In a sign of the hunger for Clinton, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi gushed over Clinton's experience during an event Thursday at the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, Ark., telling an audience, "I pray that Hillary Clinton decides to run for president."
Biden and Cruz were in the spotlight Friday evening — speaking at party events about two miles from each other.
"I'll bet they're talking about the middle class — ooph," Biden said mockingly of Cruz's Republican event.
Cruz told the GOP gathering that Biden was in Columbia. "You know, the great thing — you don't even need a punch line. You just say that and people laugh," he said.
The vice president headlined the state party's Jefferson-Jackson dinner and then dropped by an annual fish fry held by Clyburn. Biden, who twice unsuccessfully ran for president, hasn't ruled out running a third time in 2016. But Biden's decision about whether to run seems unavoidably overshadowed by Clinton, who many Democrats say would eclipse the vice president should she choose to run.
At the fish fry celebrating Clyburn's 20 years in Congress, it was Biden who worked a rope line five people deep, greeting supporters and working the room the way he did four years ago during his second presidential campaign, and then again later as Obama's running mate.
While careful not to upstage the president with flagrant displays of ambition, Biden has kept at least a toe planted firmly in the political world since the start of his and Obama's second term.
He schmoozed with prominent Democrats from Iowa and New Hampshire — the first two states to hold presidential primary contests last year — during the inaugural weekend. He's making calls for the House Democrats' campaign arm, working to recruit candidates to help his party win the House next year. And last month, he traveled to Michigan to give the keynote at a state party dinner.
Biden became the figurehead for Obama's push on gun control, appearing countless times with gun violence victims and advocates to urge his former colleagues in the Senate to act. It was unsuccessful. Yet, Biden says he's not giving up the fight; he met with law enforcement officials about the issue Thursday. The same day, while in Mexico, Obama announced that Biden would play an active role in a new partnership with Mexico to strengthen the two countries' economic ties.
Cruz, meanwhile, joined a chorus of people paying tribute to former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, who was an early supporter of the freshman senator.
The Texan is new to national politics, having been in Washington just a few months after becoming the lone tea party candidate to win a Senate seat last year.
In just a few weeks on the job, the insurgent Republican ran afoul of GOP mainstays, prompted Democrats to compare his style to McCarthyism and voted against nearly everything of significance that came before him. Through it all, he made clear he intends to be a conservative standard-bearer.
All that endeared him to a segment of the party and sparked talk of presidential ambitions.
On Wednesday amid presidential buzz, Cruz issued a statement on his Facebook page: "In my short tenure, my focus has been — and will remain — on two things: fighting for conservative principles in the Senate and working to help elect strong conservatives to win a majority in the Senate in 2014." He added: "It is a continued source of amazement that the simple fact that I am working hard with like-minded senators to keep my promise is seen as newsworthy and cause for wild speculation."
His appearance here was only fueling the talk, though he did not address the issue head-on. DeMint, a mentor who recently stepped down to become president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, tried to tamp down the speculation. "I can assure you he's thinking about Senate business and that's about it right now," DeMint said of Cruz.