Joe Biden and filling the Hillary vacuum

Talk of Hillary Clinton running for president is everywhere. The actual Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is much harder to find. That gap between chatter about a Clinton presidential candidacy and action toward such a candidacy creates a bit of a vacuum. And everyone knows politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

Vice President Joe Biden

Enter Joe Biden. The vice president will be making a trip to Iowa next month to headline Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry, a see-and-be-seen event that has been attended by virtually every Democrat considering a presidential bid over the last three decades.

Biden's office, seeking to downplay the trip, said only that the vice president was making good on a "long-standing commitment" to attend Harkin's event. But, Biden, his office and the rest of the political world understand the signal that is sent when someone mentioned as a possible presidential candidate decides to step foot into the Hawkeye State. That signal? Yeah, I'm thinking about doing this.

Hillary Clinton won't -- and can't -- send that sort of signal. There is no hinting when it comes to whether she will run for a second time in 2016. She won't make a trip to Iowa or New Hampshire -- the two states likely to, once again, kick off the voting in three years' time, and offer up a coy statement about how her political future remains wide open and no decisions have been made. She will announce one day that she is either in or she is out. That's it.

That day, of course, won't come for some time, which means that while Clinton is off giving speeches a long way from Iowa -- like the one she will deliver at the American Bar Association on Monday in San Francisco -- there is space that must be filled in those early voting states where the presidential race never, really, stops.

Biden has been quite clear about the fact that he is interested in running for the top job in 2016, a bid that would mark the third time -- after 1988 and 2008 -- that he has sought the presidency.

His willingness to talk openly about the prospect of a bid is designed to do the exact same thing that this trip to Iowa will do -- send a message to activists, donors and, perhaps most importantly, every other possible candidate not named Hillary Clinton that he is in the race if she isn't.

Biden is holding his place at the front of the line in the event Hillary says no. He is going places that she simply can't. He is filling the vacuum that her unique position in the race -- a front-runner unable to hint at her political future -- has created.

Fixbits: 

Edward Snowden's father will soon go to Russia to discuss his son's possible return to the United States, his attorney says.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) didn't like the way President Obama presented Russian President Vladimir Putin's intentions.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said the mainstream media are "in love" with Clinton.

Rick Santorum blew a kiss to Iowa and delivered a campaign-style speech at a Christian conservative summit there Saturday

Reporters got a rare glimpse of Obama's golf game Sunday. The first hole was a three-put hole for the president.

Sarah Palin sided with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in his feud with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).

Politics and Pints is tonight!

Must-reads:

"Hillary Clinton’s theme, pre-2016: Women who break barriers" -- Philip Rucker, Washington Post

"The Fed, Lawrence Summers, and Money" -- Louise Story and Annie Lowrey, New York Times

"McAuliffe’s GreenTech car company launched with high hopes, but reality dogs campaign" -- Fredrick Kunkle, Washington Post

"Idaho ground zero for GOP proxy fight" -- Alex Isenstadt, Politico

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Sean Sullivan · August 11, 2013