- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

WASHINGTON — Coming to Iowa, even for an official White House trip, Joe Biden will find no shortage of speculation about his political future.

It’s where presidential hopefuls congregate and court voters because it’s where the caucuses will kick off the 2016 nomination season.

But there are few signs the vice president is taking steps toward a third run for the White House. Hillary Rodham Clinton is amassing an elaborate campaign-in-waiting, and while a few other Democrats nibble around the edges, Biden’s name has faded from the mix of expected candidates.

Biden’s aides and political advisers say he isn’t organizing in early voting states such as New Hampshire and Iowa. He has not set up an exploratory committee.

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.

During his trip Thursday, Biden planned to speak at Drake University in Des Moines about the economy and administration’s policies. 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 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, but at least he’s here,” Hoefert said in a statement.

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.

Biden still says it’s possible he will run again and says there’s plenty of time to decide.

Biden has told associates that he feels little pressure or political necessity for a quick decision, according to Biden’s advisers, who spoke under condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss his deliberations publicly.

That’s in part because Clinton, who had been expected to announce her candidacy in the spring, now seems on track to delay until the summer. Biden plans to hold off for as long as possible, concerned about undermining the administration’s work by hastening Obama’s lame-duck status.

“He’s hamstrung. He’s limited in what he can do without hurting the president,” said Dick Harpootlian, a Biden supporter and former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party. “It’s a difficult balancing act.”

So far, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb is the only Democrat to have taken formal steps toward a run. Other likely candidates are quietly moving ahead.

Many of top strategists and major donors are being snapped up by Clinton’s future campaign, including lots of Obama loyalists.

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