State Dem, GOP events highlight jockeying ahead of 2016 SC prima - - Columbia, South Carolina

Vice President, GOP leaders attend separate party events

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at SCDP event Vice President Joe Biden speaks at SCDP event

Just for a weekend, the state of South Carolina is the center of the political universe as heavyweights from the Democratic and Republican parties both hosted events in Columbia.

Friday night, Democrats from around the state gathered at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center for the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.

Vice President Joe Biden was the keynote speaker at the event. Biden is believed to be one of several contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination three years from now.

Biden scolded Republicans in Congress, saying that the new Republican Party is down on America.

"One of the things that bothers me most about new Republican Party is how down on America they are," said Biden.

Biden questioned what Republicans don't understand about the U.S. and the people who built the country and fought to defend it.

He told his fellow party members the one thing all Democrats have in common is an absolute commitment to the middle class.

He said he knows his appearance will generate buzz about whether he's getting ready for a presidential run. South Carolina usually holds one of the first primary contests and is a frequent stop for potential candidates.

But Biden said he came to South Carolina to support Democratic congressman James Clyburn.

Also attending was Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro, whose brother gave the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

State Republicans also made headlines this weekend at the annual Silver Elephant Dinner with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as the guest speaker.

Although he is a freshman senator, analysts speculate he has larger, more national political ambitions.

Cruz urged Republicans to work together to help the party take back the Senate next year, telling South Carolina Republicans that, in his words, "change can come quickly."

Cruz said the GOP fell on hard times during the second term of President George W. Bush and then during the Obama administration.

Cruz said conservatives helped defeat gun legislation in the Senate and that Obama's health care reform is becoming more unpopular because "more and more people are realizing it simply isn't working."

Cruz was first elected last year but is already generating 2016 presidential buzz.

The Texas senator paid tribute to former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, calling him a "voice in the wilderness."

Last year's dinner was keynoted by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the party's leading voice on immigration and yet another potential 2016 contender.

According to political observers, the events of this weekend are all about networking and laying the groundwork for potential national campaigns ahead of the 2016 First in the South presidential primaries.

Yes, 2016. And we just finished up the 2012 campaign.

"Even though Election Day 2016 is more than three years away, both dinners promise to draw the national political press (including this reporter) to South Carolina, because any speech Biden and Cruz (and several other potential candidates) give in an early primary state is worth watching unless, or until, they rule out running for president," said The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe in a recent article.

Both parties held their conventions on Saturday.

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