Biden Says He Gets Places Like Scranton. Some in Town Aren’t So Sure.

Scranton, Pa., is no longer the dying coal town of Joseph Biden’s youth. It is more racially diverse and prosperous, and not everyone there is enthusiastic about his candidacy.


By Sabrina Tavernise

SCRANTON, Pa. — Despite it all, Gabriel Perez, the Empanada King of Scranton, is still hopeful about America.

In the first few months of the pandemic, “it was scary, business dropped for a little while,” he said. But now, more people are ordering delivery from his small shop where he has been serving steaming beef and chicken empanadas to go since 2016. Last month he invested in a renovation of his kitchen, with new equipment and a fresh coat of paint.

Mr. Perez did not vote for Donald J. Trump in 2016. He did not vote at all. But he does not dislike him. Mr. Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal” gave him “guidelines for how to run my business: No matter how many times you make a mistake, just keep going.”

And while he does not think he will vote for President Trump this year, he is not sold on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. either.

“The Democrats and Republicans are both lost,” he said a few weeks ago in his shop, a Biden ad on mute on the television on the wall. “They are not giving solutions. They just want you to pick their side.”

In the final weeks of the campaign, Mr. Biden has made Scranton, his hometown, a major part of his closing pitch. “I really do view this campaign as a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue,” he said at a CNN event in town last month. Embedded in Mr. Biden’s shorthand is that he can win back the paradigmatic Scranton voter: white, working class, disaffected by Democrats.

But Scranton is no longer the dying coal town of Mr. Biden’s youth. It is both more racially diverse and prosperous. In more than two dozen interviews the week of Mr. Biden’s visit, few voters were particularly enthusiastic about his candidacy, despite his personal roots, but about half said they probably would vote for him anyway. Voters who abandoned the Democratic Party in 2016 said they planned to vote for Mr. Trump again this year. Some people said they were so fed up with politics that they were not going to vote at all. Others expressed annoyance at what they said was Mr. Biden’s habit of making Scranton into a kind of blue-collar cartoon.

At the town-hall-style event, held six miles from downtown in a stadium parking lot, Mr. Biden said that not many people in Scranton owned stock.

“Frankly, it was insulting,” said Frances Keating, 74, a retired accountant who has lived in Scranton most of her life. “He’s using Scranton as a prop.”

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