STATE COLLEGE – Former Vice President Joe Biden, a Scranton native, has been ahead in most polls, but his challengers – for the nomination to represent the Democrats against incumbent Republican President Donald Trump – are doing better with younger voters.

“Biden, he’s old news,” said Daulton Beck, a senior international relations major at Penn State said during an interview while he was sitting with a group of other students doing homework in a noisy and crowded HUB-Robeson Center on campus.

Beck said he is underwhelmed by Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris.

“People are getting fed up with them, because they’re starting to pander,” he said.

Beck said he favors Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

“Warren is probably the best candidate. One, she is polling very high. She has an actual plan. She doesn’t have aspirations and dreams and goals, she has plans, which is why I like her so much,” he said. “More so than Bernie who says I’m going to give you free health care. Free education,” but without offering a clear enough explanation for how he hopes to achieve those aims, Beck said.

Centre County was one of just 11 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties that Clinton won in 2016. Along with Dauphin County, home to the state capital of Harrisburg, it was one of just two counties in Central Pennsylvania that went for Clinton.

A Franklin and Marshall poll released on Oct. 31 found that while Biden enjoyed the most support overall, Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were the most popular among younger voters.

Overall, 30 percent of voters said they favor the former vice president, while 18 percent said they favor Warren; 12 percent said Sanders and 8 percent said they like the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg.

Sanders factor

Among voters under the age of 35, 37 percent said they favor Warren, 33 percent favor Sanders. Only 12 percent of voters under the age of 35 said they supported Biden and the poll found Buttigieg polling at 0 percent support among younger voters.

The poll found Buttigieg’s support strongest, 11 percent, among voters ages 35-54, and 9 percent of voters over the age of 55 said they favor Buttgieig.

Despite his age, Buttigieg is “the most Boomer” of the candidates, said Christine O’Donovan-Zaldava, 26.

She said her dream ticket would be Sanders with Julian Castro as his running mate.

O’Donovan-Zaldava said people under-appreciate the appeal that Sanders has for rural voters.

“Bernie is doing a good job rallying folks who don’t feel represented,” O’Donovan-Zaldava said during an interview outside the Schlow Centre Region Library in State College. She was standing on the sidewalk talking to Peter Buckland.

Sanders has the opportunity to draw new voters in the same way that Trump energized people who don’t regularly vote when he won in Pennsylvania in 2016, she said.

Clinton won the Democratic primary in 2016, but many rural Pennsylvania counties backed Sanders. That included Centre County, as well as, Cambria, Crawford, Montour, Northumberland, Somerset and Venango counties, according to state election data. In 2016, Clinton beat Sanders in Lawrence, Mercer, Snyder, Union and Warren counties. 

Biden best shot? 

Buckland supported Sanders in 2016. He still likes the proposals of Sanders and Warren more than Biden’s, he said. But he thinks that Biden has the best chance to beat Trump in swing states such as Pennsylvania that the Democrats will need to win to regain the White House, he said.

While, Biden is not appealing to young voters, he is popular with white working-class Democrats and African-American voters, Buckland said.

“From a tactical, strategic electoral map standpoint, Joe Biden is easily the strongest candidate,” he said.

Back at the HUB-Robeson Center at Penn State, not everyone’s on board with the Democratic candidates though.

“There are a lot of liberals around here,” said Penn State student Joseph Yanke. But he’s not one of them.

He said he couldn’t vote in 2016, but if he had voted, he would have voted for Trump.

Yanke said he thinks Trump was right to move to better enforce the nation’s immigration laws.

“In general, I think it’s a good idea to have more regulated access to the country,” he said. But he was bothered by the Trump Administration’s policies regarding separating immigrant families.

While he’s not entirely pleased with Trump’s presidency, none of the Democrats has appealed to him either, Yanke said.

John Finnerty is based in Harrisburg and covers state government and politics. Follow him on Twitter @CNHIPA.

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