- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 15, 2013

On a trip to another state crucial for 2016, Vice President Joseph R. Biden told Iowans on Sunday that a new generation of Republican leaders threatens to unravel the gains of the Obama administration.

He compared Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a rising star of the Republican Party, to the tail end of a dog.

“Unless we can begin to break down the majority in the House of Representatives, everything you have fought for for the last six years and beyond is in jeopardy,” Mr. Biden told a crowd of Democratic activists, elected officials and donors in Des Moines. “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.”

In an address that sounded much like a stump speech, Mr. Biden said the success of the Obama-Biden administration will be judged by the economic gains or losses on Main Street.

“The measure of our success will be whether or not the middle class is growing,” Mr. Biden said. “We have a clear vision for America. I’m more optimistic about America’s chances today than when I arrived as a 29-year-old” senator.

Mr. Biden hasn’t said whether he intends to run for president in 2016. His visit to the early caucus state officially was to pay tribute to Sen. Tom Harkin, the five-term liberal who is retiring, and to rally other Democrats for the Senate seat that will be open in 2014 for the first time in more than 40 years.

But Mr. Biden’s appearance at Mr. Harkin’s annual steak-fry fundraiser, a customary stop for presidential candidates, fueled more speculation that he still wants to attain the White House. He will visit South Carolina, another early 2016 primary state, this week.

Asked whether he was ready for 2016, Mr. Biden replied, “I’m ready to win some House and Senate seats — now.” C-SPAN broadcast the event live as part of its “Road to the White House 2016” series.

“It’s amazing when you come to speak at the steak fry, a whole lot of people seem to take notice,” Mr. Biden said.

Those close to Mr. Biden say he likely will run for the presidency if former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton decides against a bid.

But Mr. Biden would have other factors to overcome. On Inauguration Day in 2017, Mr. Biden will be 74. (Mrs. Clinton will be 69).

Iowa wasn’t friendly turf for Mr. Biden in 2008, when less than 1 percent of the Democratic caucus delegates supported him against Barack Obama and Mrs. Clinton. He soon dropped out of that race.

Mr. Harkin quipped that, along with the Secret Service’s precautions at the steak fry, “I heard that Donald Trump was outside checking birth certificates.”

He said Iowa over the summer “endured” visits by several prominent Republicans, including Mr. Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

“All I can say, folks, is the clown car’s filling up pretty rapidly,” Mr. Harkin said.

He praised Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden and Secretary of State John F. Kerry for the “courage and wisdom” to negotiate a tentative deal with Russia that would confiscate Syria’s chemical weapons, saying “we didn’t lose one American life. That’s leadership.”

Four protesters outside the event held signs critical of the Obama administration’s push for a military strike on Syria and the use of drones in anti-terrorism campaigns.

The Rev. Chet Guinn of Des Moines said he had worked on behalf of the Obama-Biden campaign but was angry and frustrated about its foreign policy stance.

“We can’t trust our government,” he said.

Asked by a reporter about Syria, Mr. Biden said simply, “I think we’re going to be OK.”

Mr. Biden said it’s critical for Democrats to keep Mr. Harkin’s seat to maintain control of the Senate, especially because of changes in the Republican Party.

“This is not your father’s Republican Party,” he said. “We’re dealing with a different breed of cat, as my uncle used to say. These guys aren’t bad. I’m not making moral judgments, but they have a fundamentally different view of America than we do.”

The lone Democrat to declare his candidacy for Mr. Harkin’s seat is Rep. Bruce L. Braley, a four-term congressman from Waterloo.

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