DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that Democrats running for president in 2016 should embrace the record that he and President Barack Obama have built.
"Run — yes, run — on what we have done," Biden told a crowd at Drake University in Iowa.
Will he be among the candidates?
"That's a family, personal decision," he said, "that I'm going to make sometime at the end of the summer."
He said that Democrats, not too long ago, were distancing themselves from the Obama administration and its economic policies. Biden said continuing that would be a "terrible mistake" and he predicted a further economic resurgence if the country follows policies that have proved successful.
"Some say it would amount to a third term for the president," Biden said. "I call it sticking with what works."
While in Iowa, where the caucuses will kick off the election calendar in early 2016, Biden said the next election will come down to a choice between continuing Obama's policies or going with a Republican approach focused on tax cuts and deregulation.
"Are we going to continue this resurgence, focus on growing the middle class, or are we going to return to the policies that have failed the middle class," Biden said.
During the speech to more than 800 people in the auditorium and an overflow space, Biden called out to prominent figures in the crowd, including Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, a Democrat and former Democratic Gov. Chet Culver.
He also praised former Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, and expressed appreciation to Republican Gov. Terry Branstad for meeting him at the airport.
By this time in 2007, Sen. Biden had declared his candidacy, started a website, committed his first campaign gaffe — comments about then-Sen. Barack Obama that rubbed some the wrong way — and cleaned up after the stumble.
While his visit fueled speculation about Biden's future, there are few signs that he was taking steps toward a third run for the presidency.
"I've been here a lot, I have a lot of friends, I'm going to see some of my friends (in the Legislature)," Biden said. "I'm not doing any organization, if that's what you mean."
Hillary Rodham Clinton has built an elaborate campaign-in-waiting, and a few other Democrats are nibbling around the edges of the campaign. By contrast, Biden's name has faded from the mix of expected candidates and he has not set up an exploratory committee for a 2016 race.
No staff has been lined up to take on important roles in a potential bid. No Democrats in the early voting states are organizing a "Draft Joe" movement.
Biden dropped by Smokey Row Coffee in Des Moines and spoke with parents and educators about the value of early childhood education. Later, he was scheduled to participate in a discussion at Des Moines Area Community College about expanding access to higher education.
It's the kind of visit that might normally indicate a potential candidate is preparing to get in the race. But a former Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman, Sue Dvorsky, said the only signs of Democrats organizing in Iowa have come from former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
"Not a whisper from Veep," she said in an email.
Republicans were more interested in what Biden's visit might say about Clinton.
Cody Hoefert, co-chairman of the state GOP, said Biden's presence only highlighted how long it's been since Clinton has spent time in the state.
"Say what you will about Vice President Biden," Hoefert said in a statement, "but at least he's here."
Lederman reported from Washington.