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Biden puts key Iowa fundraiser on agenda

– Vice President Joe Biden will head to Iowa next month to headline Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin’s steak fry fundraiser, a key stop for aspiring presidential candidates.

The White House says Biden will speak at the Sept. 15 event. It’s the latest in a string of Biden appearances with ties to critical states for primary candidates. Iowa kicks off the 2016 primary season with its first-in-the-nation caucuses.

Biden is also planning to raise money for the governor of New Hampshire, which holds the first primary, and spoke earlier this year in South Carolina, another early state. During inaugural weekend this year, he mingled with Democrats from Iowa and New Hampshire.

Biden hasn’t closed the door to a third presidential campaign in 2016.

The New York Times first reported Biden’s Iowa trip.

Prospective Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum were in Iowa over the weekend.

Cruz, a tea-party favorite from Texas, drew a standing ovation at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames on Saturday with his denouncement of the health care initiative labeled “Obamacare” by its critics.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum, who sought the Republican nomination in 2012 and won that year’s Iowa caucuses, told the same group that the GOP must do a better job reaching out to working-class voters.

The daylong event was one of many cattle calls for potential candidates in the grueling run-up to the next presidential election.

Iowa Republican consultant Doug Gross said conservative Christian voters could play a big role in 2016.

“Historically the people that are there (at the Family Leader summit), represent about 40 percent of the caucus-goers. That’s not an insignificant portion,” Gross said. “It depends how many conservatives get in the race. It’s totally wide open.”

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