Hillary and Bill Clinton are headlining a major fundraiser in Iowa this fall, marking the potential presidential candidate’s first return to the early primary state in over five years, spokespeople for both confirmed.
The annual Steak Fry, hosted every September by long-term Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, who is retiring this year, is considered one of the most important events of the year in Democratic politics in the state. This will be its final year.
Clinton’s return will be widely read as the most clear indication yet that is she is planning to run for president in 2016.
Clinton has steered clear of the state since 2008, when it dealt the perceived front-runner a humiliating blow with a third place finish in the state’s caucus behind President Barack Obama and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards.
The then-senator’s campaign had struggled in a state that prizes grassroots organizing, but was severely damaged when an internal memo suggesting the campaign skip the state altogether was leaked to the press. In a state that prides itself on its first-in-the-nation status and values retail politicking, voters took even the idea of passing on Iowa as an insult.
In her new memoir, “Hard Choices,” Clinton called the loss “excruciating.” It precipitated a series of shakeups inside the campaign, which many analysts thought were long overdue.
If she runs again, Clinton will not be able to skip the state. Ready for Hillary, the pro-Clinton super PAC, has already been organizing on the ground for months in anticipation of a potential bid. “Ready for Hillary looks forward to playing a major role helping make the final Harkin Steak Fry one that honors Senator Harkin’s legacy,” said Tracy Sefl, a former Clinton aide who now works for the super PAC.
The appearance at the Steak Fry was widely expected within the Party, but kept under wraps until Monday. Some have worried about the timing of the Steak Fry, considering that Chelsea Clinton’s baby is thought to be due around the same time.
In a statement, Harkin hinted at the future for Clinton. “That’s why I couldn’t be happier than to share this special day with two such close friends. They have contributed so much good, inspiring leadership to this country for many years, and I am sure they will continue to do so in the years ahead,” the senator said.