Vice President Joe Biden and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas were in South Carolina Friday and spoke at two separate dinners, fueling suspicion about their intentions for the next presidential election in 2016.
Sen. Cruz was a guest at the South Carolina GOP's Silver Elephant Dinner, and Biden addressed the Democratic Party's annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Columbia.
Cruz and Biden criticized each other's party.
"So Vice President Joe Biden's in town," Cruz said to laughs. "You know the great thing is you don't even need a punch line? You just say that and people laugh," ABC News quoted him as saying.
"We should be defending the Fourth and Fifth Amendments against an administration that recognizes no limits on its powers," said Cruz, going through each of the constitutional rights he believes the Obama administration is threatening.
Cruz admitted the results of the 2012 election demoralized Republicans but said a change was expected in 2014. "Things can change quickly," he said. "I am convinced with your help we're going to take back the U.S. Senate in 2014."
Cruz also challenged Biden to a debate over the Second Amendment at the National Rifle Association in Houston, Texas, earlier in the day.
This year's GOP event – held in honor of former Sen. Jim DeMint, who resigned from his seat late last year to head the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington – was addressed, either in person or by video, also by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Gov. Nikki Haley.
Speaking minutes just before Cruz, Biden said one of the things that bothers him most about the "new Republican Party is how down on America they are, how down on our prospects they are, how they talk about how we're getting clobbered, how they talk about things that have no relationship to reality, all in the name of making sure that the very few at the top do very well."
The vice president said he knew his trip would create a buzz about 2016 but claimed he came only to celebrate Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) who was being honored at the evening's fundraiser.
"I love coming down here to South Carolina … As soon as I show up in South Carolina, the Washington press corps comes out saying, 'Is Biden getting ready?'" he said before saying he came at the request of Clyburn. "I've got to make clear – I would go anywhere Jim asked me to go."
At the GOP event, reporters asked DeMint if Cruz is a viable presidential candidate. DeMint said voters are clamoring for a leader like Cruz but said his speech had nothing to do with that.
"Give the guy a break, he's just coming to speak for us here," DeMint said. "Everybody comes to South Carolina you say they're running for president. I can assure you he's thinking about Senate business and that's about it right now."
DeMint added that Cruz is one of the strongest Republicans in the country now. "I've been in 25 cities in the past few months, all I have to do is mention Ted Cruz's name and people stand up and cheer," he said. "They're hungry for someone who's not afraid and willing to stand up, who's trying to change the status quo."
Candidates aspiring for a presidential run traditionally make stops in South Carolina, known for holding the first presidential primary in the South during election years.