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RODERICK RANDOM: Biden’s Nomination Path Begins In Scranton

March 23, 2019
Biden’s Nomination Path Begins In Scranton

Breaking news: former Vice President Joe Biden will run for president.

OK, you knew that already, but it’s pretty hilarious sometimes to watch the national media pretend Biden hasn’t decided to run because he hasn’t “officially” announced.

In other words, his campaign still hasn’t decided when to schedule that rally meant to attract enthusiastic supporters and free publicity, quoting Biden saying what people already know.

He’s running, so gear up for Scranton’s second tumble in the presidential whirlwind.

If Biden had no intention of running, his childhood buddy, Tom Bell, would never have surrendered two hours last Saturday to tour their old Green Ridge neighborhood with a Washington, D.C., advertising guru named Mark Putnam.

Putnam met with Anne Kearns, who lives in the former Biden homestead, and one of her neighbors who knew the Bidens and drove past Biden’s old haunts. Bell said Putnam sought a better feel for Biden’s upbringing.

That’s a guy who knows what he’s doing and it’s especially understandable if, as the rumor mill says, Biden hired Putnam to produce an online video that will announce Biden’s run.

Somebody has to “officially” tell the world “Blue Collar Joe” and his Scranton roots are back.

“Yeah, I think he should run,” Bell said Wednesday. “I know he’s going to run. He didn’t tell me that, but I know Biden. ... He really wants to be president.”

So there.

Biden, 76 like Bell, spent his first 10 years in Green Ridge, keeps coming back and keeps in touch with old friends like Bell.

You should never question Biden’s love for the Electric City because it’s real, even if Biden has lived in Delaware for 66 years.

“Without question, and it’s almost hard to understand it and hard to believe. You think it’s an opportunist thing, but it’s not. The guy’s that way. He’s always been. Before he was even in the limelight,” Bell said just before Biden’s inauguration as vice president in 2008. “He flatters me. He thinks a great deal of me, and he thinks a great deal of Scranton. Scranton people, Scranton values, Scranton. It’s not an imitation and it’s not fake.”

For political purposes, though, Pennsylvania and its Scranton, named after a prominent Republican family, carries more value than Anywhere, Delaware.

Before 2016, Delaware and Pennsylvania shared a recent presidential voting history — neither had voted for a Republican for president since Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1988.

In 2016, Delaware voted for the Democratic presidential nominee with Scranton roots, Hillary Clinton. Pennsylvania voted for Republican Donald Trump with blue-collar voters clearing his way.

Delaware’s nickname may be the First State, but it gets three electoral votes, as few as any state can have in the Electoral College.

Pennsylvania has 20. If you’re a Democrat, you can’t win the presidency unless you win some combination of two states from among Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio. Trump won all three.

The road back to the White House for Democrats passes through Pennsylvania and that means winning back blue-collar voters in places like Scranton, even if they also need to flip two of Wisconsin, Michigan or Ohio.

Back when he was a U.S. senator from Delaware, politicians sometimes referred to Biden as Pennsylvania’s third senator. Both times a presidential ballot here has listed Biden as a candidate, the Democrats won Pennsylvania and the White House.

In the 2008 primary election, Clinton clobbered Sen. Barack Obama by an almost 3-to-1 margin in Lackawanna County and by 9.1 percentage points statewide. That fall, against Trump’s increasingly favorite foil, the late Sen. John McCain, and with Biden as his running mate, Obama won Lackawanna with 62.6 percent of the vote. Only Philadelphia’s 83.1 percent topped that. Obama whipped McCain statewide by 10.35 points.

In 2012, Obama won 63.1 percent of the Lackawanna vote, second again only to Philly, 85.3 percent. Obama/Biden won the state by 5.4 points.

As out of touch as many perceived Obama, Republican nominee Mitt Romney looked even more so. Romney also didn’t have Biden, who maintains the common touch.

That remains his biggest asset, even more than his experience, which falls short on several scores with many Democrats these days.

Perhaps ironically, one of Biden’s biggest perceived weaknesses — his loose lips — may turn into his biggest asset against a guy like Trump, who will say pretty much anything.

Biden will poke Trump in the eye in language voters understand, and enjoy it. Remember his comment about how he would have taken Trump “behind the gym and beat the hell out of him,” if he heard Trump berating women in high school.

It could turn into one heck of a street fight. That’s Biden’s appeal right there.

Sure, he could be too old, but he’s running.

Remember, you heard it here first.

BORYS KRAWCZENIUK, The Times-Tribune politics reporter, writes Random Notes