Biden focuses on climate change, young voters in Hanover visit

  • Sathvik Namburar, a second year medical student at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, asks former Vice President Joe Biden a question about rural hospitals closing at a campaign stop in Hanover, N.H., on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News photos — Jennifer Hauck

  • Laura Delucia, a staffer on the Biden campaign, directs members of the public during a campaign stop in Hanover, N.H., on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019.(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Jennifer Hauck

  • A long line snakes around the Hopkins Center in Hanover, N.H. on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. People were waiting to be let into Alumni Hall to hear presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/23/2019 9:47:39 PM
Modified: 8/23/2019 9:47:24 PM

HANOVER — The last time Joe Biden hosted a town hall-style forum at Dartmouth College as a declared candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, the then-64-year-old senator from Delaware was scrapping for name recognition and campaign dollars with better-armed opponents.

On Friday afternoon, the 76-year-old former vice president returned to Alumni Hall as one of the front-runners, with a burnished resume and a healthy war chest of campaign money — and with lingering questions about his ability to inspire younger and progressive voters to stampede the polls on his behalf.

Among the younger of the nearly 400 attendees filling the hall, Dartmouth juniors Sophia Koval, Courtney Zeng and Naomi Miller all were wearing Biden for President stickers.

But none were committing quite yet.

“I’m here to hear what he has to say,” said Koval, a Rockville, Md., resident, while Zeng and Miller nodded in agreement.

“He has a good chance, with his base of support with older people,” added Miller, a Florida resident who said she voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election. “It’s always a delicate balance, whether to go with a candidate with a better chance, versus supporting somebody with new ideas you really like who has little or no chance.”

A New York Times analysis this week pointed to “a disconnect between his relatively rosy poll numbers and excitement for his campaign on the ground” in Iowa.

Yet, Biden likes his chances of winning over younger voters with a campaign that speaks to their concerns for the future, especially about the changing climate, while also addressing bread-and-butter issues.

“What I’m hearing the most from people of all ages in New Hampshire is about access to health care, opioids, our crumbling infrastructure,” Biden said during a Valley News interview before the forum, which focused on health care issues. “For people I talk to in states with low-lying coastlines ... it’s a much bigger issue for people, as the sea level rises. That said, we have to make clear that climate change covers a whole range of things. … Climate change is a public health risk.”

Biden said he’s counting on voters not only in New Hampshire but in the heartland, where President Donald Trump won most of the states and retains broad support, to realize that the wildly-swinging pendulum of extreme weather threatens everything from the nation’s military infrastructure to the economy.

“It’s gigantic,” Biden said. “I put climate change at the top of my list. It’s the single biggest existential threat out there. We have, probably, 10 years to keep the changes from being irreversible. … The floods in the Midwest this summer rendered seven of our military bases useless for a while. … When President (Barack) Obama and I were first elected and we were briefed by the Defense Department, the first thing they wanted to talk about, the single greatest threat to national security, was climate change. They showed us the projections for mass migrations, and today we’re seeing more mass migrations since anytime since World War II.”

If he needed more recent reminders of threats to the planet, Biden said, he received a call from his daughter, 38-year-old Ashley, while he was campaigning in Iowa this week.

“I hadn’t even heard about the wildfires in Brazil on the news yet,” Biden recalled. “She said, ‘Dad! What are you going to do about the rain forest? It’s burning! What are you going to do, Dad?’ ”

Biden pointed to his proposals to stall the warming of the earth beyond redemption. It includes promoting the installation of 500,000 charging stations nationwide for electric cars and encouraging clean-energy technologies that he said can create jobs in the United States.

Before the health care forum, Biden’s plan drew praise from Dartmouth senior Garrett Muscatel, a leader of the school’s Young Democrats group who also represents Hanover in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

“When (the Young Democrats) talk about the big issues, climate change is No. 1,” Muscatel said. “Climate change is like a doomsday scenario for a lot of people. They’re things we’re going to have to live with.”

Biden has long been prone to gaffes and misspeaking, another aspect of his candidacy that has come under scrutiny during his latest presidential run, and Friday proved no different.

Toward the end of the event in Hanover, Biden evoked two of his political heroes, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. Both were assassinated in 1968, Kennedy while running for president.

“Imagine what would have happened if, God forbid, Barack Obama had been assassinated after becoming the de facto nominee? What would have happened in America?” Biden said.

Biden’s two appearances Friday included several other problematic comments as he riffed to the crowd. As he talked about teachers, he referenced his wife, Jill Biden, an educator, saying that if he didn’t support teachers, “I would be sleeping alone.”

At his final event of the day in Croydon, he talked about taking away some tax breaks for richer Americans.

“I find most rich people are as patriotic as poor people,” Biden said.

Material from the Associated Press contributed to this report.

David Corriveau can be reached at and at 603-727-3304.

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