SCRANTON, Pennsylvania — Joe Biden made his connection to one of the most important areas of the swing state of Pennsylvania, part of a key closing argument of his presidential campaign. But Scranton-area voters say that they don’t care he was born in the Electric City.
At a CNN town hall last month, recorded in the coal city where the former vice president was born in 1942, the Democratic presidential nominee deployed a new campaign line.
“I really do view this campaign as a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue,” said Biden, Delaware’s former 36-year senator and eight-year vice president, contrasting his Rust Belt roots with President Trump being born into a New York real estate empire.
Other Democrats working to elect Biden also play up the candidate’s connection to the area. At the virtual roll call vote at the Democratic National Convention, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey cast the state’s votes for the party’s nominee standing in front of the house Biden once lived in.
“He plays it well, but it won’t win votes,” said Kevin Cartwright, a retired Biden supporter. “He comes back from time and does the thing at the house they lived in for 10 years, and that gets good press.”
Biden most recently visited his childhood Scranton home for a photo-op in July.
Cartwright added, “How many people actually know, or were alive?”
Biden was born in Scranton in 1942, but spent only a handful of his young years there.
According to his memoir Promises to Keep, Biden’s father got involved in a business venture in the Boston suburbs, and the family moved there. That venture fell apart after a business partner ran off with money that was supposed to be used for an investment, and so the family then moved to Long Island where his father got involved in a crop-dusting business. Before Biden first started school in 1947, the family was back in Scranton, living in his maternal grandfather’s house.
The Biden family moved away from the Scranton area for good to Wilmington, Delaware, when Biden was 10 years old.
“I don’t care where he was born,” said Brian Healey, 58, a Biden supporter who works in drafting and design in neighboring Jenkins Township. “If he was born out West, you know, I’d still be supporting him.”
Healey said that the only people he imagines caring about Biden’s ties to the area are a select few of those in the older generation — people who attended grade school with Biden, perhaps.
The electoral map gives Biden a major incentive to play up his Scranton connection. Trump won the state in 2016 by a razor-thin margin of just 44,000 votes, in large part due to working-class workers in areas turning away from the Democratic Party. The areas surrounding Scranton and Wilkes-Barre were once reliably Democrat, but it has trended toward the Republicans.
Biden’s Scranton connection plays no role in the consideration of Trump supporter Luigi Tesoro, 56, a barber and an Italian immigrant whose first vote for president after becoming a citizen was for Trump.
“I’ve got be honest with you, I never liked him as a man,” Tesoro said when asked about Biden’s Scranton ties.
Scott Hoffman, a 51-year-old maintenance worker and Biden supporter in neighboring Wilkes-Barre, also didn’t expect Biden’s Scranton ties to help the Democratic presidential nominee to woo any voters in the area.
“Personally, I didn’t really even know he was in Scranton until a couple of months ago,” said Hoffman, who had two large Biden-Harris campaign signs attached to his RV.