US President Joe Biden’s childhood hometown ‘embarrassed’ by debate meltdown

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As residents of Joe Biden’s hometown Scranton prepared to mark that most American of holidays -- July 4 -- many were also voicing alarm about the US president following his disastrous debate last week against Donald Trump.

“I think he should never have done that (debate),” said Dennis Frison, 70, a retired food service worker as he smoked a cigarette outside the Pennsylvania coal mining town’s buzzing Whiskey Dick’s bar.

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Scranton has long been the heart of the political mythology around Biden, recalling his hardscrabble upbringing, repaying his affection with an expressway named for him and a life-size cardboard cutout in Hank’s Hoagies sandwich store.

But Pennsylvania remains a key battleground in the 2024 election, and national polls are showing warning signs after Biden’s faltering performance against White House challenger Trump sparked widespread panic over his ability to finish a second term.

“I think he can still do what he needs to do as the president, he’s just not as cognizant as he used to be,” Frison said of the 81-year-old.

As for the alternatives, Frison said he was wary of Biden being replaced by his vice president, Kamala Harris, because of comments she has previously made about not seeking to pass laws to help Black people.

Like others in the town, however, he could not name anyone other than Harris to step up to replace “Scranton Joe” at the top of the Democratic ticket.

‘Placeholder candidate’?

And the vice president found more support elsewhere -- such as outside the town’s Marketplace mall, where Silvera Kosarev, 21, was signing up voters for November’s election.

“Of course I’m not impressed by Biden... he’s just kind of like a placeholder candidate to get over (the election) and then get someone else into office if he wants to step aside,” they said.

“I’d be fine for Kamala (Harris) if she just stepped in. I’m just absolutely anti-Trump.”

Others in the town did support Trump -- and did not mince their words about Biden.

“To me it was like he has dementia (or) Alzheimer’s, the way he speaks. It’s just not good at all,” said Sheryl Krauter, 33, who relocated to Scranton from Queens in New York.

“When Trump was president, everything was settled a little bit and nobody messed with us. (Now) everything is all over the place,” she said as stallholders set up around her on Courthouse Square for Thursday’s Independence Day celebrations.

Given Biden’s highly-anticipated debate performance, during which he garbled answers and lost his train of thought, allowing Trump to deliver falsehoods and misinformation unchallenged, she questioned Biden’s state away from piercing public scrutiny.

A short drive away from the fudge and rice pudding stands is the wooden, three-story house with a neatly manicured front lawn where Biden grew up.

A small poster invites visitors to photograph the home from the street -- although not one of the neighboring houses displayed a Biden-Harris campaign sign.

A few doors down from Biden’s former home, Jamie Hayes said she was “embarrassed” for Biden after his debate performance.

“I felt he didn’t feel well, and he probably shouldn’t have gone on stage. He probably made the worst of two (choices) -- if he didn’t go on, I’m sure they would have felt he was backing down,” said the 73-year-old grandmother.

“(But) I do believe that he has surrounded himself with enough people who are like-minded that could step in,” she said.

“I’ve heard more about Kamala Harris, and so I would support her.”

Read more:

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