Even as he repeatedly denies any interest in running for president in 2020, US Representative Joe Kennedy III will head to New Hampshire, a state that kicks off the presidential primary season, to deliver a keynote speech at a major Democratic Party dinner this fall.
Kennedy, a Democrat from Newton, will be a featured speaker at the Grover Cleveland dinner this October, an event that raises money for the Carroll County Democrats. He will headline the event with onetime US Senate candidate Jason Kander of Missouri, who is making moves to run for president.
The dinner is traditionally considered a testing ground for those considering a run for president — a forum in which they can try out their message and meet key Democratic activists in the months ahead of the primary. Previous keynote speakers at the event have included those running for president, or thinking about it, like Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, and former Indiana senator Evan Bayh. When former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick gave the event’s keynote speech in 2014, it started major White House campaign buzz.
Running for president, at least in 2020, was “not something on my radar screen,” Kennedy told NBC Boston last month. “It’s an incredible honor that folks would think that that’s something I might want to think about at some point down the road.”
But despite repeated dodges, or outright denials, Kennedy’s national profile has been on the rise, particularly since he gave the nationally televised Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union speech this year.
That speech resonated so much with one of the Cleveland dinner’s organizers in New Hampshire that she doggedly worked to book up for the Oct. 18 dinner in North Conway more than six months before it is to take place.
“Once I heard his State of the Union rebuttal, I thought, this is our guy and we have to have him up here,” said Anita Burroughs, of the Carroll County Democrats, an organization that selects its own speakers. “When he stated, ‘build a wall and my generation will tear it down,’ that really got me.”
Kennedy isn’t the only Massachusetts Democrat to visit the state lately. US Representative Seth Moulton, of Salem, spoke to Nashua Democrats before they went door-to-door ahead of municipal elections last November.James Pindell can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@jamespindellor subscribe to his Ground Game newsletter on politics:http://pages.email.bostonglobe.com/GroundGameSignUp