Biden will make 2016 decision "by the end of the summer"

Vice President Joe Biden heads to Iowa on Thursday.

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN)Joe Biden was able to swing an official White House trip to the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa.

Was he testing the presidential waters?
"No," he told reporters traveling with him. "That is a family personal decision that I am going to make sometime in the end of the summer."
So this trip, he said, was just an official and social call, not the beginning of a campaign.
    When he ran for president eight years ago, Biden announced his campaign in January. But the Democratic field was crowded then. Today, Democrats are looking almost exclusively at Hillary Clinton, who could announce her campaign as soon as this spring.
    "I've been here a lot and have a lot of friends. I'm going to see some of my friends who are still in the legislature who are here today. But no I am not doing any organizing [while in Iowa]," Biden said.
    Speaking earlier in the day to almost 1,000 students at Drake University, the vice president urged Democrats to run on President Barack Obama's recent in 2016, the opposite of what the party did in 2014's midterms. The remarks were directed primarily at those Democrats thinking about running for president.
    "In my view, those seeking to lead the nation," Biden said, should "own what we have done. Stand for what we have done. Acknowledge what we have done. And be judged on what we have done."
    Biden continued: "Some say that would amount to the third term for the president. I call it sticking with what works."
    The comments come at a time when Democrats are recovering from a 2014 midterm election that saw the party sink deeper into the minority in the House and lose their majority in the Senate. With eyes on 2016, a handful of Democrats -- including the vice president - are considering a presidential run and some of them have taken to distancing themselves from Obama.

    "Sticking with what works"

    Biden said it would be a "terrible mistake" for a 2016 Democrat running away from Obama.
    Some political experts have suggested Hillary Clinton, Democrats' prohibitive 2016 frontrunner, would have to distance herself from Obama to win, while Republicans have attacked the former first lady as running for the president's third term.
    It appears that Clinton will likely follow Biden's advice; she has hired a number of the Democratic operatives that helped President Obama win the White House twice and has backed the administration on a number of issues.
    Biden stayed away from his own presidential aspirations at his first event in the Hawkeye State, but as is the case in Iowa a year before a presidential election, no visit is without a healthy helping of presidential speculation.
    Even Biden's closest friends and former advisers in the state said the vice president's visit is seen is seen as having more than one purpose.
    "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," said Sara Riley, a lawyer from Cedar Rapids who worked on Biden's 2008 campaign and remains loyal to him today.
    Best of Biden: Senate Swearing-In
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      Best of Biden: Senate Swearing-In


    Best of Biden: Senate Swearing-In 00:49

    Biden's childhood stutter surfaces

    After the university speech, Biden made the short trip to Smokey Row Coffeehouse where he shook hands with patrons and talked with assembled guests about education policy. Sipping on black coffee, Biden asked parents to share their stories with Head Start, a government program that provides early childhood education.
    Stephanie Peters of Des Moines told Biden about how Head Start helped her get her daughter into speech therapy classes.
    "Through Head Start she's been able to learn how to talk to us, how to communicate, how to be civil," Peters said.
    Biden then acknowledged the fact that the he used to have a stuttering problem. "I used to be a stutterer. I am vey involved with the National Stuttering Association and speech therapy," he said.
    During his speech as Drake, Biden introduced 94-year-old former Iowa Congressman Neal Smith as "an old buh buddy." The Vice President's office dismissed the moment as a stutter.
    Iowa, because of its first-in-the-nation caucus status, is critical to presidential hopefuls. The vice president last visited the Hawkeye State in October for an event with then-Iowa Senate candidate Bruce Braley. Biden also visited the state in September for an event in Des Moines with Nuns on the Bus, a group of liberal Catholic nuns who convey their message of social justice on road trips.
    Riley acknowledged the event was for official White House purposes, but said that because Biden is the vice president, he can come to Iowa for official reasons and "still be on all the covers of the papers."
    Biden will make two planned stops in the Des Moines. After visiting Drake, he is scheduled to participate in a roundtable discussion at Des Moines Area Community College's Ankeny Campus.
    The roundtable will "focus on the importance of helping more Americans go to college and the critical role that partnerships between community colleges and employers can play in helping Americans obtain the skills they need to succeed in the workforce."

    Former staffers notified of trip

    Before visiting Iowa, however, a small circle of Biden's former advisers and friends were notified of the trip, raising questions about whether one purpose of the visit was to remind supporters and voters that he was still considering a run a the presidency in 2016.
    "This is the season in Iowa, so everyone looks hard at visitors to the state," said Teri Goodman, a longtime Biden family friend and Iowa supporter. "Iowa Democrats are eager for this caucus season to begin. So his appearance is going to fuel that longing by the part of Iowa Democrats for the discussion to begin."
    Some Iowa Democrats have grown concerned with how frozen the field has become at the prospect that frontrunner Hillary Clinton will get in. In 2008, the last time there was a competitive Democratic primary, a number of candidates were already in, including Barack Obama and Clinton.
    The vice president's supporters are among those that wish there was more Democratic action in Iowa right now.
    "Many times, these campaigns are not just about who is going to be president but also the public discussion about issues of the day," said Goodman. "Iowans long for that discussion."
    Iowa Republican's also seized on the vice president's visit to attack Clinton. "Say what you will about Vice President Biden, but at least he's here," said state party co-chair Cody Hoefert.
    The national Republican National Committee also followed Biden's trip with a reminder that Clinton had not visited the state in 2015. "Hillary's Hiding From You," blared an RNC mobile billboard that circled Biden's first event at Drake. "She running for Obama's third term, but she's nowhere to be found."
    The billboard, however, is as much an attack on Biden as it is on Clinton: Even as the vice president visits the first-in-the-nation-caucus state, Clinton's status as the frontrunner is following him.
    Biden has said "there's a chance" he would challenge Clinton, who is all but certain to seek the Democratic nomination. And many in Iowa expect him to make his decision by late spring or early summer.
    Polls show Clinton as the local favorite. Some even have her up as many as 56 percentage points, with Biden in the low double-digits.
    But Biden's Iowa diehards dismiss most polling numbers as nothing more than name recognition and still give the vice president as strong change if he gets in.