Biden heads to Iowa, fueling 2016 speculation

Washington (CNN)Add Vice President Joe Biden to the list of potential 2016 candidates traveling to the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

Biden will travel on official White House business next week to Des Moines, Iowa where he will deliver a speech on the administration's economic policies, his office announced Friday. And one close supporter told CNN that some in his loyal circle of friends and advisers in Iowa got the heads up about Biden's visit before the Des Moines Register broke the news Friday.
Iowa is a crucial test for presidential candidates and Biden's travel to the state will only fuel more speculation that he is planning a presidential run. Biden last visited Iowa in October.
Biden will speak at Drake University and join a "roundtable discussion" at a local community college, his office said.
    The discussion will focus on the need to make a college education more accessible and the "critical role" of partnerships between community colleges and businesses. The trip comes just weeks after President Barack Obama proposed a new program that would make the first two years of community college free.
    Biden said two weeks ago on ABC's "Good Morning America" that he hasn't made up his mind about a presidential campaign, but conceded that "there's a chance" he would challenge former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is all but certain to seek the Democratic nomination.
    "We've got plenty of time," Biden said, adding that he didn't feel the need to make a decision until the summer.
    But two longtime Biden backers said it's unlikely Biden will meet with his circle of Iowa supporters.
    "The minute you do that it becomes a shadow campaign," said Sara Riley, a lawyer from Cedar Rapids who worked on Biden's 2008 campaign and remains loyal to him today.
    But she acknowledged that coming to Iowa was not a coincidence.
    "I don't think it is a coincidence that he is coming to Iowa as opposed to, say, Arizona, where I assume they also have community colleges," she added.
    Longtime Biden friend and Iowa supporter Terri Goodman said Biden's small but loyal circle of Iowa backers got advance notice that Biden was coming to Iowa.
    But Goodman said she is not aware of any plans for Biden to meet with his circle of supporters, emphasizing that the focus of Biden's trip will be to hammer in the administration's State of the Union message on issues like college access.
    "The President and Vice President have been traveling around the country pushing their agenda," she said. "I think that is the primary purpose of the trip."
    But she added that Biden "enjoys Iowa."
    "He is a man of surprises, so you never know," Goodman said.