Vice President Joe Biden’s scheduled appearance at Senator Tom Harkin’s “Steak Fry” this weekend (Sunday) is spurring talk about Biden’s 2016 intentions. Biden’s maintained a core group of supporters in the state for decades. He came to Iowa in 1987 to run for president, then again in 2007. Over the years he’s kept in touch with a broad network of Iowa contacts. Connie Gronstal of Council Bluffs — the wife of Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal — says Biden reached out to the Gronstal’s daughter when Kate Gronstal’s 33-year-old husband died unexpectedly in 2012.
“He called her like the next day and said he was so sorry that her husband died and that he had gone through that and that he would really like to have a private conversation with her, face-to-face, and see what he could do to help her because someone did that for him when his wife died,” Connie Gronstal says, “and he felt he should help other people that have that same situation.”
Connie Gronstal uses the word “genuine” to describe Biden. “You know I’ve been around a lot of politicians,” the wife of the state’s most powerful Democratic legislator says, laughing, “and people are supportive and nice and remember names and details, but they aren’t quite as caring about you as he is.” If Hillary Clinton runs in 2016, some party activists believe others — including Biden — would not, but Representative Jim Lykam of Davenport, who was the first legislator to endorse Biden in 2007, says Biden’s appearance at Sunday’s Steak Fry will “fuel the fire” of speculation.
The Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola has become something of a rite of passage for Democrats contemplating a run for the White House. Barack Obama was the event’s keynote speaker in 2006. Then-Vice President Al Gore was the event’s main draw in 1995 and again in 1999. Biden will be making his first solo appearance at the 2013 Harkin Steak Fry. Biden spoke, along with five other presidential candidates, at the 2007 event which attracted a crowd of 15-thousand. At the 2003 Harkin Steak Fry, about 12-thousand people turned out to see former President Bill Clinton speak after the field of 2004 presidential candidates addressed the crowd.