“Barry” and Joe did what savvy politicians do best Friday afternoon: They played to a hometown audience with an abundance of back-slapping and namedropping.
President Barack Obama and Scranton-born Vice President Joe Biden lost no opportunity to remind a Lackawanna College audience that they’ve been here before, that they know people in the community, that — like “us” — they climbed their way up the ladder, took out student loans and understand the region’s passions and quirks, as well as its needs.
From his opening shout of “Hello, Lackawanna!” to shout-outs for Scranton-area political leaders, and a brief pep talk to the Lackawanna College football team in attendance, Obama made sure to hit as many local high notes as possible.
But “local” is a relative word around here, and the nation’s top two leaders took it pretty literally: Luzerne County didn’t score any mentions from the president or VP.
• North Pocono teacher and Scranton resident Michele Conaboy sang the national anthem before the event.
• The Dunmore High School marching band entertained the crowd as they waited for the president to arrive.
• Elementary school students from the Delaware Valley School District’s TV station, DVE-TV, sat with other news media, had official credentials and interviewed other media members as well as U.S Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton.
• As the president spoke, one environmentalist shouted, “We have to protect our future from fracking.”
• Among those in attendance were the presidents of several area colleges including The University of Scranton, Wilkes University, The Commonwealth Medical College and host Lackawanna College. Also spotted were Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty, state Sen. John Blake, state Attorney General Kathleen Kane and members of the Lackawanna College Falcons football team. The team drew a special acknowledgment from the president.
• Vice President Joe Biden noted he was raised 20 blocks from the gymnasium, which was the Scranton Catholic Youth Center when he was a boy.
• President Barack Obama made some remarks critical of the state’s cuts to education. Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s campaign spokesman Mike Barley shot back in an email, telling the president to “grab a mirror” if he wants to blame someone. Barley said, “It’s his one-time funds from his failed stimulus package that artificially increased the state budget to unsustainable levels.”
— Andrew Seder and Roger DuPuis