Hillary Clinton to speak at Iowa steak fry. Time to talk 2016?

The presidential election is still more than two years away, but appearing at this political sizzler is a totally logical move for Hillary Clinton. Chalk it up as the latest sign of a likely White House run.

Steven Senne/AP
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton shakes hands with a customer at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, in Vineyard Haven, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, during a book signing event for her memoir 'Hard Choices.'

Stop the servers – Hillary Clinton will headline a major Iowa political event on Sept. 14! Wow, who could have predicted that?

Yes, the Harkin Steak Fry is an important fundraiser for the Hawkeye State Democratic Party. Yes, founder Sen. Tom Harkin (D) is retiring and therefore this year’s fry promises to be extra well-attended. Still, who would have thought that the former Secretary of State would interrupt her carefully planned schedule of book signings and media appearances to appear in the Midwest at a time it’s still likely to be hot?

Everybody, that’s who. Monday’s announcement by Steak Fry organizers that both Hillary and Bill will speak at the Indianola event is a news story easily foretold. With the midterm elections only a few months away it’s time Clinton stepped up her overtly party-oriented activity, if she wants to maintain good will with key Democratic state elites. The Steak Fry qualifies there – it helps Iowa candidates up and down the party ticket. And it’s always been a big deal for national politicos. Last year’s headline speaker was Vice President Joe Biden.

Need we add that Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses are a key event in the race for presidential nominations? The Steak Fry announcement will surely light an extra-special round of media speculation as to whether the speech will be the informal kickoff of a Hillary-for-President campaign. In our opinion she’s running already. Clinton has long been engaged in the pre-primary phase of a campaign, where prospective candidates compete for the support of party insiders and fund sources. Selling books is great, and speech making can be quite lucrative, but come on, do you really think she’d be touring this hard if politics weren’t involved?

She might decide to not run for some reason. But we’d claim the default position is all-in.

In that context Clinton’s relative position now vis-à-vis 2008 is interesting. Is she really a sure thing? After all, in November 2007 she looked like a solid nomination favorite. With actual voting only months away she was the presidential choice of 48 percent of Democrats, according to Gallup. Then-Sen. Barack Obama was second with 21 percent of the vote. Ex-Sen. John Edwards (remember him?) was third, with 12 percent.

Of course we’re now much earlier in the cycle. So there is still time for things to change. But Clinton’s crushing it, in terms of the Democratic nomination. In the RealClearPolitics rolling average she’s ahead of second place Joe Biden by a whopping 54 points.

Iowa shows her position. In 2008 she finished third in the Iowa caucuses, rocking her candidacy. Her polls in the state never broke out of the 30s. Now, she’s the choice of 70 percent of Iowa Democrats, according to a July NBC/Marist survey.

The general election could be another story. But at the moment it’s hard to see Clinton as anything other than a Democratic nomination shoo-in.

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