Scranton to Biden: I love you Joe. But running in 2024?

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Scranton to Biden: I love you Joe. But running in 2024?

SCRANTON, Pa., March 22 (Reuters) – In Joe Biden’s hometown of Scranton, signs of affection for the U.S. president are hard to miss.

Two streets and an expressway in the city are named after him, and personal letters from Biden referencing the “Scranton values” of hard work and common decency he often extolled are proudly displayed in the living rooms and offices of some supporters.

Two residents told stories of how Biden made surprise calls to their mothers during one of his visits. Business owners credit Biden’s programs for their financial survival during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite those strong ties, interviews with about two dozen Scranton voters show many have deep concerns about Biden running again. Biden, 80, is already the oldest sitting US president and will be 86 at the end of his second term if re-elected.

“I’m worried about his age and his health,” said Jen Saunders, 57, who owns a coffee shop downtown and is voting for Biden in 2020.

The interviews provide a window into voter attitudes toward Biden’s re-election bid, which will be formally announced in the coming weeks. National polls show Democrats want a younger candidate, and the lack of fervor in Scranton may be an early warning sign for the party. Biden’s approval rating remains fairly low, but reached 42% in a Reuters/Ipsos poll this month.

Many Scranton residents say they may back Biden again in 2024, though without much enthusiasm. They expressed frustration with the Rust Belt city’s long economic decline and apparent lack of opportunity in 2024.

“I think that’s something he has to do, run away again, right? This really should do. Is there a president who has never run for office? But who else is there?” Kimberly Smith, 45, manager of the city’s Glider Diner, said. “We just need someone fresh.”

With a lower turnout rate than many other democracies, enthusiasm plays an important role in deciding US elections. An average of 57% of eligible voters have voted in the last four presidential elections.

Biden aides say they welcome a possible rematch against Donald Trump, arguing it would help energize a base angered by the former president. However, polls show that the American public does not feel the same way.

“The idea of ​​a Biden-Trump rematch gives me goosebumps,” said Donald Banks, 83, a retired teacher and Scranton native. Saunders said picking Biden over Trump could be “again the lesser of two evils.”


Scranton, where European immigrants once flocked to the local coal mines, has long been at the heart of Biden’s origin story, even though he left around age 10. The region has been dominated by Democrats for years, but Trump has reversed that dynamic with his support among white, working-class voters.

Biden won the Democratic stronghold of Lackawanna County, largely due to Scranton, by nine points in 2020, surpassing Hillary Clinton in 2016, who won the county by less than four points.

Biden often peppered his speeches with references to lessons learned in his northeastern Pennsylvania town, now a swing state during the presidential election. Biden has visited Scranton twice as president and several times on the campaign trail.

“I am proud to fight for the Scranton values ​​we grew up on,” Biden wrote in a 2021 letter to former Mayor Jim Connors. The letter hangs in the Connors’ living room, along with other photos of Biden and a newspaper clipping showing a 13-year-old Biden at a parade in Scranton for former President Harry Truman.

Connors, 76, says the president embodies the underdog mentality adopted by working-class towns like Scranton. He says he’s proud of Biden for leading the global fight against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which he visited recently.

“He went there to help. He is from Scranton. This is what we do. They call this place the friendly city. This is not just advertising,” Connors said. “That’s how Joe was brought up.”

He added: if Biden wants to run again, “someone should step in and beat him.”

Few residents, however, said life has improved under Biden.

Glyn Johns, 29, is a local black activist who hoped the Scranton native in the White House would shine a light on the issues facing Rust Belt cities. About one in five people in Scranton is in poverty, twice the national rate, and the school district ranks near the bottom of national and state rankings.

John says she is disappointed so far.

“I still think there should be more than street names that change and highways that get renamed for you. Because these highways still have potholes. People who are on Biden Street are still struggling with their businesses,” Johns said.

Black voters have been credited with helping give Biden the White House, but Democrats fear some black people are becoming disillusioned and disenchanted with the idea that politics offers solutions to their problems.

Paige Cognetti, Scranton’s current mayor, says the city has thrived under Biden, though it has sometimes gone unnoticed. She said the city and region have benefited from millions of dollars in COVID-19 stimulus, including paying for a new fleet of electric vehicles.

Scranton uses federal funding to help raise local wages and support small businesses. Biden also supports a plan to build a new rail line from Scranton to New York.

“So when I think about President Biden, I don’t just think about President Biden being our own son,” Cognetti said. “I think of it as ushering in an era of funding for things that cities like Scranton need.”

Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw Editing by Heather Timmons and Alistair Bell

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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