Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden in Iowa today could be seen as a standard campaign stump, were the next presidential election not three years away.
Appearing at a pair of democratic fundraisers aimed at assisting the potential successor of outgoing democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, Biden called his political opposition “a different breed of cat,” and “not your father’s Republican party,” taking aim at one of its leading rising stars.
“Unless we can maintain this seat, unless we can begin to break down the majority in the House of Representatives, everything you have fought for the last six years and beyond is in jeopardy,” he told supporters at a reception at Principal Park, a minor league baseball stadium. “This is now a party where the tail is wagging the dog, where Ted Cruz is running the show, a freshman, in terms of the ideas of the party.
“I’m not making moral judgments, but they have a fundamentally different view of America than we do. A fundamentally different view,” he said.
Biden was in the heartland state to commemorate a retiring Harkin, who leaves the Senate after nearly three decades in office. The fundraisers themselves were to assist Democrats aiming to fill the position although only one, Rep. Bruce Braley, has thrown his hat in.
But the trip is also being viewed by some observers as yet another move by the vice president to position himself for 2016 ambitions, given the state’s influence over elections as an early primary state.
The theme continued at an annual steak fry hosted by Harkin, now in its 36th year. Aside from the beef cookout, the venue is a common stop for Democrats with Oval Office ambitions. In 2007, six presidential hopefuls appeared at the event: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, Barack Obama, and Biden himself.
“It’s amazing that when you come to speak at the steak fry a whole lot of people seem take notice,” Biden joked to the fairground crowd. “I don’t know why the hell that is. You’ve attracted the entire national press corps here and I’ve just never quite understood it, but I’m learning.”
The vice president thanked his host for his years on Capitol Hill, using a line from the Robert Bolt play, “A Man for All Seasons,” about how Sir Thomas More stood up to King Henry VIII, as a comparison for the lawmaker’s moral character.
“You have to stand some times, in spite of inordinate pressure,” Biden quoted from the work.
He also emphasized Harkin’s experience with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which he said “changed America’s soul” when it pertained to assistance for the disabled.
In a speech lasting roughly a half hour, Biden ran the gamut of perceived accomplishments of the Obama administration, from the recovery of the U.S. auto industry and repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, to a recent deal with Russia over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.
That last subject could have created friction with liberals in the crowd: While the White House clamored for a military strike against the Syrian government in the days before the agreement, Harkin was considered among the congressional Democrats not in favor of intervention.
Also appearing at the event were a pair of younger democrats quickly gaining prominence within their party: San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and his brother, Rep. Joaquim Castro. Mayor Castro, who followed in then-Sen. Barack Obama’s footsteps as a keynote speaker at the last Democratic National Convention, was called “the future of our party” by Harkin.
“What is the blueprint that America should follow to ensure prosperity in the years to come?” Castro asked in his own remarks. “Our friends across on the other side of the aisle say the blueprint is this: That if everybody just goes on their own we’ll all be fine. That if everybody will just do their own thing and government leaves everybody alone everything will be great. But I believe in a different blueprint.”
Castro said the party would follow in the footsteps of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s investment in the GI bill, President Lyndon Johnson shepherding Medicare through congress, and Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
This Iowa visit is only the latest in a string of recent stops for the vice president in important primary states, including New Hampshire and South Carolina. He has planned similar appearances for the next two years should he officially decide to run.
But his 2016 maneuvering has created an awkward dichotomy between Biden and the other Obama administration member in a strong position for the White House: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that aired today, President Obama stayed neutral on the question of the two facing each other.
“I just got reelected last year,” Obama said. “My focus is on the American people right now. I’ll let you guys worry about the politics.”