Vice President Biden is visiting Iowa next week — and stoking speculation about a potential presidential bid in 2016.
Biden will speak in Des Moines at a kick-off event for the Nuns on the Bus, in which progressive Catholic nuns tour the country promoting social justice, according to The Des Moines Register.
His visit Wednesday is part of an official White House event and will come just days after Hillary Clinton makes her much-anticipated return to the Iowa at Sen. Tom Harkin’s 37th and final Steak Fry, a popular annual Democratic event in the state. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, another potential Democratic presidential candidate, will also be in Iowa this weekend to hold town hall meetings. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is seriously eyeing a bid, was in the state last weekend.
The Nuns on the Bus, a project of the liberal groups Faith in Public Life and NETWORK, tours the country promoting the progressive, social justice-focused teachings of Catholicism. Last year, the nuns targeted Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal. For this year’s tour, they’ll “counter the influence of moneyed special interests that are drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans." Organizers point to the Koch brothers as an example of those with undue influence.
Biden, who is Catholic, has flirted with a presidential bid even though much of the Democratic establishment has so far lined up behind Clinton. The vice president was the star of Harkin's Steak Fry last year and has kept the flame alive in South Carolina, another early primary state where he vacations.
Given Iowa's primacy in the nominating contest, some of the state's voters chafe at the idea of Clinton steamrolling through the state and want to have more choices.
Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK and one of the nuns on the bus, waved off any potential 2016 implications, saying Biden was motivated by his faith and political beliefs. “He’s told me he loves the bus. And as Catholic, his faith really matters to him,” she said.
Biden is also attracted to the issues the sisters are supporting, like registering people to vote and fighting big money in politics. “So I think it’s a combination of an opportunity to be supportive of Catholic Sisters, but also our democracy,” she said.