorney said "he's safe" and "obviously is exhausted. But he's now needing a period of time where he can recoup his energy level and reflect on what he wishes to do going forward." http://abcn.ws/1cqtoYV
-LET'S NOT MAKE A DEAL: On "This Week" Sunday, Lon Snowden told ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS that he would not be open to a plea deal with U.S. authorities for his son to return to the U.S., saying Edward Snowden should instead fight espionage charges in court. "I can tell you that I'm not open to it and that's what I'll share with my son in terms of a plea deal," Lon Snowden said. "At this point, what I would like is for this to be vetted in open court for the American people to have all the facts. What I have seen is much political theater." "Where my son chooses to live the rest of his life is going to be his decision," Snowden added, "but I would like, at some point in time, for him to be able to come back to the U.S." http://abcn.ws/1cqtoYV
JOE BIDEN'S GOING TO IOWA, TOO. With all the talk of Hillary Clinton's political ambitions in the air, Vice President Joe Biden isn't being outdone: He's now speaking at Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry in Iowa next month, ABC's JEFF ZELENY reports. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is already the marquee speaker for the Sept. 15 event, but Biden will deliver a speech after Castro. It was Biden's idea to attend, people with knowledge of the event said, and he raised it with Harkin. An aide to Biden told ABC News Sunday night that the invitation was "a long-standing commitment," after Biden was invited, but unable to attend last year. The appearance by Biden raises the intrigue surrounding his political future. He has not ruled out making his own run for the White House in 2016 and plans to spend the next two years delivering highly visible political speeches to help lay the groundwork if he decides to run. "He loves this," a longtime Biden associate said. The Harkin Steak Fry is a political tradition, where a young Sen. Barack Obama made his Iowa debut in 2006. Castro is still delivering the keynote speech next month, but Biden's appearance will draw even more attention. http://abcn.ws/1crsaN7
DONALD TRUMP SAYS IMMIGRATION BILL MAY BE 'DEATH WISH' FOR GOP. Real estate and reality television mogul Donald Trump descended on Iowa Saturday with a series of stern warnings for his party on immigration reform and the 2016 presidential election, ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE reports. The immigration reform bill that passed the Senate and is now facing an uncertain fate in the House of Representatives "could be a death wish for the Republican Party," Trump said, alluding to the millions of undocumented immigrants who could eventually get the right to vote. "Every one of those people - virtually - will be voting Democratic," he said. "They're not voting Republican." Trump spoke at a forum organized by the Iowa-based conservative group, the Family Leader, on the campus of Iowa State University - the site of the quadrennial Ames Straw Poll, which was held two years ago this week. Looking ahead to the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump predicted that "Hillary is going to be tougher to beat" than President Obama was last year. He urged Republicans to pick "the right person, the perfect person" to be the party's nominee. If the party fails to do so, he said, "Republicans are going to get drubbed in the 2016 election - and that's not going to be a good thing." http://abcn.ws/162TI7O
TRUMP: SEN. TED CRUZ 'PERHAPS NOT' ELIGIBLE FOR WHITE HOUSE. During an interview for "This Week," real estate mogul Donald Trump questioned whether Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would be eligible for the White House given his Canadian birth. "If he was born in Canada, perhaps not." Trump told ABC's JONATHAN KARL. "I don't know the circumstances. I heard somebody told me he was born in Canada. That's really his thing," he said. Trump also defended his previous accusation that President Obama may not actually have been born in the United States - a conspiracy theory that has been proven false - when asked about the issue by Karl. "Well, I don't know, was there a birth certificate? You tell me. You know some people say that was not his birth certificate. So maybe it was; maybe it wasn't," Trump said.
-HEY, BIG SPENDER: When asked about his net worth, a subject of consistent speculation, Trump said he is probably worth over ten billion dollars (Forbes pegged it recently at 3.2 billion), ABC's BEN BELL report. "I'd be willing to spend that kind of money. I'd spend whatever it took," he said, after Karl offered that modern presidential campaigns can cost 500 million dollars. http://abcn.ws/162TI7O
FIVE WAYS TO GET A TEA PARTY CHALLENGE IN 2014. These days, it seems like everyone's getting a tea party challenger, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP notes. Like in 2010, when insurgent tea party candidates struck fear into the hearts of Democrats and Republicans alike, 2014 is shaping up to be another marquee year. Still, incumbents have one advantage in 2014: advance notice. Tea party groups have publicized their desire to find primary challengers for Republicans they don't like as well as vulnerable Democrats who are already in office. Here are a few tell-tale signs that a tea party challenger might jump into a race near you: http://abcn.ws/19kK0jH
IN IOWA, RICK SANTORUM RAILS AGAINST HOLLYWOOD. Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum spoke in Iowa over the weekend to tell voters here why he believes conservatives are "losing" the culture wars to liberals in America, ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE reports. "We're losing this debate not because of politics," Santorum explained. "Politicians didn't change the culture - the popular culture changed America." On the final day of a three-day trip to the state that gave him a belated victory in the presidential caucuses in 2012, Santorum said that the future of the Republican Party depends, in part, on whether conservatives choose to support the creation of content - on television, in movies and on smart phones - that reflect wholesome, family-focused messages. "Who's raising your children?" Santorum asked the audience at a gathering of conservatives on Saturday. "Who's creating the moral imagination for the future of our country?" The former Pennsylvania senator has been warning Iowans this week that the "culture shapers" in Hollywood are "out there telling lies." And he asserted that younger Americans were increasingly spending more time on their smart phones than going to church or with family. "It's no wonder young people overwhelmingly are supporting the other side," he said, "because they don't know the truth." Santorum's message at a day-long event organized by the Family Leader, a Christian conservative group, dovetails with his business interests. In June he announced a new position as CEO of EchoLight Studios, a faith-based movie studio based in Texas. http://abcn.ws/17FdkdK
WHAT WE'RE READING
"HILLARY CLINTON'S THEME, PRE-2016: WOMEN WHO BREAK BARRIERS," by the Washington Post's Philip Rucker. Hillary Rodham Clinton took to a Toronto stage in June before about 5,000 supporters, many of them women and many looking for a hint that she might run for president in 2016 - and she gave them one. "Hypothetically speaking, I really do hope that we have a woman president in my lifetime," Clinton said coyly, making an implicit nod to the history she might make herself. "Our country," she added, "has to take that leap of faith." Unlike during her 2008 presidential campaign, when she waited until her concession speech to fully embrace the historic nature of her candidacy, Clinton these days talks freely about women breaking barriers. She has woven a theme of women's empowerment throughout almost all of her public remarks in the seven months since she stepped down as secretary of state. Clinton's advisers said that there is no political agenda behind her recent remarks and that she has made no decision to launch a campaign. They said the comments are simply a natural continuation of her lifelong focus on advocating for women. … Now, coming off her four-year tour as the nation's top diplomat and free as a private citizen to pursue her own agenda, she is championing women - making speeches about the unfinished business of the women's movement and starting an international project focused on women and girls through the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation." http://wapo.st/1cFdbyk
@RosieGray: GOP Strains To Win Back Senate While Keeping Conservative Activists Happy http://www.buzzfeed.com/katenocera/gop-strains-to-win-back-senate-while-keeping-conservative … by @katenocera
@jesseclee44: AP: "Many tenured Republicans, particularly members of the House Approps Committee have viewed Ryan's sweeping cuts as unworkable all along"
@matthewjdowd: Marvelous Monday! i hope we each can forget about being "normal" and fitting in. the only normal people in the world are folks we don't know