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Off to the races: If you fry it, they will come

Joe Biden showed up for the Tom Harkin Steak Fry (although they don’t actually fry the steaks), stoking speculation about a 2016 bid. For his part, though, Biden played it coy. NBC’s Alex Moe reports from Indianola, Iowa: “It’s amazing, when you come to speak at the steak fry, a whole lot of people seem to take notice. I don't know why the hell that is. You’ve attracted the entire national press corps. I’ve never quite understood it, but I am learning.”

Des Moines Register: "Vice President Joe Biden called on Democrats to support Bruce Braley’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate on Sunday, warning of threats to the party’s achievements if Republicans gain control of the chamber....'This is not your father’s Republican Party,' he said. 'We’re dealing with a different breed of cat, as my uncle used to say. These guys aren’t bad. I’m not making moral judgments, but they have a fundamentally different view of America than we do — a fundamentally different view.'"

“Vice President Joe Biden, speaking to a decidedly anti-war audience in Iowa on Sunday, played down the Obama administration’s pledge to use military force to rid Syria of chemical weapons,” AP writes. “Biden, weighing a run for president in 2016, instead touted the U.S.-Russian diplomatic proposal for Syria to relinquish its chemical arsenal under international supervision.”

Said Biden: “We’re going to the United Nations with a resolution this week that will in fact call on the United Nations of the world to put pressure on Syria to have the confiscation and destruction of all those weapons.”

But Hillary Clinton remains the elephant in the room. A CNN/ORC poll finds her leading a hypothetical Democratic presidential field. She gets 65%, followed by Biden with just 10%. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren pulls in 7%, followed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at 6%, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley with just 2%.

Roll Call looks at some of the more interesting recruits of the 2014 cycle so far. “A beekeeper, a Gitmo commander and a Bosnian war refugee all want the same thing. It’s not a riddle; it’s the 2014 election cycle,” Emily Cahn writes.

KENTUCKY:The Louisville Courier-Journal: “As Congress faces a potential meltdown over the budget and spending, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is staring at tough political choices. Should the Kentucky Republican get involved in trying to cut another budget deal and open himself to charges from the right that he is giving in to President Barack Obama? Or should he let others negotiate and be subjected to criticism that he gets nothing done? With a series of battles looming over spending, budget cuts, health care and the debt ceiling — as well as the threat of a government shutdown Oct. 1 — McConnell will be ‘caught between a rock and a hard place,’ said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan spending watchdog group.”

MASSACHUSETTS: Martha Coakley’s back. The attorney general, who famously lost to Republican Scott Brown after Ted Kennedy’s death, is running for governor. “In a promotional video posted online Monday morning, Coakley tried to shake the perception from her devestating 2010 Senate loss that she is aloof. The footage shows her out and about with voters, shaking hands on street corners, and in MBTA stations and coffee shops,” the Boston Globe writes.

MICHIGAN: Washington Post: "Oakland County District Court Judge Kim Small (R) has decided not to run for Michigan's open Senate seat, according to two people with knowledge of her plans...Small's decision comes as a big break to former secretary of state Terri Lynn Land, who remains the GOP front-runner and is unopposed."

VIRGINIA: The Washington Post takes a fascinating look at how "High-powered Terry McAuliffe supporters made a furious attempt over the weekend to reverse a Washington area business group’s endorsement of Republican Ken Cuccinelli II for governor, with state legislators warning that 'doors will be closed' to the group if it sticks by its choice. The pressure exerted on the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s political arm, Tech PAC, by a U.S. senator, a Republican lieutenant governor at odds with Cuccinelli and several others suggests that McAuliffe’s campaign is worried that a Cuccinelli endorsement could undermine the central premise of the Democrat’s campaign — that he, an entrepreneur who started his first venture at 14, is the pro-business candidate and that Cuccinelli, a social conservative popular with the tea party, is too extreme for the state’s centrist business leaders....The reasoning behind the NVTC TechPAC’s nod — Cuccinelli had detailed responses to questions in candidate interviews, three board members said, while McAuliffe was uninformed and superficial — bolsters the view that the Democrat’s breezy style doesn’t sit well with some Virginians." Among the revelations -- those lobbying for McAuliffe to NVTC included Bill Bolling, "first public indication that Bolling, the Republican lieutenant governor who said he would not endorse Cuccinelli after being outmaneuvered by him in the primary fight, is actively pulling for McAuliffe."

National Journal headline: “Terrible Candidates, Awful Campaign Take Virginia From Bellwether to Sideshow.”

“Republicans can’t believe this is happening: Democrat Terry McAuliffe — whose controversial business dealings and past life as a party moneyman make him a walking negative ad — has taken command of the Virginia governor’s race,” Politico writes. “More than a dozen interviews last week with longtime Republican insiders around the Commonwealth yielded near-unanimous consensus that their candidate, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, lost significant ground over the summer and would lose if the election were held today.”

WEST VIRGINIA: Charleston Daily Mail: "Secretary of State Natalie Tennant is expected to announce her candidacy Tuesday for the Democratic nomination to become West Virginia's next U.S. senator. Long rumored to have interest in running, Tennant began calling Democrats across the state Friday to let them know her plans, said an unnamed Democrat."