Hillary Clinton to return to Iowa next month

Hillary Clinton hugs Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, after being introduced at the Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, Iowa, on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007. AP Photo/Kevin Sanders

Making her first public appearance in the Hawkeye State since a stunning third-place finish in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton next month will headline the 37th annual Harkin Steak Fry - a move that will do nothing to curb the already rampant speculation that she's readying a reprise White House bid for 2016.

Hosted every year by retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the steak fry has been a longtime draw for the top names in Democratic politics. It's seen heavyweights from John Kerry to Al Gore, and is credited largely with boosting the political celebrity of then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2006.

"What started out nearly 40 years ago as a handful of interested Iowans sitting around on hay bales, discussing politics, has grown to be an iconic gathering," Harkin said in a statement to the Des Moines Register. "This year's Steak Fry just might be the best ever."

The former secretary of state has attended the steak fry once before; former President Bill Clinton - who will accompany her to the Sept. 14th event at the Indianola Balloon Field just south of Des Moines - has made three prior appearances.

"I couldn't be happier than to share this special day with two such close friends," Harkin said. "They have contributed so much good, inspiring leadership to this country, and I know they will continue to do so in the years ahead."

Tickets to the steak fry are $30 and include refreshments and a steak or chicken dinner.

Rocked by a debilitating 2008 upset by Mr. Obama and former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C. in the first-in-the-nation voting state, Clinton returns once again in the position of early presidential frontrunner. Though she's remained stubbornly cagey about her potential campaign plans, her network of supporters is stronger than ever.

House Majority PAC on Monday released a $25,000 web ad urging Virginians to "stand with Hillary" by voting down Republican congressional candidate Barbara Comstock.

Billing Comstock a "professional Clinton hater" for her work as a GOP investigator during the Clinton administration, the independent group warns potential 2016 Clinton supporters: "Almost unhinged in her passion to bring down the Clintons, now Comstock's itching to take on the Clintons again."

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    Lindsey Boerma is senior video producer for CBSNews.com.

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