"Scranton Joe" isn't even popular in Scranton anymore

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

All through his congressional career, President Joe Biden made a big deal of playing up his hometown roots in Pennsylvania, at times being referred to as “Scranton Joe.” But according to a recent poll featured at the Free Beacon this week, the President has gone “from Scranton Joe to Scranton no.” Scranton is in Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District, and Biden’s approval rating there has seemingly bottomed out at 38% versus 60% who disapprove. Scranton is in northeastern Pennsylvania and the region has been hammered with the same high prices and supply chain shortages that many other parts of the country have witnessed. And as the voters there have soured on the current administration, Republicans are smelling some blood in the water and sensing an opportunity on the horizon in November.

Voters in “Scranton Joe” Biden’s home district are souring on the historically unpopular president, polling obtained by the Washington Free Beacon shows.

Just 38 percent of voters in Pennsylvania’s Eighth Congressional District—which includes Biden’s hometown of Scranton—approve of the president, compared with 60 percent who disapprove, according to a recent Cygnal poll. The survey, which was commissioned by Republican congressional hopeful Jim Bognet’s campaign and shared with the Free Beacon, comes as Keystone State residents deal with record-high inflation—in June, for example, the average price for a gallon of gas in Pennsylvania exceeded $5 for the first time ever.

Biden has long touted his Scranton upbringing in an attempt to appeal to working-class Americans, a tactic that likely helped the Democrat narrowly carry Pennsylvania in 2020. Roughly a year and a half into his presidency, however, Biden’s “Joe from Scranton” image has quickly deteriorated, a development that does not reflect well on Democrats’ midterm chances.

As noted in the linked report, the poll was commissioned by the campaign of Jim Bognet, a businessman and former Trump administration official who is running for Congress in that district. His opponent is the incumbent congressman, Matt Cartwright, a Democrat who is serving his fifth term in the lower chamber. This is a rematch of their 2020 race where Cartwright squeaked by with a 3.5% margin of victory in a district that Donald Trump carried by 10 points.

Bognet sees an opportunity to improve his performance this time around. If Biden’s unpopularity carries any sort of negative impact in the midterms, it wouldn’t take all that much for Cartwright to be nudged out. This race is being closely watched as both parties nervously count the seats that may be shifting in November and the Democrats desperately try to cling to their narrow majority in the House.

When a poll is commissioned by a candidate, there are always questions as to whether or not the numbers were shifted a bit in their favor. But that doesn’t seem to be the case here. In fact, the poll actually has Joe Biden’s approval rating in the 8th District higher than it is across the rest of the state. A recent poll from Civiqs puts Biden’s approval rating across Pennsylvania at 34% with 55% disapproving. RealClearPolitics hasn’t even tracked any polling in this race yet, but they do note that the district currently leans Republican by three points.

Before any conservatives start getting their hopes up too far, however, it’s worth reminding everyone that while Joe Biden’s approval numbers in this district are tanking, he’s not on the ballot this November. Being unhappy with Biden’s performance doesn’t automatically translate to more votes for a Republican from people who might normally lean toward the Democrats. But the flip side of that coin is the reality that some voters – particularly the independents – may have soured on the Democrats’ entire platform, given the results that have been delivered during Biden’s first term thus far.

Joe Biden was scheduled to visit Scranton and bolster Cartwright’s campaign a couple of weeks ago, but those plans were nixed by his back-to-back COVID infections. His aides have said that he’s still hoping to work in a trip in the near future, though. Cartwright is one of the dwindling number of Democrats who has already endorsed Biden for a reelection bid in 2024. It will be interesting to see if he still wants to take the stage with the President this summer if Biden keeps Slidin’.

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