HAMPTON, New Hampshire — Joe Biden drew avid supporters as well as open-minded skeptics Monday to The Community Oven restaurant, where he made his first campaign stop in New Hampshire since announcing his presidential candidacy.
Kris Earl, 30, of Hampton, said she is “90 percent sure” the former vice president and U.S. senator is her candidate in 2020 based on his prior experience in office. She and more than 300 others packed into the Route 1 pizzeria to hear Biden talk about removing corporate tax cuts, bringing back the Affordable Care Act as it was passed and returning “dignity” back to the Oval Office.
“When I look at him, I see hope,” said Earl. “That’s who I’m voting for is somebody who shows us hope for the future.”
Biden’s stop at the Community Oven was his first in New Hampshire since 2017. He announced he was running last month and is currently the leading candidate in the polls for the Democratic presidential nomination. He later stopped in Somersworth that afternoon at the Summersworth Historical Museum.
Biden was introduced at the Oven by Hampton state Reps. Tom Loughman and Mike Edgar, and Biden also said he wanted to recognize state Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, before beginning his speech. At the end, Edgar presented him with a New Hampshire license plate with Biden’s name on it.
Outside the Hampton restaurant after the event ended, Matt Casey and Susan Yuan stood with a large red stop sign they made that questioned Biden’s ability to win against President Donald Trump. While they said they have not ruled Biden out as their candidate, their sign read, “Same old Joe,” and bore a message to Biden saying, “If you win the primary, you will lose like Hillary.”
“We’re just afraid Joe Biden couldn’t cut it,” said Yuan, 48, who came from Boston with Casey for Biden’s stop. “We do not want to go down the 2016 route again.”
One Trump supporter, 42-year-old Jason Vaughn, came wearing a Make American Great Again hat to see what kind of turnout Biden drew. He said he was told to remove the hat when he entered, stayed inside for 10 minutes and left after finding the atmosphere underwhelming compared to Trump’s rallies. He put the hat back on while standing outside.
“Trump’s electric, and this doesn’t seem like this is very much (electric) at all,” said Vaughn, who pointed to a small crowd that remained in the parking lot shortly after the event ended. “He has no chance.”
Those strongly considering choosing Biden in a field of more than 20 Democrats said they were not bothered by recent accusations he has inappropriately touched women while in office. Earl said she, as a woman, was not bothered enough by the accusations to sway her from strongly supporting Biden.
Bill Perkins, 74, of Hampton Falls, said he understands some people may have felt uncomfortable with Biden in the past but that Biden’s behavior has been milder in comparison to Trump’s behavior and remarks.
“When you go back to the (Access) Hollywood tape for Trump, what he was saying,” said Perkins, “Sexual relations with porn stars, other people… for some strange reason, everybody seems to think that’s OK.”
Jeffrey Brown, 57, of Weare, believes Biden represents moderates who currently have few champions, saying voices on the far left and far right have made voters in the middle feel disenfranchised. He said he is among the 60 percent of the population who holds more moderate positions, and he wants to avoid candidates pushing initiatives like free college tuition.
“I have no interest in having the party hijacked,” said Brown, who said he had a seminar with Biden as a student at American University in 1981. He said his past interaction with Biden cemented his confidence in the former vice president’s genuineness.
“And he hugged us, and no one thought anything of it,” said Brown. “He was friendly and open and candid and everything you’d want a senator from Delaware or a United States vice president or the president to be.”